There's a funny reason why Ron Howard secretly dreaded every time Opie ate ice cream
"You know, licking that, that takes acting."
On The Andy Griffith Show, Opie Taylor loved ice cream. When Ellie came to town, Opie hung around the pharmacy until she offered him a free cone. When Opie meets a strange man in the woods who jingles when he walks, he delights in the stranger's tricks, then accepts Mr. McBeevee's money to go buy himself an ice cream. It seemed like there hardly ever was a time Opie wasn't scheming for his next dish.
His love of ice cream goes back so far, that in the original pilot of The Andy Griffith Show, when Danny Thomas meets Andy for the first time, the audience first encounters Opie when he bursts into the jail in tears. Why? He was at the ice cream shop when a lady stepped on his pet turtle!
When it comes to Andy's young boy, one thing is clear: This kid loves ice cream. But in an interview with the Archive of American Television, Ron Howard revealed that he secretly dreaded any time ice cream was served on set.
Howard said, "Well, you know, Opie had a real penchant for ice cream. So Reggie Smith, the prop guy, would come around with the ice cream cone, and the first time my eyes jumped. I’d think, ‘This is gonna be great.’ And you know what it was? Colored mashed potatoes. Cold, colored mashed potatoes. You know, licking that, that takes acting: licking mashed potatoes to make anybody believe it’s ice cream."
You might be wondering why. Why make a small boy pretend a big old bowl of mashed potatoes is a delicious ice cream sundae? Why hand a boy a giant ice cream cone only to set a scoop of the Thanksgiving side inside? Why didn't Howard pipe up for his taste buds and nip this practice in the bud?
Well, Howard said it had to do with how hot it was in the studio. He said in the interview that in the early days of TV, the process of filming and capturing these scenes was much slower, and it required extremely bright lights to capture the movement. Howard remembered, "It would be so hot, I’d squint in an interior scene. Your makeup would just melt. So you couldn’t use ice cream."
Did you love ice cream as a kid? How disappointed would you have been to be served up a dish of cold mashed potatoes? In the end, Howard would have first-hand experience doing just that, when he took on a job at the pharmacy and served up a big bowl of mashed potatoes to poor unsuspecting Arnold Bailey.