It saddened my heart to hear of George Lindsey's death. He brought to life one of my favorite character actors of all time -- Goober Pyle on The Andy Griffith Show -- and I had the pleasure of interviewing him two years ago when I was doing a piece about the 50th Anniversary of TAGS (Mayberry Days: Taking a Trip Down Memory Lane) for what was then "TV Squad" on AOL.
I only put in one quote from George in the piece about his take on Andy's creative influence, as I had interviewed other cast members including Ron Howard (Opie), Jim Nabors (Gomer), Betty Lynn (Thelma Lou), Elinor Donahue (Ellie), Maggie Peterson (Charlene Darling), Karen Knotts (Don's daughter) and Jackie Joseph (Sweet Romeena) and had little room to add more than one quote.
I thought it would be fitting to run most of my interview with George "Goober" Lindsey as a tribute to one of the great "Mayberry citizens" of all time. Farewell my friend! We love you.
How did you get the role of Goober?
GL: I auditioned for it and got it.
What did you bring to the character?
GL: I brought my fix to the character.
You played Goober so convincingly. He was such a sweet guy who didn't have a lot of book sense, but we all loved him. You have a lot of book sense.
GL: That's how you can play that part. It takes book sense to play a guy that doesn't have any sense.
When you got the role and you started interacting with Andy Griffith, how did that work? Did you have chemistry right away?
GL: Yes. He was a great leader and the best script constructionist that I've ever worked with. And he was easy to work with. If you knew your lines, that's all you needed... and I worked with another guy that was brilliant and that's Don Knotts. They were terrific professional actors, and I was honored to be in their company.
How much did you enjoy playing the role of Goober?
GL: Well I played it like 17 years. I guess I enjoyed it a lot. He was an easy character to play.
TAGS is one of the top shows on TV Land, and it's been one of their top shows over the years.
GL: When we stopped filming, we were the No. 1 show on television.
Why do you think that is? What is it about Mayberry that you think people love?
GL: [It's] Honest, down home. I wish life was like that now... with an Aunt Bee and a Barney and a Floyd and a Goober. It was just a magical town, and Andy made it work.
It must have been fun to come to work every day.
GL: I don't know if you've been around TV shows, but it was fun and then again it was hard work: eight hours a day, three days a week.
What did you want to be when you were 10 years old?
GL: Famous. I'm a graduate of the American Theater Wing in New York.
You went to college.
GL: I went to Alabama and I was in Remedial Lunch. I was there two quarters. I got me a football scholarship in Florence.
Would you have liked to have been a pro football player?
GL: Oh, yeah, more than anything, but when you realize that your career longevity is like four years, Goober longevity is like a lifetime. I don't have any crosses to bear. I'm happy. I've done what I wanted to do. I wanted to be on Broadway, and I was in two Broadway shows, and I wanted to be on television, and I have been. I've made some movies. You might have seen The Aristocrats. I'm a happy retired man.
When I read you had a degree in Biology, I thought, whoa, this man is a smart guy.
GL: Well, if you study, nobody has to be smart to finish college. That was one thing in my life that I was going to do, I was going to play first-string college football. I was going to get a college degree and I was going to become a movie star. I didn't quite make the third one.
Why do you think people still like watching TAGS?
GL: They never age.
There's something so sweet and simple about the show that makes it endearing to people, don't you think?
GL: Yeah, Andy was very caring about the scripts. He made the scripts right. He knew how to fix them, and we knew how to act them.
What was the best part of the whole experience for you?
GL: Lunch. Of course I had a great character, I loved playing him, and I was working. You're not acting if you're not working.
People love you and identify you as Goober Pyle.
GL: I said to someone that I didn't know where I started and Goober ended or where Goober started and I ended. I became that person.
On your lunch break, were you Goober?
GL: I can't remember that. I know three days a week I was Goober, and my wife used to say, 'Alright, you're not Goober here.'
You continued on Mayberry RFD when Andy Griffith left the show. Was that a sad time for you as far as your experience playing Goober?
GL: Yeah, the show wasn't the same (after Andy left).
