Ron Howard said he was bullied for playing Opie Taylor

"My character's name, Opie, rhymes with dopey… I'd have to get into fights with people."

On The Andy Griffith Show, young Opie had to learn to deal with bullies. Luckily his pa was there to show him how to stand tall, and audiences swelled with pride watching Opie grow into a respectable young Mayberry man by the show's end.

However, being on the most popular show on television apparently didn't make the actor who played Opie a very popular kid.

In the 2012 biography Ron Howard, author Hal Marcovitz quotes Howard talking about this sensitive time in his life.

"Among my peers, I was embarrassed to be an actor," Howard said. So instead of being proud of his achievement, he said he never mentioned his work on TV with other kids.

"It was not something to be talked about," Howard continued, explaining that he did draw some pride from the work. He just felt he had to keep it secret. "The Andy Griffith Show was the No. 1 show in the country, so I always knew there was something that I could do that was unusual and that I could function in an adult environment."

It didn't matter how little he mentioned Mayberry, though.

"I was the butt of a lot of jokes," Howard said. "My character’s name, Opie, rhymes with dopey… I'd have to get into fights with people."

As Andy steered Opie's ability to stand up for himself on the show, in the real world, Howard was close to his dad Rance, and thus had plenty of support. He said he didn't have any more trouble coping with these bullies in the real world than Opie did on The Andy Griffith Show.

"Fortunately, I could sort of hang in," Howard said.

An imaginative kid who seemed to view the world as a play-thing, Howard found plenty of friends on set.

"I used to really spend a lot of time hanging around with the crew," Howard said in the book. "The crew would get a real kick showing me what they did," Howard said, whether he wanted to learn more about working a boom mic or pivoting a camera.

This was where his dream to become a director was born, not really because he thought it was the coolest job, but seemingly because it was the most social.

"It didn't take me long to realize that the director was the person who got to sort of hang out and play with everybody," Howard explained.

Howard, of course, did grow up to become a director, and one of great acclaim. But the very first film he ever directed featured one of his favorite playmates backstage on The Andy Griffith Show: his brother Clint Howard.

Fans know that Clint appeared in five episodes of The Andy Griffith Show as the adorable kid cowboy who occasionally pops up in Mayberry to do adorable stuff like offering others a bite of his sandwich. Well, Clint hung around the set much more often than just five times, and when he did, they sometimes engaged in playing cowboy games as you can see here.

The Everett Collection

And when Ron decided to direct his first movie at just 15 years old, it was his brother Clint who he cast to star across from him in his debut.

The Western was called Deed of Derring-Do, and it was all of three minutes long. It cast the Howard brothers as gunfighters, eyes tensely locked in a classic Gunsmoke-like street showdown.

You could say this was the moment they'd been practicing for backstage of The Andy Griffith Show! And when Ron entered his little movie into a Kodak-sponsored contest, he actually got awarded second place!

So while it's sad to think that young Ron had to defend his choice to start his acting career so young, it's clear that there was nothing "dopey" about all the smarts the eventual Oscar winner for Best Director and Best Picture soaked up the on the set of The Andy Griffith Show.

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17 Comments

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Pilaf 29 days ago
Ronny Howard was the best child actor in the business. Little brother Clint? Not so much.
Martin Pilaf 15 days ago
I remember Clint Howard best as Eaglebauer from ROCK AND ROLL HIGH SCHOOL.
Hogansucks1 30 days ago
I’ll bet they wished they hadn’t did those things to Ron Howard now ! Hey man- you want an acting job and a great opportunity- TUFF S*it ! CARMA’s a mean nasty B*tch . I hate bullies ! Like Ronnie- I made my way also- mostly it’s because I Don’t take S*it from ANYBODY, and I’m not afraid to stand up for myself or someone else ! I am the nicest person (I Really am), just- PLEASE- don’t Muck with me 😊😊😊😊😊
JeffSchafer 30 days ago
And if he grew up to not have a sucessful career, it would have been blamed on his childhood.
JHP 1 month ago
Opie (except for the EP that he sabotaged Andys date with peggy) and Otis are my fav characters in the whole shooting match
4Heaven 1 month ago
I grew up being bullied at school by my older sister. It was many years later as a young adult that my wise aunt helped to realize why some people bully. They are simply jealous! I was a great student and better looking than her.
daDoctah 1 month ago
When Mr and Mrs Richie Cunningham had a baby on "Happy Days", didn't they name him Opie in a sort of backward reference to Ron Howard's TAGS character? Or was that just a joke that went around at the time? (Since Ron was no longer actually appearing on the show at the time, that might have been an odd thing to do.)
It had to have been an "urban legend," because LBC and RC named their son Richie Jr.
Pacificsun 1 month ago
In response to the comments below and those which accumulate. Being bullied should NOT be a part of "life's growing up." It does not make you wiser, stronger, more confident, or a realist. What it does push some people over the edge. And create dysfunctional members of a family or often passed down their resentment and frustrations to the next generation.

