The actor behind Barney's cousin Virgil became one of Mayberry's biggest movie stars

Michael J. Pollard got nominated for an Oscar seven years after playing Don Knotts' awkward cousin.

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In 1962, The Andy Griffith Show introduced Barney Fife’s cousin Virgil as an awkward kid who needs Andy’s help to build some self-confidence.

Although Cousin Virgil only appeared once, the character is memorable because we didn’t meet very many of Barney’s relatives on the sitcom, and the actor who played Cousin Virgil went on to become a major movie star and even unlikely sex symbol in the Sixties.

Michael J. Pollard started his acting career with TV roles in the late 1950s and early 1960s on shows like Alfred Hitchcock Presents, The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis, Gunsmoke, Star Trek and Lost in Space.

Off-screen, he was a painfully shy hippie who spent years surfing couches before finding success as an actor at the end of the 1960s.

That’s when he got cast to play C.W. Moss in Bonnie & Clyde, a character based on a gang member named W.D. Jones, a real gangster who actually ran with the real Bonnie and Clyde.

The real Jones said Pollard’s depiction of him was accurate, saying, "Moss was a dumb kid who ran errands and done what Clyde told him. That was me all right."

Pollard impressed so much as C.W. Moss that he garnered an Oscar nomination for the role. And though he didn’t win, he went from earning $14,000 for the movie role to $150,000 for his next picture, and soon, a quarter million per picture.

By 1968, Pollard had made the leap that pretty much only Don Knotts had made, going from Mayberry to major movie star.

After Bonnie & Clyde, Pollard became, as one critic declared in The Des Moines Register in 1969, "the idol of young America." Asked whether he was surprised that he became a sex symbol, Pollard answered, “Nothing surprises me.”

Although he became especially popular with the ladies, Pollard was married to his second wife by the time he became famous.

He said they fell in love so instantly, she moved in with him two hours after they met, and they married very quickly after that.

As Pollard’s popularity grew, though, his shyness never really subsided, and soon, he was declining celebrity interviews "because of his basic shyness and timidity."

This timidity shrouded the movie star in mystery, with Pollard’s fans clinging to details released in limited interviews, where the actor mostly just talked about being a homebody.

"I usually keep myself locked in the house unless I’m working," Pollard said.

After finding success, Pollard bought a modest home in New York, preferring to live in a rougher part of the city with hippies and artists he could relate to, where he felt he blended in.

Through the Seventies, Eighties and early Nineties, he did anything but blend in, though, garnering attention on the big screen in roles across from major movie stars, from Robert Redford to Steve Martin. He also joined Harvey Korman on the cast of a short-lived Eighties sitcom called Leo & Liz in Beverly Hills.

By the early 2010s, he could still be seen featuring in movies and TV before retiring from acting in 2012, then passing away in 2019.

Back in 1969, his dream after becoming a big name in Hollywood was to direct his own movie, but his idea "about a guy who can’t tell the difference between reality and illusion" never made it to the big screen.

Perhaps he never directed the movie, though, because he changed his mind and decided he didn’t want to direct movies after all.

In his 1969 interview, Pollard tells his interviewer that he’s decided in the middle of their conversation that he’s going to stop giving interviews.

When asked why, Pollard said something very relatable: "You ask me questions, and I have to think about answers. Then you go away, and I’ll change my mind about a lot of the things I said."

"I change my mind at least 20 times a day," Pollard said.

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MarshaStapleton 24 months ago
Michael J Pollard and Gene Hackman had both been nominated as Best Supporting Actor for "Bonnie and Clyde." Hackman should've had that Oscar.
CrumblyCrunchies 24 months ago
Wasn't Jack Nicholson on Andy a couple times. Bigger star than Pollard
Deleted 24 months ago
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Bertpar68 24 months ago
Tracy Pollan, not Pollard. Get your facts straight
Bertpar68 24 months ago
Pollan, not Pollard, idiot
afilippone 24 months ago
I guess you never make mistakes...idiot
Runeshaper 24 months ago
Definitely sounds like he was a very private guy and a GREAT actor.
JHP 24 months ago
andy - barnay -and cousin virgil were all cousins - that's says it all with the show
frenchman71 24 months ago
It's usually the sign of a good actor who can play so many diverse roles and guest stars in many shows and movies. I'll always remember him in "Miri" of Star Trek and "Bonnie & Clyde". A creepy role he had in the 80s was in a horror film called "American Gothic" starring Rod Steiger & Yvonne deCarlo. But I never cared for the episode of Cousin Virgil in TAGS.
justjeff 25 months ago
If Virgil was Barney's cousin, then by rights he was Andy's cousin (even if distant) as well, because in the beginning of TAGS, Andy and Barney were identified as cousins...
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LoveMETV22 justjeff 24 months ago
I read an article the cousin part was a bit used in three early episodes, then the producer retconned the storyline and in the new storyline Andy and Barney are just friends. And agree they could have all been related, as I don't think they go that deep into the how they were related. (thankfully).
JHP justjeff 24 months ago
no ep links anything to anything

