Maggie Peterson originally auditioned for the part of Ellie Walker
We'll never know if the Darling girl would've made a better Ellie.
As Charlene Darling, Maggie Peterson frequently stole scenes on The Andy Griffith Show in episodes like "Mountain Wedding" and "The Darling Baby."
At various points it’s clear that Charlene has a crush on "that pretty man" Sheriff Andy Taylor, and the romantic chemistry between the actors is explored with a heap of humor.
But when Peterson first auditioned for The Andy Griffith Show, there was no Charlene Darling character yet. Instead, she was auditioning to play Ellie Walker, the first love interest for Sheriff Andy introduced in the series’ first season.
Ellie Walker was played by Elinor Donahue, and the character was famously short-lived on the show because of the lack of chemistry between Donahue and Griffith.
Some critics thought the couple didn’t work onscreen because of the age gap between Griffith, who was 34 when the show premiered, and Donahue, who was 23.
Peterson — though she charmed Andy Griffith Show fans as Charlene — would’ve presented an even larger age gap, four years younger than Donahue when she auditioned for the part at the age of 19.
Perhaps that’s part of the reason why Peterson didn’t get cast.
For Peterson, landing the part of Charlene Darling three years later delivered her onscreen debut.
Newspapers teased her first episode, describing her as a "moon-eyed mountain girl who makes a play for Andy."
By this time in the show, Ellie Walker was long gone.
Audiences were more accustomed to thinking of Andy as a permanent bachelor, shuffling through episodic experiences with funny gals like Charlene Darling, but never claiming a new wife.
Whether this was a superior formula or not was put to the ultimate test when Aneta Corsault came on the show and established that if you cast the right girl, viewers were ready to see Sheriff Andy settle down.
We’ll never know if Peterson could’ve made the role of Ellie Walker last longer than Donahue did, but through Peterson’s performances as Charlene, we do get a glimpse of what could’ve been any time she bats her wide eyes at Andy.