Since its inception back in 2005, Dancing with the Stars has become one of the most popular shows on American television. In the latest season, John Schneider was among the 13 celebrities battling it out for the Mirrorball trophy. However, during his time on the show, the former Dukes of Hazzard star made an emotional revelation.
Born in April 1960, Schneider grew up in Mount Kisco, New York, with his parents. After their divorce, though, he took an interest in acting at a very young age, earning some roles in plays across the city. However, everything changed for the aspiring actor during his teenage years.
Indeed, Schneider left New York at the age of 14, as he made a new home in Atlanta, Georgia, with his mother. Much like his time in the Big Apple, the teenager continued to appear in productions at his local theater. In 1977, though, he earned his first big screen role.
Schneider won a small part in Smokey and the Bandit, the smash-hit action comedy starring Burt Reynolds. The film was a massive success at the time, earning $300 million worldwide on an estimated $4.3 million budget. However, the young actor wouldn’t become a household name for another two years.
In 1979 Schneider was cast as Bo Duke in The Dukes of Hazzard. An over-the-top action comedy, the TV show proved hugely popular with audiences across the world, running for seven seasons. In that time, he featured in close to 130 episodes, before the series came to an end in 1985.
After that, Schneider went on to feature in other television shows. Indeed, those included the likes of Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman, Smallville, Desperate Housewives, Nip/Tuck and Glee. However, acting wasn’t his only passion, as he also showed an interest in country music.
Back in 1981, Schneider released an album called Now or Never, which kick-started his country music career. After that, he enjoyed some great success in the mid ’80s, as four of his singles came in at number one. It all culminated with the release of A Memory Like You in 1986, with the album reaching the top of the country charts.
However, in September 2018 Schneider found a completely new audience, as he was one of the 13 contestants on the newest season of Dancing with the Stars. Based on the U.K.’s hugely popular show Strictly Come Dancing, the American equivalent has been on air since 2005.
Appearing in the show’s 27th season, Schneider was paired up with professional dancer Emma Slater, taking on the likes of DeMarcus Ware, Mary Lou Retton and Evanna Lynch. With the eyes of the country on him, the 58-year-old enjoyed an excellent run on the show, reaching week seven.
However, ahead of his dance that week, Schneider made an emotional admission to the world about his four-year divorce from wife Elvira Schneider. “What country music means to me is it’s three chords and the truth, and it shines a light on things that happen in everyday life that are wonderful, not so wonderful and that are heart-wrenching,” he said on the show.
“I’ve been going through a divorce now for four years, and it’s awful,” Schneider continued. “The worst part about it that it’s wedged itself in between my three adult children and myself. Nothing I can do except hope one day one of my kids will call me up or show up.”
On that note, the 58-year-old then broke down in tears, as he revealed the hope he harbored every week on the show. “I look in the crowd every Monday thinking maybe tonight, maybe tonight [I will see them],” Schneider said. He wasn’t done there, though.
After noting just how difficult the divorce has been for him, Schneider spoke about the things that have helped him through the dark times. “If it weren’t for this music and now Dancing with the Stars, I don’t think I could survive it. It gives me great joy at a time when I desperately need it,” he added.
Indeed, after two decades together, Schneider’s wife filed for divorce in 2014, with the actor due to pay her $19,000 worth of alimony each month. Since then, the actor has served a short stint in jail, as he couldn’t keep up with the payments. With that in mind, he lifted the lid on his struggles in the summer of 2018.
“Lately, I do honestly feel there’s been a tremendous amount of injustice done to me,” Schneider told Nash Country Daily in July 2018. “And I also can’t not do something about it. She feels like she’s entitled to [the alimony], and she doesn’t work and she hasn’t worked since we got married.”
However, despite the bitter nature of their split, Schneider didn’t want to pour scorn on his estranged wife. “I don’t wish Elly to hurt like I hurt right now, I really don’t,” he added. “But the laws of nature dictate that she’s going to, and it’s gonna hurt her bad. When those kids won’t talk to her, I don’t know how she’s gonna take that.”
That pain was clearly still simmering in Schneider’s eyes when he revealed his woes on Dancing with the Stars. Despite his tears, though, the 58-year-old went on to perform a jazz dance number with his partner, as the show celebrated “Country Night.” After the dance, he was then posed a difficult question.
Given his emotional state, Schneider was asked how hard he found it to dance with the country theme. “It was easier to dance like that,” he responded with tears in his eyes. “Because truly this has been the happiest time and the worst time of my life.”
Despite his best efforts, though, Schneider left the competition at the end of that episode, just a week away from the show’s semi-finals. However, after his elimination, the actor shared some kind words about his dance partner Slater, crediting her work as a coach.
“I am so grateful that you were my partner and you were my coach through this whole thing,” Schneider told Slater at the end of the episode. “Because truly this was one of the best experiences of my life.” For a man who’s enjoyed great success in television and music, that’s certainly saying something.