Though Barney Fife had several girlfriends on The Andy Griffith Show, Thelma Lou is who most of us think of. As it turns out, series producers offered her an expanded role on the show and she turned it down.
After Don Knotts left, producers approached Betty Lynn with a proposition. After losing Barney, they didn’t want her to go too. They proposed giving Thelma Lou a hairdressing salon, which would have essentially functioned as a female version of Floyd’s Barber Shop, MeTV reports. However, Lynn turned it down, saying without Barney “I didn’t think Thelma Lou made much sense.”
The history with her turning down the offer goes a bit further though. Five years prior to Knotts leaving, Lynn approached producers wanting a raise. Originally receiving $500 per episode, her being a regular incited her to ask for an extra $50. To her surprise, they responded with a firm “We can replace you.”
“I told Don about it, and he said ‘They wouldn’t have done that. They wouldn’t have let you go,” Betty Lynn recalled. After that incident, she decided not to risk asking for another, fearing it would lead to them firing her. It’s very possible this may have contributed in some way to her rejecting the expanded role after Barney left.
Regardless, it’s reassuring Knotts at least knew how valuable she was to the show and his character.
Betty Lynn Wasn’t Happy About Breaking Barney’s Heart and Neither were the Fans
Thelma Lou not ending up with Barney was one of the saddest things to happen on The Andy Griffith Show. While fans were understandably upset about it, it appears Betty Lynn wasn’t too crazy about it either.
Appearing on a reunion panel for Nashville Now, Betty Lynn was asked how she could do what she did to Barney. According to her, she was just as shocked as they were. “More people ask me that, it’s like I set out to do the most terrible thing in the whole world was to hurt Barney Fife,” Lynn said. “I was hurt, that was my last show! And I really, I was shocked when I got the script. I had no idea. I read this and I thought, what?’”
Lynn goes on to say she hardly felt that was Thelma Lou’s character too. In short, she was not happy about it. “The first reading I said, ‘I don’t think she’d ever do this! I don’t think she’d ever do this!’ And Aaron Ruben said, ‘Oh yes, she really is doing this.’ So I said, ‘Well okay.’”
“I was kinda sad … A lot of people I run into through the years mention that show in particular,” Lynn stated. “They say, ‘How could you have done that?’ I say, ‘I don’t know, I don’t know how I did it.’ I didn’t feel happy about it.”