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The ‘Matlock Cast’: Surprising Facts about Andy Griffith and Crew Beyond the Courtroom

Find out what role Dick Van Dyke played in the series! 

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The Matlock cast graced television screens from 1986 to 1995. This iconic courtroom drama captured audiences in large part because of its stellar ensemble cast, including its star —Andy Griffith. Griffith, who played the role of Benjamin Matlock, a defense attorney based in Atlanta, Georgia, used his folksy demeanor, sharp mind, and unorthodox courtroom tactics for every case he tried.

The plot line each week was warm and familiar, like a cozy blanket. Matlock was hired to defend a client who was accused of murder. He would then investigate the case, uncover new evidence, and, through careful sleuthing, find the real culprit. The show combined elements of legal drama, mystery, and courtroom procedures. And, of course, justice always prevailed in the end.

Audiences loved Matlock’s brilliant and charismatic way of outsmarting the prosecution by using unconventional methods, to ultimately secure acquittals for his clients. It was a guessing game until the final scene.

Surprising Matlock Facts

Dick Van Dyke guest-starred as a sinister trial judge in the pilot episode of Matlock. Of course, there were other famous guest appearances over the years, including Betty White, Jason Bateman, Malcolm Jamal-Warner, and even Alf from the Alien puppet sitcom. Don Knotts, from the Andy Griffith Show, had a recurring role for 12 episodes.

RELATED: Dick Van Dyke Movies and TV Shows: The Legendary Entertainer’s Most Lovable Roles

While Matlock was a hit when it came out, after six seasons, it was losing steam. The new NBC entertainment president, Warren Littlefield, was looking to back away from series that skewed to older audiences.

In addition to In the Heat of the Night, he canned Matlock. Griffith and producers felt there was still something to the series and managed to convince executives at ABC, telling them the show could move filming to North Carolina and save money on production. It worked. The show ran three more seasons before going off the air for good in 1995.

The Matlock cast

Let’s look back at the Matlock cast and see where the actors and actresses are now.

Andy Griffith as Benjamin Matlock

Andy Griffith as Benjamin Matlock (Matlock Cast)
1994/2006Getty

The cornerstone of Matlock was star Andy Griffith who brought Benjamin Matlock to life with his Southern charm and legal expertise. Griffith was a household name before becoming part of the Matlock cast, thanks to his role in The Andy Griffith Show.

RELATED: Ron Howard Shows Off Impressive Skill He Learned as Opie on ‘Andy Griffith Show’

Not many people realize that Griffith was an accomplished musician and recorded several albums of gospel and country music. After seeing the trombonist Jack Teagarden in the 1941 film Birth of the Blues, he bought a trombone from Sears, Roebuck & Compan and took lessons from a local pastor.

Actor and singer Andy Griffith holds his album ‘Somebody Bigger Than You And I’ in 1972Getty

That pastor later recommended him to the University of North Carolina, where he won a music degree. Griffith also took up singing and hoped to one day become a professional opera singer, before he caught the acting bug. He starred in Broadway’s No Time for Sergeants and in the film A Face in the Crowd.

After Matlock, Griffith had guest appearances in several shows including Dawson’s Creek and The Simpsons. He also appeared in several movies including Play the Game.  He was still going strong in 1996 when he recorded a gospel album, I Love to Tell the Story: 25 Timeless Hymns, which won a Grammy.

Griffith passed away in 2012 at the age of 86.

Did you know? Griffith suffered from Guillian-Barré Syndrome — which is temporary paralysis of the lower legs — so he had to wear knee braces during his long courtroom scenes. He never complained or asked to do the scenes sitting.

It’s not surprising if you can’t imagine anyone else playing the title character Matlock — the role was written exclusively with Andy Griffith in mind.

Julie Sommars as Julie March

Julie Sommars as Julie March (Matlock Cast)
1990/2018Getty

From 1987-1994 Julie Sommars played Griffith’s love interest Assistant District Attorney, Julie March. She was a hit on the show and received two Golden Globe nominations for Best Supporting Actress in a Drama for her role.

Before joining the Matlock cast, Sommars starred in the comedy series, The Governor and J.J. In that role, she won a Golden Globe for Best Actress in a Musical or Comedy (she tied with Carol Burnett) in 1970. Her other work included roles in Disney’s Herbie Goes to Monte Carlo and television shows including Barnaby Jones and Magnum P.I. The ‘70s saw Sommars starring in a variety of made-for-TV movies including The Harness, Five Desperate Women, Cave-In, and Centennial.

Julie Sommars, Andy Griffith and Nancy Stafford, 1991. NBC/MoviestillsDB

After Matlock, Sommars switched gears and turned to politics. She served as a public member on the California Judicial Performance Commission (1999-200). From there she she served as a public member on The Board of Governors for the State of California (2000 to 2003).

