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article imageTalking Christmas and 'The Dukes of Hazzard' with actor Tom Wopat Special

By Adrian Peel     Dec 11, 2015 in Entertainment
The 64 year old, fondly remembered for playing Luke Duke, has been making his way the only way he knows how for over 40 years and last month he and his 'Dukes of Hazzard' co-star, John Schneider, re-released their 2014 Christmas album, this time on vinyl.
For many, myself included, Tom Wopat will always be one of the Duke boys, Bo and Luke, "cousins closer than brothers" who tore up the Georgia landscape - usually with the police in hot pursuit - in their iconic customised Dodge Charger, The General Lee.
The show, where the adventures of Bo (played by John Schneider) and Luke, their cousin Daisy and their Uncle Jesse - all of which took place in the fictional town of Hazzard County - were played out over 50-minute weekly episodes, was essential viewing from 1979 to 1985.
Away from the series, both Wopat and Schneider have continued to find work, both as actors and singers, and remain firm friends to this day. Last year they released a Christmas LP together entitled Home for Christmas. This year, as previously mentioned, the album is available on vinyl for the first time.
"It came out on November 20 and we're very proud of it," states the resident of New York City in his energetic tones. "My erstwhile cousin, John Schneider, and I did a couple of shows in Louisiana over the weekend and we're gonna do another couple of shows down in Stuart, Florida next week."
The album contains 18 tracks and is a seasonal mixture of the old and the new. Well-worn classics that feature alongside some lesser known material include "Santa Claus Is Coming to Town," "Sleigh Ride" and "Silver Bells."
Tom Wopat and John Schneider in Concert.
Tom Wopat and John Schneider in Concert.
Rick Diamond/Getty Images
How did the two initially get together to work on the project? "I'd been thinking about us recording for a long time," reveals the showbiz veteran. "I mean he did a bunch of Broadway stuff and I've done a bunch of Broadway stuff and he had some real success with country records about 25 years ago.
"I had some success - not what he had, but I knew he had a lot of experience with it and I know we enjoy singing together, so I approached him and said, 'Let's do a Christmas record - the gift that keeps on giving!' I got him into town for a few days to record vocals and we put it together.
"What we did was we picked the tunes and my producer, David Finck, and I would go in and do the basic tracks and then John would come in and sing vocals. I think this record is a particularly nice mix of standards and songs that you're not too familiar with, and there's a couple of brand new tunes in there as well."
 Home for Christmas
"Home for Christmas"
Design by Lindsey Gary
Attempting to single out his favourite tracks on the record, the artist remarks, "Well one of my favourites is one I sing myself, 'I'll Be Home for Christmas,' which is such a beautiful song and when we do it live we do it just with me and piano. It comes out great...
"The stuff that I did with John, I would have to say 'Cool Yule' is a favourite. It's a Steve Allen tune that was recorded by Louis Armstrong. Then there's 'Baby, It's Cold Outside,' which I changed to 'Johnny, It's Cold Outside.'"
Interestingly, despite the many years they've been acquainted, Home for Christmas is actually the first time the pair have joined forces on an album. Might there be more to come?
"You know what, I just asked him this past weekend if he'd be into doing that and he said he would, so I will hold him to it. I have a couple of different ideas of things to do and I would expect sometime in the next couple of years we'll come out with another collaboration..."
"The Christian ideal of do unto others as you would have them do unto you," answers Tom, when I asked him what it is he likes most about this time of year. "In New York City, especially since 9/11, I think there's been a special vibe of really being kind to each other and that's what I really enjoy about Christmas. That and the family aspect of it."
In 2014, Tom and John returned to their most famous roles for a brand new TV commercial. "The ad agency came to us with a ridiculous offer, money-wise, to do a set of commercials for Auto Trader," recalls the star, who also appeared in the 2012 Quentin Tarantino film Django Unchained.
"It's characters that we understand and we were very much in tune with what they were trying to do and they were respectful of the history and the context of the show, which is nice. They treated us well and we had a nice payday out of it. It was something we very much enjoyed doing and it was a blast getting back into the car with John."
Following the controversy surrounding the Confederate Flag earlier this year in the aftermath of the mass shooting carried out by Dylann Roof in Charleston, Virginia, I couldn't help but notice that this symbol of southern pride seems, unsurprisingly, to have been removed from the roof of the car.
"I think when they shot it they were aware of the possibility of controversy, so I think they avoided it," explains Tom. "As far as I'm concerned, that's collateral damage. There was never any espousement of any Confederate ideals or any kind of racism involved in The Dukes of Hazzard at all. We have probably as many fans of colour as we do of Caucasian descent..."
The popularity of the programme has continued to grow as time has gone on, despite the recent furor (funny, it was never that much of a problem before), and a poorly received film version, starring Johnny Knoxville, Seann William Scott and Jessica Simpson, hit cinemas worldwide in 2005 .
"I liken it to a show from my childhood, The Andy Griffith Show," muses Tom, commenting on the enduring love for the Dukes. "I find it innocuous in the sense that there's no real sex or violence or bad language or anything like that, but it involved real people in real relationships and I think that's kind of what our show did as well."
Wopat brought our interview to a close by giving me his thoughts on the much-maligned remake. "You know what, I have protected myself in that I've never watched it," he says. "From the reports I get from other people, they were not really true to the spirit of the show.
"The spirit of the show is the Robin Hood-ish aspect of it; that we were looking out for people of our own station. Even when the authorities that were after us all the time got into trouble, we'd take care of them because they were part of our community and I don't think the movie really reflected that... It seemed more like a slacker movie, from what I can tell."
Home for Christmas is out now and can be purchased from Amazon.
For more information on actor and singer Tom Wopat, visit his official website.
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