In early 1979, two good ol’ country boys named Bo and Luke Duke took America by storm on The Dukes of Hazzard. Though these two cousins from rural Georgia were often on the wrong side of the law, audiences cheered as they sweetly outwitted the corrupt commissioner Boss Hogg and tore around in their souped-up cherry red Dodge Charger. “When I went to California to do Dukes, I was 18,” recalls John Schneider, 61, who grew up in a suburb of Atlanta and played Bo. “I had just graduated from high school.”
In the years following Dukes, John has become a recording star, done theater and costarred on other TV series, including Smallville and Tyler Perry’s The Haves and the Have Nots. Along with Marie Osmond, he is a founder of the Children’s Miracle Network. Today, he’s still acting, but he’s also a writer, producer and director. His latest film is Switched, now streaming on Pure Flix/Sony.
Keep scrolling below to read Closer‘s exclusive Q&A interview with John Schneider!
Do you still get recognized for your role on The Dukes of Hazzard?
Oh yeah! It’s a wonderful compliment. A new generation of kids is now watching Dukes and loving it. It’s terrific. I just did a concert in North Carolina, and there were people from ages 6 to 80 in the crowd. They all love the show.
Why do you think Dukes continues to resonate with fans?
We became and remain part of people’s extended family. For a lot of folks, it’s not just a television show. It’s the lessons they learned from it or the time they spent watching episodes with their grandparents who have now passed on. We’re people they spent time with during a very important time in their lives. It’s a special show, and I’m honored to be a part of that.
What are some of your favorite memories of making the show?
All of my favorite memories from Dukes are of sitting with Denver Pyle, who played Uncle Jesse. We’d talk about The Doris Day Show [which he costarred on] and what it was like for him to work with John Ford and John Wayne. We talked a lot about life in general. He was, in every regard, like a real uncle to me. We were thick as thieves for all the years I did Dukes.
Did you always want to be an actor?
Oh yeah. I knew what I was supposed to be [at a young age]. My theory is that when you’re little, 6 or 7 years old, you know exactly what you are supposed to be. I started making movies with an 8-millimeter camera and doing plays. I remember telling my dad when I was maybe 12 or 13 that I was going to Hollywood to be a stuntman.
Did your dad encourage you?
I had a group of very well-meaning people who were very discouraging because they didn’t want to see me get disappointed. My dad said, ‘Don’t you think you ought to have a plan B?’ I love him to death, but you could tell he didn’t want me to get my hopes up.
But you succeeded!
I tell people now that you better get your hopes up because no one else will. I realized watching movies that was where I was supposed to be. I think a lot of people have that, but then they lose sight of it.
You’re the father of three adult children. How did being a father change you?
Oh, it gives you a whole different perspective on life, especially during their first 16 years. You have a tremendous responsibility to try to help them discover what they’re supposed to be and help them realize that they are very special and to help them along that path.
Your wife, Alicia Allain, is a breast cancer survivor. How is she doing?
She’s doing great. She is her own biggest advocate. She still sees her doctors and she’s on the Keto for Cancer diet, but she looks at it as a maintenance program. She’s remarkable — tenacious too. That’s why we’re together. We call ourselves the team to beat.
How did you fare during the pandemic?
We looked at sequestering as a learning experience of how to get things done regardless. Because of the pandemic, I wrote a movie, which Alicia produced. We shot the movie, I edited it, and we released it and made money back. All of that in less than a year! You just have to go for it.
Tell us about your new movie, Switched.
I think this movie is so clever and so timely. I was one of those kids — the heavy kid with the inhaler who got bullied — you know, the nasty stuff that happens to kids. Now people are playing supposedly harmless pranks on other people and then posting them to social media, where they never go away. So when I saw this script, I thought they were tapping into something we should be talking about.
So it’s about two girls, a popular one and a bullied one, who switch places?
Yes, the girls switch places — it’s like the genie-in-a-bottle thing where we don’t know why it happens. I think it’s because God wanted them to see what the other side was like. It should spur a lot of in-depth conversation.
Do you do social media?
I have my Facebook page and a YouTube channel, and I read the comments. I don’t know why I do. I can read 1,000 wonderful things, but the one troll who feels their only purpose in life is to be nasty to me — well, I remember every word. I don’t know why. I wish compliments lasted as long as insults, but they don’t.
What’s the greatest lesson you’ve learned?
I think we are all made to do something. There is something we are better at than anybody in the world because God designed us that way. Our job is to find out what that is.
Do you ever think about retiring?
Oh no! Retire? I could not imagine. We keep making the movies we love. I write every day. I’ve got enough completed screenplays that even if I live to be 120, I am still not going to live long enough to finish all the stuff I want to do!
— Reporting by Katie Bruno