'Dukes of Hazzard' star John Schneider on General Lee, cancel culture: 'We don't belong in that country club'
John Schneider starred in “Dukes of Hazzard” alongside Tom Wopat and Catherine Bach.,
John Schneider is hitting the road.
The actor, best known as Bo Duke from the hit series “Dukes of Hazzard” is keeping busy this holiday season with two new films premiering on the same day. For starters, he’s rolling the dice with “Poker Run,” where he served as writer, director and leading man. It’s a sequel to fan-favorite “Stand On It,” a “Smokey and the Bandit” tribute that was released in 2020. The 61-year-old is also starring in the new Lifetime film “Christmas in Tune” alongside Reba McEntire where they find themselves sharing the stage.
Still, Schneider is eager to reflect on his past as being one of the good old boys. “The Dukes of Hazzard” aired from 1979 until 1985 and starred Schneider alongside Tom Wopat and Catherine Bach. In its initial run, the series drew as many as 20 million viewers per episode and, by its third season, had become the second-biggest show on TV, The Hollywood Reporter shared.
Still, the outlet noted that the show has been criticized for its use of the Confederate battle flag painted on the roof of General Lee, a ’69 Dodge Charger. In 2020, there was renewed interest to erase the flag from the series, which has been a symbol of Southern pride to some and hatred to others.
Schneider spoke to Fox News about the show’s legacy, how he feels about cancel culture and what it was like to work with McEntire, 66.
Fox News: Many fans remember you from “Dukes of Hazzard.” What’s one memory from your time on set that’s been on your mind lately?
John Schneider: All my best memories from “Dukes of Hazzard” seem to revolve around Denver Pyle who played Uncle Jesse. He was a wonderful mentor to me. Whenever I had a new girlfriend he would say to me, “You’ve met somebody, haven’t you?” I’d say, ‘Yes, sir.” And he’d say, “Does she make you laugh?” If I waited for more than half a second to answer the question, he would look at me with a sad face and say, “Well, good luck.”
Toward the end of our run, it was quite obvious that Denver had met someone. You can just tell when someone’s in love. So I said, “You’ve met someone, haven’t you?” He said, “Yes, I have.” I asked, “Does she make you laugh?” He smiled at me and said “All the time.” I’ve carried that with me. That’s why I call [my wife] Alicia my smile. She’s my laughter. And every time I think about that, I think about the wonderful relationship I had with Pyle.
Fox News: How would you describe your relationship with Tom Wopat and Catherine Bach today?
Schneider: Tom and I talk quite a bit. Tom and I have music in common so we talk about that all the time. We always catch up and see what we’re up to. Sadly, I haven’t seen Catherine in maybe two years. This whole COVID thing has separated people, certainly with quarantine. But we used to run into each other quite a bit at events. That stopped of course [with the pandemic]. But it looks like they may be coming back now.
I’m not sure how Catherine is doing, but I hope to catch up with her soon. As for Tom, he’s doing great. He’s been one of my best friends since the moment we met and I don’t see that changing anytime soon. We’re both theater brats. He came from the community theater. So did it. We have a common love of theater, the roar of the crowd and all that. We’re joined at the hip forever.
Fox News: In 2020, “Dukes of Hazzard” was faced with controversy. Did it surprise you that the current generation wanted to erase the flag from the series after all this time?
Schneider: It was the older, uneducated generation that wanted to remove it from the series, from the airwaves. There’s a group of people that seem to base their values on removing what they’re against. I’ve always placed people’s values on what they are for.
… It had been attacked maybe 20 years ago. And then that attack went away. I guess the critics found another hobby. So no, it didn’t surprise me. But I tell you, my wife and I dirt track race. We are out among people from coast to coast all year round… And there are still children playing with General Lees in the dirt regardless of cancel culture trying to cancel it. And I think it’s because parents save their General Lees and pass them down to another generation.
It’s funny. “The Dukes of Hazzard” is still out of date and as relevant as it ever was. You should see how kids react when they realize I’m Bo Duke. It depends where you are, but from where I stand, none of the cancel culture antics is going to diminish what the show has represented to families who grew up on it. It brought families together. It was never about division. For years, I’ve had people from all walks of life come up to me and say how the show brought their families together. Generations watched it. And they still do.
Fox News: What do you make of cancel culture?
