More than a quarter-century has passed since Tom Wopat last jumped, feet first, into the General Lee and sped away for a half-hour of redneck fun on TV's "The Dukes of Hazzard." But in a career that has included Tony and Grammy nods (thanks to his stint on Broadway in "Annie Get Your Gun") and television appearances aplenty, he's still Luke Duke to legions of fans.
"It's amazing, it's crazy," says the 61-year-old Wopat, who still gets together with "Hazzard" co-star John Schneider (and sometimes even the original Daisy, Catherine Bach) for an occasional reunion appearance. "We're probably doing three or four things a year, and those are insane, the people are insane. We did one down in Louisiana, where we had one day at a cattle auction yard. They had 20,000 people show up for one day."
While he's comfortable with the enduring fame his six years as a good ol' boy brought him — "I don't question my good fortune," he says with a laugh — Wopat's career has progressed way beyond Hazzard County, Ga. When he takes to the stage Tuesday night at Goucher College's Kraushaar Auditorium, in a concert to benefit Pathfinders for Autism and St. Elizabeth School, there won't be a red Dodge Charger, jug of moonshine or pair of Daisy Dukes anywhere to be seen.
While he was in town last week getting ready for the show, we asked the Wisconsin-born Wopat about life beyond "The Dukes," his singing career and his upcoming appearance in Quentin Tarantino's widely anticipated slave drama, "Django Unchained."
What can people expect Tuesday night?
It's going to be a multimedia event. I'm bringing down half a dozen musicians from New York City, and we're going to be doing some standards and some Christmas standards. It's going to swing pretty hard — I'm bringing three horn players with me.
We also have the Friends School Chamber Choir — they're going to do some numbers, and I'm going to sing a number with them. And the Susquehanna Youth Ballet is going to dance a couple of numbers. It's going to be quite an evening.
And you have a role coming up in one of the more talked-about films of the season.
Has it been talked about a lot? [Laughs.] Yeah. Tarantino is a big fan of "The Dukes of Hazzard," and he's also a real pop-culture kind of guy. He hired me to play a small part in the film. I play a U.S. marshal. I don't even die. I'm one of the few in the film that don't die.
What was the filming like?
Your career — you've done stage, you've done TV, you've done music, you've got the big-screen movies. Is there any one area that's most rewarding to you?
I think the singing has still always been my favorite passion. That's where I'm the most comfortable. Having said that, if I could so some more films with Tarantino, I would love to.
Actually, one of the things I do aspire to do, I'm going to start actually directing. We've been talking to a theater in Manhattan for a couple of years about doing a project there. Years ago, I directed half a dozen of the "Dukes," and I did a couple of stage plays. But it's been a long time.
Do you ever get tired of "The Dukes of Hazzard"?
You know, a little, maybe sometimes. But I have enough other things going on that it doesn't really become tiresome. I do it seldom enough that it's still interesting.
Did you see the movie when it came out?
I did not see the film, kind of on purpose. I really didn't want to. They didn't really do us any favors in the film, from what I understand.
You probably don't jump into cars the way you did in your "Hazzard" days?
Well, they're not built the same.
But then again, neither are we.
I'm pretty much the same size as I was then. I still play basketball three or four times a week. I can still pick 'em up and lay 'em down.
I don't have quite the amount of hair I used to have. I'm not going bald or anything. But those days, man, we were kind-of Afro'ed-out, almost.
What's your next project?
I've got the album coming out. We're going to be doing a bunch of concert dates next year, with orchestras. We're planning a tour of that stuff.
Also, John and I are playing some casinos together. Mr. Schneider and I do a musical act together that's pretty unique.
Any possibility of Catherine Bach showing up?
I'm just going to demur. She doesn't sing as much as we do.
If you go
"Unwrap the Magic," a concert featuring Tom Wopat and benefiting Pathfinders for Autism and St. Elizabeth School, is 7:30 p.m. Tuesday at Kraushaar Auditorium on the campus of Goucher College, 1021 Dulaney Valley Road in Towson. A pre-show VIP reception, hosted by Baltimore Orioles Hall of Famer B.J. Surhoff, is set for 6 p.m. Tickets are $20-$100. Information: 443-330-5370 or pathfindersforautism.org.