Arts & Entertainment

Ron Howard: What I learned from Andy Griffith

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Early in the second season of "The Andy Griffith Show," I ventured a suggestion for a line change to make it sound more "like the way a kid would say it."

I was just 7 years old. But my idea was accepted and I remember standing frozen, thrilled at what this moment represented to me.

Andy asked me, "What you grinnin' at, youngin'?" I said it was the first idea of mine they'd ever said yes to. Without a pause, Andy responded for all to hear: "It was the first idea that was any damn good. Now let's do the scene."

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That inclusiveness that allowed a child to truly be a part of something as unique and memorable as"The Andy Griffith Show"is something I will forever be grateful for.

Andy Griffith entertained us for decades on stage, via our radios, sound systems, TVs and up there on the silver screen. Comedy, drama or music, he brought his love of performing to each creative undertaking.

He was known for ending shows by looking at the audience and saying "I appreciate it, and good night." Perhaps the greatest enduring lesson I learned from eight seasons playing Andy's son Opie on the show was that he truly understood the meaning of those words, and he meant them, and there was value in that.

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Respect. At every turn he demonstrated his honest respect for people and he never seemed to expect theirs in return, but wanted to earn it.

He taught me a great deal through the examples he set and the approach to our work on the set. I learned about comedic timing, paying off characters in the third act of a story line, and the equal values of both focused rehearsal and, at particular moments, of total chaotic spontaneity.

I saw him lobby against jokes that were admittedly funny but that were at the expense of and undercut the long-term reliability of a character.

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I was fortunate to witness and even participate in thousands of minutely detailed creative problem-solving interactions with Andy always tirelessly engaged.

He proved hour by hour, episode by episode that creativity and neurotic angst were in fact not inexorably linked. He led by example and we demonstrated that a cast and company could play practical jokes on one another, laugh 'til they cried and still get 12 pages of the script shot every day while producing a No. 1-rated show.

And, as I look back today, knowing that Andy's vision yielded a show that still airs daily all over the country and holds an absolutely unique place in the annals of its medium, I'm reminded of another lesson taught by example.

Do all that, and don't forget to have as many laughs as you can along the way.

Ron Howard played Sheriff Andy Taylor's son Opie on "The Andy Griffith Show" from 1960 to 1968 beginning when he was 6 years old (he was 5 when the pilot aired in 1959). The young actor was credited on the popular series as Ronny Howard. He appeared again with Griffith in the 1986 TV movie "Return to Mayberry" and last worked with him on behalf of Barack Obama's 2008 presidential campaign on an online political comedy sketch on the Funny or Die website.

Howard went on to become one of Hollywood's top movie directors with such hits as "Splash," "Cocoon," "Parenthood," "Apollo 13," "Ransom" and "A Beautiful Mind," which won four Oscars in 2002 including director and best picture.

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