Schneider: Someone asked me the other day, “What do you think about all this cancel culture business?” And I quoted Groucho Marx. Simply put, why would I want to belong to a country club that would have me as a member? Cancel culture is very short-sighted and it’s very much against everything I believe in concerning freedom of speech and freedom of expression. I’m looking forward to the day when the wind finally comes out of the sails of all that nonsense.
Fox News: It sounds like you would want cancel culture to be canceled.
Schneider: Absolutely. My grandparents used to say, “Give them enough rope and they will hang themselves.” And you know, I saw something on Facebook that was just astonishing. Someone had put a Bible verse with praying hands like the picture your grandparents used to have in their homes. And over this picture, it said, “Some may find these words and this picture offensive.” But you have to click on it to see the picture. It was praying hands and it mentioned “God.” There’s just no way in the world that a free society is going to allow that to continue any longer. It has gotten way out of hand.
So yes, I look forward to that day. But until then, we do our own thing. Every day, we tell the stories we want to tell. And we distribute them the way we want to distribute them. We don’t belong in that country club. We have removed our shovels and our buckets from their sandbox to build our own sandbox. And we play there every day, all day.
Fox News: You previously spoke out about the importance of the National Anthem and how its meaning still impacts us today. What makes you proud to be an American?
Schneider: The ability or opportunity to pursue your definition of happiness. Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness – they are at the foundation of our country. That’s why people from all over the world are trying to come to this country. I do believe we are the city on a hill. We are the living example of a free society. That’s why I believe we have to go against the notion that we are not a free society. That we are not free to show praying hands and mention the word “God” on a public platform. We’ve got to eliminate that.
The last lyrics of “The Star-Spangled Banner” are “And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave, over the land of the free and the home of the brave.” I tell people that is up to us. It’s not going to happen on its own. I believe freedom is something that is maintained and achieved. Our national anthem reminds us of that. Our flag must wave over the land of the free and home of the brave. It’s up to each one of us to make sure that remains. The world is depending upon that. We are what people look up to as a free society. We are a country of opportunity, love, life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. That’s what’s so great about America. It gives the world something to strive for.
Fox News: Why did you want to make a film like “Poker Run” now?
Schneider: Well last year, we did a film called “Stand On It,” which was a tribute to “Smokey and the Bandit.” It did incredibly well. So I’ve been trying to create a new franchise that would make people want to get in their cars and go a little faster – safely, of course. And it felt like “Stand On It” did exactly that. When the success of that film happened, I immediately got on my laptop and began brainstorming. And I can honestly say this one is better.
Fox News: The comments for the trailer have been very positive. One commenter even compared it as a combo of “Smokey and the Bandit” and “Dukes of Hazzard.”
Schneider: I think that’s great. I’m very encouraged by that. And the real proof for me is that people who’ve watched the movie have said they all made a dash to their cars to hit the dirt roads.
I’ve seen “Smokey and the Bandit” at least 50 times now. And when I first left the theater, I did exactly that. And I know that’s what people do when they watch “Dukes of Hazzard.” They just love that notion of driving down a dirt road and causing a little dust to happen behind your car.
I’m not talking about reckless driving. But there’s no other feeling like it. I feel like that whole kind of filmmaking has been ignored or forgotten, which doesn’t make sense because it was popular. And it made Burt Reynolds king of the world… I know I love being the guy behind the wheel of a fast car.
Fox News: You’re also starring in a Lifetime holiday film titled “Christmas in Tune” with Reba McEntire. What was that like?
Schneider: Oh, I’ve known Reba for 30, maybe 35 years. We have a wonderful relationship. And our chemistry is terrific. We finish each other’s sentences and each other thoughts. We sang, I think, three duets together, which was a real treat. She’s an amazing singer and a wonderful friend.
Fox News: It sounds like there was more play than work on that set.
Schneider: Always. I believe in having a good time. I’m somebody that will always find joy in everything. And it was just so simple to work with Reba. We sang and played a lot. The only difficulty with doing this movie is that we were doing a Christmas movie. So we were pretending it was cold and it was July and very hot. But it was great. I’m very anxious to finally see it.
“Poker Run” will be available November 26th on DVD and streaming at CineflixDOD.com. “Christmas in Tune” premieres Nov. 26 at 8 p.m. ET on Lifetime.