Ken Berry reveals what it was like to replace Andy Griffith
Being the big cheese in Mayberry was a tall order.
Have you ever had to fill some pretty big shoes? Being a backup is a tricky proposition. Sure, everyone's agreed that you're dependable enough for the position. But how could you possibly live up to those lofty expectations? It's almost impossible to meet expectations when the job has been done well before. After all, you're your own person!
Imagine those shoes you were set to fill belonged to Andy Griffith. That monumental task was assigned to actor Ken Berry in 1968 when the world readied itself for Mayberry R.F.D. Griffith would no longer be the focal point of the fictional southern town. While the setting and the supporting cast may look familiar, this would be an Andy Griffith Show with no Andy Griffith. So, it was retitled, and populated with some new faces.
Berry, for his part, understood the magnitude. He respected what came before him while making it clear he didn't aspire to replicate what was special about The Andy Griffith Show. In a 1968 interview with the Santa Cruz Sentinel, Berry spoke at length about moving into Mayberry.
"How did I get the job?" asked Berry, responding to the journalist's line of inquiry. "I'm not quite sure. If they think they're getting another Andy Griffith, they're going to be disappointed. I'm not anything like Andy. I won't even have a Southern accent. But then, several of the characters in the series don't have accents, and no one seems to notice."
Berry was set to join the show as a local farmer elected president of the City Council. He was joined by George Lindsay, who returned as Goober Pyle.
"I understand that Andy will be back on the show four times next season," said Berry. "So it will seem as though he is still holding down the same job. The audience just won't see what he's doing every week.
"That will help pave the way for the new series. The only trouble is that the characters in the spin-off won't be in the show. Originally it was planned for me to bring to Mayberry a family of Italian farmers I had met while in the service. now that we've done the show, I understand the family won't be used, after all, just one Italian."