Tika Sumpter and John Schneider

John Schneider is about to make J.R. Ewing look like a wimp. The former Smallville and Dukes of Hazzard fave is starring in Tyler Perry's feverish new OWN sudser The Haves and the Have Nots as patriarch Jim Cryer, a fantastically wealthy, power-mad judge who intends to become Georgia's next governor. Yet he's happy to risk it all for the company of some high-priced hookers.

"This is the role that may finally get people to stop calling me Bo Duke," says Schneider, who notes he hasn't gone this dark since he played porn mogul Ram Peters on Nip/Tuck. "I'm usually cast as the guy who lives on a dirt road — the one who'll be there to sandbag your house when you need help. That ain't Cryer."

Schneider's character hates his wife, Katheryn (Renée Lawless), and is exasperated by son Wyatt (Aaron O'Connell), a rehab regular. "The only one he truly cares about is the apple of his eye, his daughter Amanda [Jaclyn Betham], who wants to be a lawyer," Schneider says. "He'll do anything to avoid disappointing her." Oops — too late for that. In the two-hour premiere (Tuesday, 9/8c), he discovers that Amanda's new roommate is his current escort of choice, Candace (Tika Sumpter), who sees this as a golden opportunity for blackmail.

"We have constant shocks and surprises, but Tyler cleverly lets the audience in on them well before the characters catch on," Schneider says. "This is a show about people who think they have life by the balls, only to find out they don't."

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