‘Dukes of Hazzard’: Tom Wopat Explained How Issues, Temporary Split from Show Was Like a ‘Divorce’

by Josh Lanier

Fans of the Dukes of Hazzard were in for a surprise when they tuned in to watch the show for the fifth season. The opening episode featured someone else behind the wheel of The General Lee. To the fans’ surprise, the show had replaced Bo and Luke Duke — played by John Schneider and Tom Wopat respectively — with new actors.

The reason was that Schneider and Wopat were caught in a heated contract negotiation with CBS and Warner Brothers. The actors were upset with the writing on the show and their cut of the profits. So, they refused to work under their current contracts, Screenrant said. But the network and studio refused to budge.

But they weren’t going to pull the popular show off the air. So, producers swapped the Duke boys for their cousins, but fans weren’t happy with the new Duke boys. They didn’t last long. The Dukes of Hazzard brought the original cast back together in the hopes of boosting ratings again.

How Did The Actors Feel About Being Replaced?

But during that time, Tom Wopat said he felt awful. The entire thing felt like a “divorce,” he said in an interview when they were brought back onto the show.

“Well it’s just sometimes it’s kind of like a divorce you know,” he said. “There were people that we really loved and still do, people on the crew and of course, all the cast, and it wasn’t them that we had to quarrel with. But those were the people that we had to kind of disturb their lives from you know, by doing what we did. There were times when it was fun playing hardball with the big guys, but a lot of times it wasn’t, at least for me.”

Schneider had a different take on the situation.

“At points it felt like a big game,” he said. “It was a lot of fun.”

‘Dukes of Hazzard’ Replacements Were Stuck

CBS brought in Byron Cherry and Christopher Mayer to play to Coy and Vance Duke. But producers didn’t ease them into the storyline. Instead, during the very first episode of the season, they just showed up behind the wheel of The General Lee. The show waved away Bo and Luke’s absence by saying they’d joined the NASCAR circuit, Entertainment Weekly reported. The new plotline features the Dukes’ cousins who’d come to help Uncle Jesse.

The show did little to try and differentiate these new Duke boys from the old ones. They even looked nearly identical. That was so manufacturers wouldn’t need to remake the toys, Screenrant theorized. For all intents and purposes, these were Xerox copies of the original Bo and Luke Duke. The hope was that fans would accept the change if they could keep things as similar as possible.

It didn’t work. Fans revolted and turned on the show in droves. Coy and Vance lasted 19 episodes before the original cast was reunited on screen. They were never mentioned again.