Nothing could keep Floyd the Barber out of Mayberry
Not even health complications kept Howard McNear away for long
Part of what made The Andy Griffith Show so memorable was its cast of minor characters. Sure, Andy and Opie were the show's emotional core, but the residents of Mayberry were what made the locale feel believable. Everywhere the fictional sheriff turned, he was greeted by neighbors that felt real. These supporting characters helped flesh out Mayberry and gave the show an authentic small-town feel.
One of Mayberry's most enduring residents is Floyd the Barber. As portrayed by Howard McNear, Floyd Lawson fit the tempo of the slow, one-traffic-light town. He's Mayberry through and through; Floyd is a direct descendant of one of Mayberry's founders, and he is a member of the town's Regal Order of the Golden Door to Good Fellowship. In a lot of ways, Floyd the Barber was Mayberry.
It should stand to reason then, that the town and the show would feel remarkably different in his absence. So was the case when health complications took Howard McNear off the show. Midway through the production of The Andy Griffith Show's third season, McNear suffered a massive stroke that left him unable to work. The stroke greatly impaired McNear's mobility, and he was paralyzed down his left side. Nobody expected him to perform onset, and the circumstances kept him off the show.
A full year and a half later, the creative team was working on a new script that called for some homespun comic relief. It was a particularly tense story involving Opie and Aunt Bea. According to the Tyler Courier-Times, producer Aaron Ruben, knowing the script needed something funny, said to his colleagues "Boy, do I wish we had Howard."
Luckily for fans of the show, the producers made a phone call to the actor's home. McNear's wife told the producers "Work would be a godsend for him now." By that time, Howard McNear had recovered just enough to be incredibly bored. So, knowing they'd have to work to compensate for McNear's limitations, the writers wrote a small part for him into an episode.
With that, Floyd the Barber made his triumphant return to Mayberry. McNear didn't just stick around for that one episode either; he was a regular on The Andy Griffith Show through the remainder of the series. Not even a stroke could keep Howard McNear off fans' televisions. He had no difficulty with his lines, as the stroke only affected him physically. As such, Floyd was seen mostly sitting down for the remainder of the show, with his hand either in his lap or holding a newspaper. A special support was built for him on set, and finally, Floyd returned to his barber chair.