Gomer Pyle is one of the quintessential side characters in sitcom history. A late addition to The Andy Griffith Show, Pyle was a lovable oaf who eventually got his own series in Gomer Pyle: USMC. However, behind Pyle was an actor named Jim Nabors, an unknown performer who was getting ready for his big break. While the late Nabors looked fondly on his career, however, he had one regret about his life going into fame.
Who was Gomer Pyle?
Pyle was an oafish, childlike employee at the local Mayberry gas station. Thanks to Nabors’ comedic chops, however, he quickly became one of the most popular characters in the series.
When Pyle wasn’t working at the local filling station, he helped Andy and Barney fight crime, working as a handyman of sorts and talking about his dreams of becoming a marine.
As Pyle’s fame grew, he followed his dreams, left Mayberry, and joined the marines in the spin-off series. However, while that show was a hit unto itself, Griffith will always be Nabors’ high moment. However, while Nabors may have wanted more to do, he was just happy to have such an iconic role under his belt.
Jim Nabors looked back on Gomer Pyle
Nabors is so much more than the character he played for so many years. While The Andy Griffith Show‘s legacy goes well beyond Pyle, Nabors’ character was one of the most beloved people to come out of it. For some actors, being this closely connected to one fictional character could wear them as a professional. However, Nabors never thought of it like this. He sat down with the Two Chairs, No Waiting podcast to discuss this.
“I really loved Gomer Pyle,” Nabors said as he looked back on his career. “I had the good fortune, if you’re gonna play a character, to play as nice a guy as he was. People always ask me if I would like to be identified differently and I tell them, ‘Absolutely not!’ I really enjoyed it and still do. I haven’t necessarily made my career totally on Gomer, because I’ve used so much music in my career, but I’ve been very blessed in that I’ve had a diverse career.”
Nabors just appreciated the opportunities he got.
“I had a situation comedy, a concert career and a variety show. It’s all been really wonderful, because in show business you’re always kind of looking for your next job. It’s a very insecure business. Fortunately, I was never without a job in 40 years,” he said about it.
It’s the truth. Nabors parlayed his Pyle success into an unlikely multi-hyphenate career. He was a successful actor with a role on one of the greatest sitcoms of all time and its hit spin-off. Still, he got to follow his musical dreams and remain a hard-worker until his death in 2017 at the age of 87. Later in life, he found himself to be very lucky as he reminisced about his career.
Nabors looking back
According to Closer Weekly, when Nabors was asked by the New York Post about his regrets, Nabors wished he would have gotten bit by the acting bug earlier.
“I didn’t have more experience. Still, when your opportunity comes along, you don’t ask. You keep your fingers crossed and try your best.”
It must have worked. Few characters have a more iconic status than Gomer Pyle has, and even if nobody watched him on Griffith or USMC, they’ve likely heard his name referenced. Whether as an actor or a gospel singer, a character or a man, Nabors built something that reached a level that few can boast. Four years after his death, his legacy remains as strong as ever.
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