At Home With Luke Perry
The Goodnight for Justice actor shares what home life means to him.
How did you come up with the character of John Goodnight?
Andrew Jackson led me to John Goodnight. I'd been reading a lot about him and his life before he became president. He was a circuit judge, and a lot of his cases made me think how interesting it would be to create a character that has to render judgment on others, yet travels a lot. This guy who doesn't know what home really is would be really intriguing to explore. We shot the first film (Goodnight for Justice) last July in Vancouver, and did the other two this summer. We all feel fortunate to be working on this, so there was a real down-home vibe on the set.
Why do people love Westerns?
We all wish things could be a little simpler these days. Today, it's about catering to your own individualism. Back then, life was all about family. Your life could be limited if you didn't have much ambition. But if you wanted to better yourself, life was wide open. People talk now about how tough times are — and they are — but it's also a time to work hard and seize opportunities. I think America historically has been a country that gets a fever, takes its own temperature and takes the right measures to heal itself. I think things are getting better all the time. People tend to overlook Westerns as a genre. But there's a little something for everyone in them. Some folks like them for the horses or the clothes. There's action, and if there's a little romance, women particularly like that. I don't enjoy being a producer — going to meetings and talking up projects — but I'm willing to do it to get things made the way they should be. I like to ride the horses and kiss the girls.
Were you always a fan of Westerns?
When I was a child, I was addicted to The Wild Wild West, Gunsmoke, The Big Valley ... We moved around a lot when I was young. In junior high, we stayed in Fredericktown, Ohio, a small town where you could go away and leave your doors unlocked. Everyone went to one school, and you couldn't hold grudges too long because you had to figure out how to get along with the people around you.
What was your childhood home like?
We had a simple house in the country out by a lake. It was a single story, white ranch-style house with a nice yard. We'd go fishing at the lake to catch bass and blue gill. Fredericktown was a Norman Rockwell-ish type of town, with a lot of Amish people. The horse and buggies I saw are still there. When the price of gas goes up, they don't really care. I always go home to Ohio, and I care deeply about the problem of fracking (creating fractures in rock) created by the natural gas wells that are poisoning the water supply there.
What was the first home you bought?
The first house I ever bought was a ranch-style house with a swimming pool and horse stable in the back. It was in Los Angeles. I wish I had kept it. I got busy with work for a while, and it was hard to keep up with two horses, the kids and work.
Where do you live now, and what is the neighborhood like?
I live in Los Angeles with my dog, Angel, who's a boxer. It's in a neighborhood where everyone's out walking. Dogs are walking people, and people are walking dogs. This is a post-and-beam house, one story, with a lot of glass windows. It's very unassuming. I work in the yard a lot, cutting the grass and trimming stuff back. I'm pretty simple in my needs. I don't need big expansive rooms — just a place to hang out while I work, cook a little bit and watch a little TV. Through work, I'm well-acquainted with the Best Westerns and Motel 6s of the world.
What's the first thing you do when you get home from a shoot?
The first thing I do is play with my dog. I know that she's waiting on the other side of the door to jump on me. So I brace myself, fall on the floor with her and we roll around for at least five minutes.
What's the most important room in the house to you?
The most important room in the house to me is the TV room where we can watch stuff, and I can have good family discourse with my children. Our house in Ohio had a wood-burning stove in the living room, and I have a fireplace here. I just feel better with a big stack of firewood around. I'm big on practicality. I'm all about function over aesthetics. I think it's a waste of paint to redo a room every two years. There's nothing special on my fireplace mantel. I'm all about the fire inside the fireplace.
So what does home mean to your character, John Goodnight?
He is one of those guys where home is where you hang your hat. He has only two sets of clothes — the suit he wears to court, and the one he shoves in the saddlebag. One of the things I love about the movie is the message of the importance of literacy. My character isn't a gunfighter. He reads and is smart. I enjoy reading a lot. When I'm on an airplane, especially, reading is the main refuge. But whenever I start reading something, I think about how to make it into a movie or TV show.
And what does home life mean to you?
Home life means I'm not in a hotel. Anybody who works on the road, or who travels a lot, values his home differently. Home is the finish line.