News Column

Schneider not such a good ol' boy in Tyler Perry drama

May 27, 2013

YellowBrix

May 27--Actors who have to be in Atlanta for weeks or months to shoot a film or TV show usually land in a hotel or rent a place here.

Not John Schneider.

The former "Dukes of Hazzard" and "Smallville" star lives in an RV wherever he goes for filming -- including "The Haves and the Have Nots," a soapy drama Atlanta's Tyler Perry is launching Tuesday on Oprah Winfrey's OWN channel.

"I like having all my stuff in one place," Schneider said during a late lunch of a crispy fish sandwich at Cook Hall at the W Hotel in Buckhead. (On this promotional visit, he was staying in a hotel. His RV was back in Oklahoma, where he was shooting a film.)

OWN has committed to 16 episodes of "The Haves and the Have Nots," on which Schneider plays a powerful Savannah judge, Jim Cryer -- a far cry from his iconic good ol' boy Bo Duke three decades ago.

"I don't think he cares much beyond what people see on the outside," Schneider said of Cryer. "He's cocky and arrogant. People don't generally see me as being that kind of guy. I was fascinated by the contrast."

Cryer has an affair with his maid's daughter, played with slinky slyness by Tika Sumpter, a former soap star on "One Life to Live."

"My character loves her no-holds-barred attitude," Schneider said. "The relationship she forms with him is a complex one."

New York native Schneider, 53, spent three years living in Atlanta as a teen, graduating from North Springs High School in 1977.

He said Perry was totally hands-on with the production. "He creates an atmosphere that's near live. You go through all the scenes and you're unaware of the process somehow. It's so comfortable. It's kind of like theater."

Perry started in theater. And like his other TV shows, this one is based on one of his stage plays. Schneider, who spent 13 months on Broadway doing "Grand Hotel," said the grueling pace Perry sets was invigorating: "It was the most work and the most effortless work I've done."

Schneider marveled at how the TV world has changed since he broke into the business in 1979. "I cut my teeth in a three-network world when 28 million people were watching 'Dukes of Hazzard,'" he said. "Now, there are 400 channels and (yet) there seems to be less to watch."

But he said he respects what Perry and Winfrey are doing. "These are two of the most deservedly powerful people. They want this to work. I'm really excited. This may end up being even better than I think."

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TV preview

"The Haves and the Have Nots," 9 p.m. Tuesdays, OWN.

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