She currently lives in California with John Karns, her husband.

Did you know? Sommars was married four times. The last marriage has been going strong since 1984.

Nancy Stafford as Michelle Thomas

Nancy Stafford as Michelle Thomas (Matlock Cast)
1990/2022Getty

Nancy Stafford‘s portrayal of Michelle Thomas, Matlock’s sharp and resourceful law partner, contributed significantly to the show’s success. The on-screen chemistry between Stafford and Griffith quickly made Stafford a fan favorite. She left the series when filming moved to North Carolina.

Before joining the Matlock cast, Stafford had appeared in several television series, including St. Elsewhere and Remington Steele.

After Matlock, Stafford appeared in several hit shows, including The Mentalist, Judging Amy, and ER.

In the ‘90s, she hosted the talk show Main Floor.

Stafford married Larry Myers, a pastor, in 1989. She authored books on faith, including Beauty by the Book: Seeing Yourself as God Sees YouThe Wonder of His Love: A Journey into the Heart of God, and her 2006 book Mothers & Daughters Taking Your Adult Relationship to a Deeper Level.

Did you know? Stafford was voted Miss Florida in the state’s beauty pageant in 1976.

Kene Holliday as Tyler Hudson

Kene Holliday as Tyler Hudson (Matlock Cast)
1987/2011Getty

Kene Holliday played Tyler Hudson, Matlock’s loyal private investigator. His warm demeanor and legal smarts added a certain charm to the show.  

Prior to joining the Matlock cast, Holliday was a football star and attended the University of Maryland on a full scholarship. After college, he got the acting bug and had notable roles in series like Carter Country (1977-79), Kojak (1976), Incredible Hulk (1978), Quincy (1979), and Benson (1980).

After Matlock, Holliday continued to work in the entertainment industry with appearances in shows like Doogie Howser (1991), Jake and the Fatman (1992) and Diagnosis Murder (1996). In the 2000s, he was seen in Law and Order: Special Victims Unit and Criminal Intent.

Did you know? Holliday published a book of poetry in 1998 entitled The Book of K-III: The Contemporary Poetics of Kene Holliday.       

Clarence Gilyard Jr. as Conrad McMasters

Clarence Gilyard Jr. as Conrad McMasters (Matlock Cast)
1985/2001Getty

Clarence Gilyard Jr.‘s portrayal of Conrad McMasters, Matlock’s junior associate, brought a fresh dynamic to the legal team.

Gilyard Jr. grew up on a military base and attended the Air Force Academy before transferring to Sterling College, an evangelical Christian college in Kansas, where he played wide receiver for the football team.

Before Matlock, Gilyard’s face was frequently seen on both TV and films, including roles in The Facts of Life and Diff’rent Strokes.

After the Matlock cast, Gilyard Jr. continued his successful acting career with roles in series like Walker Texas Ranger and movies such as Top Gun and Die Hard.

He died in 2022 at the age of 66. At the time of his death, he taught stage and screen acting at the University of Nevada in Las Vegas.

Did you know? Later in his career, he had roles in religiously themed dramas, including the Left Behind series.

Daniel Roebuck as Cliff Lewis

Daniel Roebuck as Cliff Lewis (Matlock Cast)
1994/2022Getty

Daniel Roebuck’s portrayal of Cliff Lewis, Matlock’s assistant, added humor and levity to the series.

Prior to Matlock, Roebuck had notable roles in films like The Fugitive and River’s Edge.

After being a part of the Matlock cast, Daniel Roebuck continued to work in the entertainment industry. He has appeared in numerous films and television shows, including roles in Lost and Glee.  He also played the role of Jay Leno in the made-for-television film The Late Shift (1996).

Most recently, he was seen in the Munsters (2022) and Miracle at Manchester (2023)

Did you know? Roebuck has been married three times. In 2020, he and his wife Tammy founded the non-profit organization A Channel of Peace, which produces faith-based films.

Brynn Thayer as Leanne MacIntyre

Brynn Thayer as Leanne MacIntyre (Matlock Cast)
1993/2011Getty

Brynn Thayer joined the Matlock cast as Leanne MacIntyre, from 1991-1994.  Before joining the series, Thayer was on the soap opera One Life to Live from 1978 to 1986.

After the Matlock cast, Thayer continued her acting career with appearances in various television series, including Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, MoonlightingMurder, She Wrote and 7th Heaven. She also went back to soap operas and appeared in General Hospital and Days of our Lives.

Did you know? Thayer co-founded the charitable organization ZazAngels with actor Michael Zaslow to generate funds for researching Lou Gehrig’s disease (ALS). Zaslow died of ALS on December 6, 1998.


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