Kene Holliday: What it was like to be Andy Griffith's co-star
In Tyler Hudson, Kene Holliday crafted a perfect contrast to Griffith's Matlock.
There are few titans of television with more popularity than Andy Griffith. His eponymous eight-season sitcom spun off several successful productions; The Andy Griffith Show either jump-started or elevated the careers of everyone involved. Griffith would go on to found his own production company and starred in a string of series before striking gold again in 1986 with Matlock. That show saw Griffith return to an authoritative role, this time as a lawyer instead of a sheriff. His character, Ben Matlock, was again a father, but in place of Opie, there was Charlene Matlock, a capable young lawyer.
Just as every sheriff needs a deputy, so too did Matlock need a reliable public investigator. Enter Tyler Hudson, here played with aplomb by actor Kene Holliday. Holliday, like Griffith, was no TV newcomer. By '86, Holliday was a veteran of two other NBC series, Carter Country and Chicago Story. He'd also starred on Broadway in the successful drama Streamers before landing a recurring role on the ABC sitcom Soap. Regarding living up to Andy Griffith's past successes, the cards were stacked in Kene Holliday's favor.
The character of Tyler Hudson was a new kind of foil for Griffith, and Barney Fife was not. Instead of a sidekick, like the one played by Don Knotts on The Andy Griffith Show, Hudson was an equal. He was just as crucial to the team's success as Matlock. A Vietnam veteran, Hudson becomes Matlock's personal private investigator after Matlock changes the character's life by getting him out of a jam. He's able to apply his special forces training to cases aiding Ben and Charlene in their quest for justice.
Given the popularity of Knotts' Fife, how did Kene Holliday feel about stepping into the role of Griffith's onscreen partner? In a quote to the Gannett News Service, Holliday summarized his feelings as such: "I'm happier than a pig in slop." In fact, Holliday was so enthusiastic about his role on the show that he could've equally been described as a cheerleader as well as a co-star. Quotes from Holliday's press interviews during that time have a contagious exuberance; he really wanted people to check out Matlock.
"There are three very special performers who have track records," said Holliday. "People have liked to watch them in their own venues, and now they have all three together- Griffith, Purl, and Holliday. We're not going to do anything boring. We won't tolerate it. We like to have fun."
There was no fear or intimidation about stepping into the role of Tyler Hudson. Kene Holliday had the time of his life. In fact, Hudson was Holliday's favorite role yet, not just because it was so much fun working with Andy Griffith. This new role allowed Holliday to flex new acting muscles, as the character was a major departure from what he'd played in the past.
"Matlock gives us new avenues to explore. I am a chameleon. That's why I like to act," said Holliday.
"The Tyler [Hudson] role affords me the opportunity to do many things. Tyler does everything, and he does it with a sense of humor. Matlock is not a comedy, but it is a drama with a sense of humor. Andy and I are funny. We like to laugh and amuse ourselves."