Mr. Howard was very fortunate to be surrounded by protective adults. Particularly his father who was careful to make Ron's life as normal as possible. Other kids, including those with "stage parents" not so lucky, creating child actors who couldn't make the transition to adulthood.
texasluva 1 month ago
Some kids can be kind of cruel. We all grew up in a era of calling other names like dork, spaz, gay, fatso, birdbrain, blockhead, dimwit, donkey and other demeaning words. Mostly with our friends and laughed about it. Most of us grew out of this later in life because it is really not so cool any longer. Sometimes your name got joked upon. Ralph, Penelope among many others whom kids make fun of. Opie for sure would be a name kids would throw a few barbs at. It is part of growing up and hopefully to become a better person in life.
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harlow1313 texasluva 1 month ago
One of the unfortunate things about life is that a person has to first live one, to better know the kind of person they want to and should be.

Now that I am a geezer, I often have the courage of my convictions, which I could not have had in my youth. My understanding and empathy for others has grown with each passing year. Wisdom, to the limited degree I possess any, came very slowly.
BelleFleur texasluva 30 days ago
"Kind of cruel"???? Quite the master of understatement, aren't you? And only someone who was never a bullying victim for even a nanosecond during their youth would phrase it that way. Kids can be vicious and sadistic, and yes, VERY cruel. There's no "kind of" to it.
Pacificsun harlow1313 30 days ago
There seems to be a bit of an apology involved, reinforced by up-votes. Here's the thing.

At our beginning, what we didn’t already have inside us, was an opportunity and responsibility for guidance from influencers around us. Parents, teachers, professionals, properly confident peers. Not being the case, is also not the defense. Boys labeled sissies if they didn’t act tough. Mean girls were popular girls, so what’s the problem. Which is, that bad behavior's been propagated via social media. Becoming clearly visible. Hard for victims to engage their accusers. Accusers emboldened by remoteness. The “conversation” is of today. Not our youth. So we have become the new influencers. We never know who is reading what, in public. 😉
harlow1313 Pacificsun 30 days ago
No, I do not consider this an apology.

Personal development is a long and arduous task.
Hogansucks1 BelleFleur 30 days ago
And still- some of the grown bullies still around now, just haven’t either come across the path of a past victim of it and HAD their AS* beat into Mango-pulp. It is absolutely True, if you stand-up to a Billie- they’ll think twice next time they try that S*it on someone!! 😉 😊
Pacificsun harlow1313 25 days ago
Personal declarations (confessions or not) aren't required on this site. No matter. The point being in defense of the ignorance of the behavior itself, pertaining to the times, and adults willing to ignore the lifelong consequences. It needs to be clarified here. For anyone reading. That "personal development" (even if observed from a distance) shouldn't be at the expense of anyone else.

My experience with being bullied (in a most innocuous manner) was summarily ignored by adults. With no benefit of peer to peer support (often provided siblings) or in the wisdom often required to offset the situation. The lifelong effect wasn't in the berating itself, but rather, in the denial of adults who had the power to intervene and educate. I simply put this out there for the benefit of any young readers going through hard times. Don't give up until you find the right person who understands your situation.
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