What was Ron Howard like working with?
GL: He was just a little boy, so what is it like working with a boy that's 11 years old? He was a great kid.
GL: Francis and I got along but you stepped around Francis. She would let you know how she felt.
GL: She wasn't in that many (with me). One of the characters that I just adored and was friends with was Howard McNear, who played Floyd the barber.
I heard he was the actor who was most like his character.
GL: I'd say that's a good description of him.
GL: We didn't do that many scenes together.
GL: I just did one show with him. His last show was my first show. He went to the Marines you know.
GL: I didn't know him very well.
GL: Yeah, Jack and I were friends. He passed away way too soon.
GL: She and I were pals. Different ones you can talk with on the set. Other actors are very private, and don't have anything to say after you've filmed.
Between takes was it a fun atmosphere on the show?
GL: Yes, between takes there's very little time. You film Monday Tuesday and Wednesday, read on Thursday, come in and walk thru on Friday and then learn your lines on the weekends.
Being such a loveable character, I'm sure people must approach you as Goober. Does that annoy you or do you embrace it?
GL: I like it. They say, 'Hey, Goober.'
Do they expect you to be that character, Goober?
GL: In a way. I don't walk around in my wardrobe. (laughs)
Where's the little beanie that you wore?
GL: It's going to be in The Andy Griffith Museum (Mt. Airy, N.C.). It's out there now. And it will be shown I guess during Mayberry Days. They have one exhibit, my brown suit with the pinstripes and my shirt and tie and brown & white shoes. Later on they will do the beanie.
You have to know how loved you are.
GL: It's overpowering when you start thinking about that. I don't ever think about that. I love (the fans) too.
What do you miss most about TAGS?
GL: I wouldn't want to work that hard now. I miss the camaraderie of the actors. We had a lot of fun. We liked to come to work every day. I used to go in an hour early just to look at the actors. You know you're okay when you finally get a studio chair with your name on it. Then you know you're going to have a job for awhile.
How long did that take?
GL: About three years.
I bet Andy had his.
GL: Oh, yes. (laughs) Andy is quite phenomenal with what he's done on Broadway and movies and songs, he's a singer and a poet, and there's no end to this man's talent.
Andy Griffith seems like he would have been very similar to his character, and you seem like you're a lot different than your character. Your I.Q. is a lot higher. How close was Andy Griffith to being Andy Taylor?
GL: He was not Andy Taylor. He was Andy Griffith. I had a good time every day I went to work, and he was the leader and he made it that way. He had awesome talent. As I told you, he was the best script constructionist I've ever been around. We would read on Thursdays, and he would fix the scripts.
So he would make recommendations for changes in the dialog?
GL: No, he would fix it. (laughs) He didn't make recommendations. If you're Andy Griffith and it's The Andy Griffith Show you don't make recommendations.
If your character said something you didn't think was quite right could you change it?
GL: Kind of... I sat in on those readings for about three years before they would let me make changes.
It was a collaborative effort?
GL: You could make suggestions about what you would say and what you wouldn't say, and this and that, and it took about three years before they thought you knew what you were talking about. It was a great experience. I wouldn't give anything for it. One of the best scenes I've ever done on that show... I put a car together in the sheriff's office. Andy came in and he said, 'Goober I want you to get this car out of this sheriff's office, and I mean now!' And I looked at him and I said, 'Out.' [He says this in his Goober voice and laughs]. It was Gilley Walker's car.
Do you have other favorite episodes?
GL: The other favorite is when Don and I went over [to Andy's house when he was with Helen] and we were going to watch Andy court, so Don was going to show me how to court a girl. And Andy caught us. Don was brilliant to work with, brilliant.
How different was Don from his character?
GL: He was very serious and a private person.
The chemistry between Andy and Don?
GL: Oh, an academy award level.
The first year of the show, Andy played the country bumpkin and then decided Don should be the comic.
GL: That's what made Andy so brilliant. He knew that that's how it would work. The whole cast made that show... (and) the writing made the show. The characters had to make it sing.
Are you and Andy still in touch?
Yes, I just talked to him recently.