that is what is wrong with the show

clara - bertha

asa basken - asa breen

o'malley - hodge (he was Deetroit on the one ep)
ReidDavis justjeff 24 months ago
Elvis sang in "Kissin' Cousins"...."yes we're all cousins, that's what I believe, because we're children of Adam & Eve". Guess I'll have to go with "The King" on this one.
justjeff ReidDavis 24 months ago
That makes sense - in a weird sort of way...
Pacificsun 25 months ago
One of the more dreary episodes of ST:TOS, "Miri" gave Michael J. Pollard an outstanding role. His very effective personality in that role might've been chalked up to good acting. But here, through this story, we read it was really just an extension of his natural personality!! No worries there, actors often sell themselves for a perfect matchup in a role, just being who they are. But even during the initial run and first syndication of the Series. that episode stood out. It was disturbing. And the wiki link explains why. Some very notable directing and writing talent was behind the effort. And it received praise for the novel use of children as the protagonists, and the consistent use of suspense throughout the story. The 3 ST actors had equal prominence in the storyline, which always makes for the best of ST:TOS episodes. No easy feat, by the way, acting with so many children, inexperienced at that. And with their parents looking on, yikes!!
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TheDavBow3 Pacificsun 25 months ago
Great episode!
Pacificsun TheDavBow3 25 months ago
😉 Just curious, because I know, you know your ST:TOS very well. 😉
TheDavBow3 Pacificsun 24 months ago
I liked it, I guess, because it kinda scared me. Even though there's a lot of sadness but there's tons of care and compassion. My all time favorite ST-TOS episode was "The Doomsday Machine" which scared the daylights out of me. Add the music score for that episde which added to my fright. I also was partial to the episodes that resembled Earth. I like Kim Darby too. I remember her from True Grit and The Man From UNCLE in particliar
musiclady1170 TheDavBow3 24 months ago
I was just a little girl when the Star Trek episode aired. The Grups scared the daylights out of me and my mean brothers took that & ran with it. For a very long time they tormented me with "The Grups are coming Mona!" "The Grups are going to get you!" I would scream and cry -- which only encouraged them. I also remember Pollard looking into a dark pool on Lost In Space, saying "I don't have a reflection" after the others jumped in (or something like that).
F5Twitster 25 months ago
I once spent the better part of an evening with Pollard. A pleasant and soft-spoken man, if a bit weird.

Re "Although Cousin Virgil only appeared once, the character is memorable..."

If a sentence requires use of the word "only," trust an American to put it in the wrong place. in that sentence. It should read: Although Cousin Virgil appeared only once...
Pacificsun F5Twitster 25 months ago
Does that mean the British don't make any grammatical mistakes, just curious.
Catman F5Twitster 25 months ago
If a comment requires snobbery and arrogance, trust a sentence-fragment using clown to supply them.
Michael Catman 24 months ago
The writers put errors into the posts to provide entertainment for the nitpickers.
DethBiz 25 months ago
I always remember him from a late 80s horror movie called American Gothic starring Rod Steiger and Yvonne De Carlo aka Lily Munster.
frenchman71 DethBiz 24 months ago
I just posted the same thing before I read your post. A real creepy movie.
mflemon 25 months ago
I love looking at all my favorite cartoon shows my favorite show is Mayberry The Waltons Matlock In the Heat of the Night all my Western shows thank you
mflemon 25 months ago
I love my TV I love the questions I prefer to get them all correct but I do not sometimes
DianeLevendakes 25 months ago
He was like the characters he played. My Father was a year older than him and he lived a block away. My Father said he was weird! The neighborhood kids tried to get him to play whatever games they were playing (stick ball, football, submarine spotting on the Passaic River and he always said no. His Mother said he was too sensitive and Mikey didn't want to get hurt or dirty.
Pacificsun DianeLevendakes 25 months ago
How funny/curious that a kid with the courage to be himself, and holding onto an acting aspiration in his life, is considered "weird." All hail the pretentiousness of non-conformity. Certainly, today, it would be killed outright, no doubt.
CecilMJames1 25 months ago
He also played an alien living in the mirrored universe on a the first season episode of Lost in Space where Penny went into a mirror where the alien lived and he's been married twice his first marriage was to Beth Howland who played Vera Gorman on Alice he has a daughter with her named Holly and he has a son from his second marriage.
Pacificsun CecilMJames1 25 months ago
I'm guessing Beth Howland was a step in the direction of non-conformity as well.
Glad they found each other!
DZee Pacificsun 24 months ago
Beth Howland's first husband....and she later married Charles Kimbrough from Murphy Brown. I guess Kimbrough & Pollard are kind of similar too.
AgingDisgracefully 25 months ago
He not only played Maynard's cousin on Dobie Gillis, he later starred in the blockbuster hit, Little Fauss and Big Halsy, with Robert Redford.
Tim 25 months ago
According to Traffic's Jim Capaldi, he was working on a score for a movie while Michael J Pollard was hanging around. Pollard scratched the words "The Low Spark of High Heeled Boys" on a page of Capaldis compositions. Capaldi later asked Pollard what THAT meant. Pollard said he didn't know. Capaldi and his Traffic bandmates turned the words into one of Traffic's biggest hits...
Michael Tim 25 months ago
I onew that story, but it didn't come to mind with this story.

