The Behind the Scenes "Dukes of Hazzard" Feud You Never Knew About
This is the real reason Luke and Bo missed most of Season 5.
Anyone who watched The Dukes of Hazzard during its run in the early '80s will remember that the lead characters were Bo and Luke Duke, played by John Schneider and Tom Wopat. And while the series was centered on the two Southern cousins and their adventures, there was one season of The Dukes of Hazzard that barely featured them. During Season 5, Schneider and Wopat were replaced by two new actors due to a feud between the two stars and the show's production company, Warners Bros. Read on to find out what happened and to learn how the new actors' big break quickly came to an end.
Wopat and Schneider sued Warner Bros.
As reported by People in August 1982, stars Wopat and Schneider sued Warner Bros. for $25 million, claiming they weren't given their fair share of royalty money made from the sale of Dukes of Hazzard merchandise, such as toys and clothing. The suit was filed prior to the start of filming for the show's fifth season.
"The Duke boys wouldn't stand for being cheated and neither will we," the actors said in a statement. "We have learned that for the past two years Warner Bros., has deceived and defrauded us. We hate to leave the show, but we feel we cannot continue to work for a company which, in our opinion, has cheated not only us but all our fellow actors."
Warner Bros. then countersued.
In reaction to Schneider and Wopat's lawsuit, Warner Bros. countersued for $90 million, claiming libel and breach of contract, according to People. The production company reportedly claimed that the actors were actually trying to get out of their contracts.
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The show cast replacement actors.
The Dukes of Hazzard didn't hire new actors to play the characters of Luke and Bo, but they did add new roles that were meant as replacements. Luke and Bo were replaced by cousins Coy and Vance, who showed up in town while Luke and Bo were away traveling around for NASCAR races. Coy and Vance had the same characteristics and storylines as Luke and Bo, so while the character names weren't the same, the show could attempt to carry on as usual.
Coy was played by Byron Cherry and Vance by Christopher Mayer. The actors spoke to People in 1982 and were excited for their new roles—at the time, Mayer was unemployed and Cherry was working as a bartender. "Only in this business can you be an overnight celebrity," Mayer said.
Eventually, the lawsuits were settled.
Unfortunately for Cherry and Mayer, their time on The Dukes of Hazzard was pretty short-lived. According to a December 1982 article from UPI, the lawsuits from Wopat, Schneider, and Warner Bros. were dropped, and Wopat and Schneider agreed to return to the show.
"We are especially happy to be returning to our family on the show, whom we have missed very much," the actors said in a statement. "We have good feelings about our return and welcome the opportunity to put the past misunderstandings behind us."
Schneider and Wopat returned for a few episode at the end of Season 5 and then continued on for Seasons 6 and 7. As for Mayer and Cherry, their time on The Dukes of Hazzard came to a close when the original stars returned.