They were good old boys, never meaning no harm, making their way the only way they knew how — Bo and Luke Duke, the central characters on The Dukes of Hazzard, one of the biggest TV hits of the 1980s.
The show aired from 1979 to 1985, but it has lived on in syndication and become something of a cult phenomenon. And this weekend in central Georgia, thousands of fans are expected to turn out for a reunion with the show’s surviving stars — and of course the General Lee, that iconic rebel-flagged Dodge Charger.
Actor James Best played the endearingly daft, irresistibly tongue-tied Sheriff Roscoe P. Coltrane, who was always busy trying to catch the Duke boys in the act of making trouble. Best joined NPR’s Rachel Martin to talk about what makes the show a lasting pleasure.
On the genesis of the show
“When they called me and they said, ‘You wanna come over and see about a series called Dukes of Hazzard, I said, ‘Well, I don’t wanna do a gang thing.’ And they said, ‘Oh, no, this is a good-old-boy thing, and we’re gonna shoot the whole series in Georgia.’ Well, we shot five [episodes] down in Georgia, then they moved it back to L.A. … We spent the next six-and-a-half years in L.A., and I thank God every day for having been a small part in a series that’s known all over the world. After 30 years now, we still draw thousands and thousands of fans at Dukefest.”
On whether he has a favorite episode
“It would sound conceited if I said so, but I had more fun playing ‘The [Ten] Million-Dollar Sheriff,’ which was a two-parter where I inherit (supposedly)  million dollars. [But] there were so many of the shows that I really had a pleasure working on. Especially with Boss Hogg — Sorrell Booke — who was a fantastic actor. He went along with everything I’d say.”
On developing the character
“Originally they wanted me to play Roscoe [straight]. I didn’t wanna do that; I said, ‘I’m gonna play Roscoe like a 12-year-old who likes hot pursuit.”
On Roscoe’s distinctively constipated, squeaky speech pattern
“I ad-libbed that. That’s what I used to do with my daughters when they were little-little. I’d go ‘Igg-ggigg-ggigg-goo-getchoo, you little rascal.’ … And when I met with the producers and directors, that’s what I did. And they fell off their chairs laughing, so that’s what I incorporated.”
On whether Roscoe ever won the chase
“Actually, a lot of times when I caught the Duke boys, I’d let ‘em go — because who else was I going to chase? I didn’t have too much of a choice! If I wanted to chase somebody, yeah, I’d pick on the Dukes. But you could see underneath that Roscoe and the boys really didn’t hate each other at all. It was a love show!”
On whether he ever tried the Dukes’ signature move
“No, I never tried to slide through the windows. Because I was 50 years old at that point — I had a hard enough time falling off curbs and crashing cars and all that crazy stuff, you know?”