Despite his talent for comedy, it was always Don Knotts' dream to play a serious character

"I doubt that I'll ever get that chance."

For his work on The Andy Griffith Show and beyond, Don Knotts had rightfully earned his place among the great Hollywood comedians. However, one of the primary reasons for Knotts' continuous success, both in television and movies, was his constant desire to grow. When Knotts left The Andy Griffith Show, it wasn't because of any bad blood between him and Griffith, the crew, or even the show's network. Knotts desire to leave was borne out of his own motivation, and it was a decision that was understood. 

By 1975, Knotts had already garnered a well-known reputation as an accredited film actor. However, throughout his career, Knotts had mainly stuck to what he knew and whether he was acting in television or films, he was making people laugh. Even before he was on The Andy Griffith Show was Barney Fife— a role that Knotts could undoubtedly credit for his emergence into mainstream appeal— Knotts has gained a reputation as a comedian for his "nervous man" act, keeping audiences laughing in their seats. 

However, according to a 1975 interview with TODAY, Knotts revealed that while he loved doing comedy, he wanted to continue his growth as an actor and move to a role that was beyond his usual comfort zone.

Knotts confessed, "I would love to do a serious role." However, he acknowledged, "I doubt that I'll ever get that chance." Knotts seemed to be aware that despite his willingness to move past Barney Fife, he wasn't sure that audiences were able to do the same.

He stated, "I can't go too far adrift, or turn around and do a villain and draw an audience." 

While the article cited Knotts' statement that playing Barney Fife was "probably the best experience I've had in the business," he wasn't too thrilled with being pigeonholed by audiences and directors alike. 

The actor stated, "I do mind, as a matter of fact." He added, "I do a lot of theater and that's the reason, because I usually do different roles."

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10 Comments

STTOS 2 months ago
I think he was born to play comedy. And while I don't think he would have made a career as a serious characater, we know he can do it. One of my favorite scenes in all of TAGS is in the epsisode "Andy on Trial". Barney takes the stand and gets grilled for only "yes or no" answers which incriminate Andy and is then told to sit down. But Barney fights back saying that since this is a hearing they ought to hear what he has to say. He then has moving and serious monologue about what Andy means not only to the town of Mayberry but to him, calling him the best friend in the whole world!! I just wish the monologue was longer.
harlow1313 2 months ago
He would have surpassed Paul Newman, had he been cast as "Cool Hand Luke."

CaptainDunsel 2 months ago
One major element of Knotts's typecasting was that much of his comedy performance was physical. With the combination of his movement and facial expressions underlying his dialogue, the audience came to expect comedy of him the moment they saw him. That's a difficult association to break, unless you DO take that extra step to "villainy".
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CaptainDunsel 2 months ago
I confess to not having watched "Pleasantville", so I don't know about Knotts's performance from that film. But "The Oracles" (aka IMDB) tell me that it came out in 1998, some 23 years after the interview cited in this article.
Runeshaper 2 months ago
I’m sure Knotts could’ve played serious roles, even later in his career. However, I do see his point about being typecasted as a funny man. It’s not easy to change the way people see you.
cperrynaples 2 months ago
Actually, Don started out serious! Believe it or not, he was on Search For Tomorrow in the '50's! There's actually an episode on YouTube! Ironically, it was a episode about Don's character having a bad dream! Lots of wavy effects!
FrankensteinLover 2 months ago
Don Knotts the comic genius, I would have taken him in whatever role he delivered
AgingDisgracefully 2 months ago
I always imagined Barney Phyfe Voice as Dirty Harry: "Now I know what you're thinkin'..."
But not for long.
"Do I have one bullet or two? Well, you better ask yourself "Do I feel lucky?" Well, do you, punk?"...LOL!
In fairness, I should mention the flip side...
...Clint issuing a breathy compliment to Aunt Bee for the high quality of her Nesselrode pie.
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