Don Knotts didn't want anyone thinking Barney Fife was ''nervous''

Barney Fife was no "nervous man."

Oftentimes, an actor can find themselves typecast into a certain type of role that catapulted them to fame. This can feel limiting to some; Michael Learned often discussed how she'd like to shed her Olivia Walton image and play some more morally ambiguous characters. But for some, it can be something to embrace, like Caroll O'Connor, who enjoyed playing Archie Bunker so much he incorporated it into a nightclub routine.

However, although viewers may have assumed that Don Knotts had been playing similar characters since the infancy of his career, Knotts himself was quick to point out their error. Knotts grew his fame by developing a character known to many as the "nervous man." The character itself was not borne entirely out of Knott's imagination; he actually based it on an especially anxious after-dinner speaker he had previously been subjected to.

This character eventually became the "nervous soldier," who appeared in the Broadway and film productions of No Time For Sergeants. Knotts would make his nervous character a career as he was seen on The Steve Allen Show. When viewers were introduced to the bumbling, wide-eyed character of Barney Fife of The Andy Griffith Show, they might have easily assumed that again, Knotts was playing a variation of his nervous character.

But in an interview with The State, Knotts explained that his portrayal of Fife was a whole different animal than his previous roles. He said, "Barney was an entirely different character. He showed his emotions like a child. He tended to exaggerate everything." So while the role of Barney Fife was incredibly open and innocent, potentially naïve, for Knotts, that wasn't necessarily the same as his "nervous man" persona. He continued, "The funny thing was that audiences, to this day, seem to blend the two and talk about Barney as 'that nervous little guy.' He wasn't."

Watch The Andy Griffith Show on MeTV!

Weeknights at 8 & 8:30, Sundays at 6 & 6:30 PM

*available in most MeTV markets
Are you sure you want to delete this comment?
Close

10 Comments

LynCarrigan 8 months ago
Barney was a psychological mess. Insecure, low self esteem. Andy and Aunt Bee and Thelma Lou held him together. Luckily they found him be loveable enough, not me.
LoveMETV22 9 months ago

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Nervous or not. You'll always be enjoyed/appreciated for the comedy you brought to the role of
Barney Fife and other characters during your career, Mr. Knotts.
Rick 9 months ago
I think what it was, was Barney wasn't *aware* of his nervousness. His bravado was a false front to cover insecurity.
MrsPhilHarris Rick 9 months ago
Opie told Barney that Andy said Barney was sensitive, which of course Barney reacted to in a sensitive manner.
Runeshaper 9 months ago
That's interesting. Barney did come off as nervous to me, but I can see it more as bumbling lol
cperrynaples 9 months ago
Well that nervous character was Knotts' bread and butter! Consider the titles of his '60's movies: The Reluctant Astronaut, The Shakiest Gun In The West, and Svengoolie's favorite The Ghost And Mr. Chicken!
FrankensteinLover 9 months ago
Don was a Comic Genius, and us highly missed from the great Barney Fife to so so many Wonderful Movies he left us with.
Irish 9 months ago
KNOTTS NOT KNOTT'S
Auto correct 😵‍💫
cperrynaples Irish 9 months ago
Yep, Knott's is a famous amusement park in Los Angeles!
Irish 9 months ago
I absolutely loved Don Knott's. The Andy Griffith show wouldn't have been the hit that it was without Don. It wasn't the same when he left the show. Infact, I didn't watch it after "Barney" left, except for the few episodes he was a guest. I still watch his movies. Don was a credit to his craft. He was one in a million. RIP Don Knott's. ❤️
Are you sure you want to delete this comment?