It's a good example of his non-Hollywood friends,though I've never seen a good explanatuon of it.u
MrsPhilHarris 25 months ago
I couldn’t stand Barney’s cousin. So annoying! 🤪
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LoveMETV22 MikefromJersey 24 months ago
I do get what you are saying. Not diminishing the significance or solemnity of the day. However the additional word is not disrespectful or used in that way. (by most). So it doesn't require explanation.
LoveMETV22 texasluva 24 months ago
FrndlyTV Has I believe all the MeTV networks, except the MeTV+. I believe it is $7.00 a month. You might want to see if your new provider has that in their package, however it may be cheaper as a standalone.
LoveMETV22 texasluva 24 months ago
Here is the link to FrndlyTV
texasluva LoveMETV22 24 months ago
I was just reading about that. Thanks
Andybandit 25 months ago
I forgot when Barney's cousin was on the show.
harlow1313 25 months ago
I don't see this as a negative, but in the handful of shows I have seen him is, his characters always come off as peculiar. Weirdness seemed to be his strength. I particularly liked C.W. Moss.

My impression is that this article exaggerates this fellow's "star" power. I enjoy his oddness, but he is a minor player. No shame in that. Just my perception.
Michael harlow1313 25 months ago
I like him. But I think you're right. His roles that immediately come to mind present him as a good natured almost village idiot type. In Bonnie & Clyde, he doesn't come across as mean or vicious, but some guy ho shoukdn't have joined the gang. Even his father acts that way.

He's in Roxanne with Steve Martin. One of the firemen, a kind of background character.

We see him and that familiar face pulls us in.
Tim harlow1313 25 months ago
He woulda been a good Boo Radley but Robert Duvall did a pretty good job himself
Michael 25 months ago
He was married to Beth Howland, of "Alice" in the sixties.

Wasn't he the replacement for Maynard G Krebs when Bob Denver thought he was going into the army?

Don't forget he was in a Star Trek episode.

He was The Russians are Coming.

I know he was friends with Janis Joplin, maybe more. He didseem to fit into the counterculture.

Didn't he get stereotyped, that face giving him young roles?
KJExpress Michael 25 months ago
He certainly had a young role in the Star Trek episode. His character (supposedly) hadn't hit puberty yet. I always found that to be a bit of a stretch.
Pacificsun KJExpress 25 months ago
Well it was a creepy, depressing episode anyway. My guess, the writers were given leeway to experiment a little (gotta give ST:TOS a lot of credit for doing so) As all fans know, the episode was banned in the UK, along with the Empath and For Whom Gods Destroy. All, I would say, a little sadistic for Prime Time television, involving all aged viewers.
DanDo77 Michael 25 months ago
Michael was also in the episode of Lost in Space featuring Penny where he lived in a mirror-like world. I don't remember the name of that episode, but it was in the first season because I remember it was one of the black and white episodes.
LoveMETV22 DanDo77 24 months ago
The episode of Lost in Space featuring Penny where he lived in a mirror-like world was:
" The Magic Mirror " S1 - E21.
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