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The Only Main Actor Still Alive From The Cast Of The Andy Griffith Show

For eight years in the 1960s, "The Andy Griffith Show" took viewers to the idyllic small town of Mayberry, North Carolina, where Sheriff Andy Taylor (Andy Griffith) and his bumbling deputy, Barney Fife (Don Knotts), laid down the law. Andy, a widower, was a rare TV single dad. His Aunt Bee (Frances Bavier) helped him care for his young son Opie (Ron Howard). The father-son bond was particularly special on the classic CBC sitcom, as Opie love going fishing with his dad.

Six decades later, Howard is the only main cast member still alive from the show. This fact isn't too much of a surprise considering that Howard, who turns 70 in 2024, was just five years old when he was cast as young Opie on "The Andy Griffith Show." While he was a cast member on the CBS sitcom, Howard was bitten by the movie director's bug. "When I was 10, one of the directors on 'The Andy Griffith Show' said, "I see the way you're looking at the camera and following rehearsals even when you're not in the scenes, and I have a feeling you're gonna be a director," he told Harvard Business Review. "I began to understand that there was this other thing beyond half-hour sitcoms. And the person behind that filmmaking was first and foremost the director. I wanted to play in that sandbox."

Fans watched little "Ronny" Howard grow up right before their eyes during his eight seasons on "The Andy Griffith Show." A few years later, he went on in pursuit of his next dream.

Ron Howard built an adult career as an actor and a movie director

In the early 1970s, Ron Howard attended film school at the University of Southern California. But when he landed a role as Richie Cunningham on the ABC sitcom "Happy Days," he put school on hold for the job. Howard also married his high school sweetheart, Cheryl, in 1975. "Happy Days" quickly become a massive hit. When the character Fonzie (Henry Winkler) became popular, producers toyed with the idea of changing the show's title to "Fonzie's Happy Days." Howard told The New York Times he threatened to quit over the insulting idea. "I told them if you really want to change the name of the show to that, I would rather go back to USC and film school and what I was doing before the show launched," he said.

In 1980, Howard left "Happy Days" to focus on a career as a producer and director on films such as "Backdraft" and "Apollo 13." In 2002, he won the Academy Award for best director for "A Beautiful Mind." Today, Howard has several upcoming projects in the works. During a Q&A at the ProMat 2023 trade show, he hinted that he has no plans to retire from directing anytime soon. After noting the "creative benefits of getting older," he said, "Experience makes you better under duress," (per DC Velocity) In 2022, he told Variety he would only consider acting again if his director daughter asked him to. "It would probably be Bryce directing something and saying, 'Dad, I really need you to come in and do this,' or 'You have to,'" he shared. "Either of those would probably get me in the makeup chair and in front of the camera."