CATCHING UP WITH : JOHN SCHNEIDER

John Schneider was Bo Duke in the ?80s, then a country superstar. Now he?s happy being a dad on- and off-screen.

What if your son were Superman? It's a question John Schneider asks himself every week.

That's because John plays Jonathan Kent - father to the young Man of Steel - on the hit drama Smallville, now in its third season.

John has several reasons to be grateful for his renewed TV success. First, the role allows viewers to see him as another character after being typecast as fast-driving country hunk Bo Duke, the role he played for five years on The Dukes of Hazzard.

Not that he's uncomfortable with the Dukes legacy - this is a guy who still has a copy of the Dukes' car, the famous orange Dodge Charger known as the General Lee, parked in his garage. And his TV stardom helped him launch a singing career in the 1980s, with smashes like "I've Been Around Enough to Know," "You're the Last Thing I Needed Tonight" and "Country Girls."

But John really relishes his Smallville role for its positive portrayal of parenthood. "I like the fact that the young man comes to his parents for advice, and he takes it," says John. "It says that parents are important. People know that Jonathan is as loving as he is strict."

The same values are evident in John's own household. From the moment he met his wife, Elly, at a church picnic, he took very seriously the fact that she had two children, Leah, now 18, and Chasen, 12, whose father had been killed in a motorcycle accident. John thought hard about the implications of stepping into his shoes.

"You don't just date women with children - you either marry them or leave them alone," he observes. "It's a decision you make that moment for the rest of your life."

For John, the decision was easy. He and Elly wed in July 1993 and had a daughter of their own, Karis, the following year.

"Elly and I have great, great loves and great, great fights," he chuckles. "The good makes the bad bearable, and the bad makes the good better."

One of the few complications in John's family life: Smallville is shot in Vancouver, B.C., away from his home in L.A. "Having to travel to Vancouver is really terrible," he admits. "I come back home every possible chance."

When Smallville isn't shooting, John juggles a variety of other projects. He lends his voice to the animated series The Mummy, and co-hosts the annual telethon for the Children's Miracle Network, which he helped to found.

And his singing career continues. John sang at the Kennedy Center Honors and a CBS anniversary special late last year, and has just made what he calls "the best album I've ever done," Hell, This Ain't Heaven. (To order it, send a $20 check made out to "Johnenelly, Inc.," to 4607 Lakeview Canyon Rd., Box 569, Westlake Village, Calif., 91361.)

John recalls his '80s country stardom fondly. "The most amazing part of that period in my life," he recalls, "was that people were actually interested in what I had to say, creatively."

And even though he's ruled out touring - it would keep him away from home too much - he intends to keep making music. "Acting for a camera is a very technical set of learned skills," he explains. "Singing, however, is far more organic. You work as the spirit moves you. I love it!"

-- Robyn Flans

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