John Schneider, You've Got a Friend
has gone from playing a good ol' boy on the enduring 1979-85 hit Dukes of Hazzard
, to more fatherly roles like Clark Kent's dad on Smallville
, to serving as the role model to a 12-year-old orphan in Hallmark Channel's You've Got a Friend
(premiering Saturday at 9 pm/ET). He spoke to us about his journey.
TV Guide: Tell us about You've Got a Friend.
Schneider: It's a fantastic movie to sit and watch with your whole family, which is very important to me these days — there seems to be less and less of that out there. It's a great story about the importance of big-brother relationships and fathers. I [think] it's really important how we depict fathers so that perhaps we can inspire people who are watching these bits of drama to be better at it themselves.
TV Guide: What drew you to the part of town loner and former boxcar champ Jim Klecan?
Schneider: He's very strict, he's very stubborn, but he's very loving underneath all that. We live in a time now where everybody thinks you have to be your child's best friend, and I don't think that's true. You have to raise your children to prepare them for what's coming up after they leave your house, which is oftentimes not pretty. The world is not your best friend.
TV Guide: Most of your scenes are with your 13-year-old costar, Dylan McLaughlin. How was it to work with such a young actor? Schneider: Fantastic, he's wonderful. The first scene that we did was [me] teaching him how to drive, which was perfect for me because I'm such a car nut. I think his glee really shows up in the movie. I think that bonded us immediately. [Laughs] He trusted me, and I trusted him.
TV Guide: It has been nearly 30 years since Dukes first aired. How do you explain its continued appeal?
Schneider: It's just amazing, isn't it? Certainly the stories were oftentimes very silly, but the people were real. When you're watching Dukes you're seeing not just cars flying through the air and all that fun stuff, you're seeing people you want to be like.
TV Guide: And you're auctioning on eBay your General Lee from the 2000 TV-movie Dukes of Hazzard: Hazzard in Hollywood.
Schneider: I am. I'm raising money to do Collier & Co. 2, so we'll see how that goes. I'm intentionally staying away from [the auction] until it's almost over. It's too much stress to follow.
TV Guide: Still glad you decided to exit Smallville?
Schneider: Once I read the pilot, it was an easy decision [to do the series] — a great script. But it was a difficult show to do, because it was up in Vancouver, so I spent a lot of time away from my own family while playing a "good dad" on television. That kind of rubbed me the wrong way for five years, but it was a wonderful experience as far as the show goes.
TV Guide: Was it fun to play a death scene — and be mourned?
Schneider: I don't know about fun, but it was challenging. That episode was very well written and I did like being mourned. I felt very much like John Wayne in The Cowboys.
TV Guide: Any other projects you'd like to do with Tom Wopat? It was cool when you were both on Smallville.
Schneider: I have a terribly irreverent script that I think we're going to do called Trailer Trash. It flies in the face of everything I've told you so far, but it would be so much fun. We'd play cousins, and I'm even considering getting Christopher Mayer and Byron Cherry, who played [Dukes'] Vance and Coy Duke, to play other family members.
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