Don Knotts: “If I had known that Andy intended to go on with [The Andy Griffith Show], of course I would’ve stayed.”

Like any great story, the tale of Don Knotts leaving The Andy Griffith Show has several variations, depending on who you ask. While many people who enjoy gossip might believe that Knotts’ departure was the source of some great blowout on set, it seems that when Knotts decided to leave the series, it was less like a severing and more like a bittersweet goodbye. This was only emphasized by the fact Knotts was not banished from the series, never to be heard from again. Rather, he made frequent guest appearances on the show he once called home, and even continued to work with Andy Griffith on projects after The Andy Griffith Show had wrapped.

So while we can all rest assured that there’s no hatred between castmates, Knotts explained in a 1994 interview that his departure from the show was actually the result of a misunderstanding more than anything else.

In an interview with the Elizabethton Star, Knotts explained that originally, Griffith had given Knotts the impression that the series was only supposed to last about five years. Because of this, once that time had run out and Knotts’ contract had ended, he believed that the show was on its way out the door and began looking for new projects.

Knotts explained, “I began pursuing other opportunities, and by the time Andy had decided to continue the series, I had signed with Universal Studios to do some movies.” He continued, “If I had known that Andy intended to go on with it, of course I would’ve stayed.”

While there’s no use in dreaming about what might have been, it’s possible that if Knotts and Griffith had communicated a bit more, we would have been able to see Barney Fife in a regular role on The Andy Griffith Show for a few more seasons. On the other hand, it also means that if Knotts had stayed on television, he might not have had quite as successful of a film career.

Which would you rather have seen: More seasons of Barney Fife, or a Don Knotts movie renaissance?

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