Andy Griffith explained why they called him Andy Taylor on The Andy Griffith Show
It had to do with his love life, yuh see?
The press made Andy Griffith out to be real hillbilly when he burst onto the Hollywood scene. Interviews with the actor circa 1960 read like bad Mark Twain knock-offs. Writers lean hard into transcribing his Southern accent, peppering his quotes with apostrophes and H’s.
Take this, for example:
Ah Wouldn’t Lose Mah Accent fo’ a $100 Bill, a headline declared around the premiere of The Andy Griffith Show. The article, written by John Crosby for The Miami Herald, is condescending (peppered with quotes along the lines of, “Ev’body’s mean in the mawnin’, whah, mah wife don’ speak.”) but insightful. Because Andy explained why the sitcom named his character Taylor.
You might think it’s a little weird that The Andy Griffith Show centered around a man named Andy Taylor, but it was standard practice back then, from Danny Williams of The Danny Thomas Show to Doris Martin of The Doris Day Show to Donna Stone of The Donna Reed Show.
Griffith gave a fascinating, logical reason for the change, one that might explain the practice in general. Studios wanted to separate the real actors from their characters, especially when it came to their love lives.
“Why cay-ant ah use mah own nayme?” Andy asked the producers. (Yeah, we warned you.) “The tole me because ah’m a married mayan. Been married ten years and had two children. On the show ah’m a widower with one child an it wouldn’t do for me to be makin’ eyes at a girl if I was married 10 years.”
They were afraid audiences would not be able to separate the real man from the Sheriff. Andy Griffith wore a wedding ring. He couldn’t just go around courting Ellie Walker. So, dub the dude “Taylor.”
There was one thing Andy could not change — his “mean eyes.”
“Ah got mean lookin’ eyes, ah have,” he said. “Cayant he’p it. All my people got mean lookin’ eyes.”
They really leaned into that accent, didn’t they?