90210 stars Luke Perry (Dylan McCay) and Jason Priestley (Brandon Walsh) have reunited to make the new Hallmark Channel TV movie, Goodnight for Justice, premiering on January 29th.
Perry, along with being the Executive Producer, portrays John Goodnight, a circuit judge in the Wyoming Territory, circa 1880. The most lawless and dangerous area in America, John presides over dozens of cases as he journeys from town to town, his ultimate mission to find the murderers who killed his parents when he was a child.
Jason Priestley directs the movie from a script by Neal and Tippi Dobrofsky. I spoke with both Luke and Jason about their new project and why it’s taken so long for them to work together again.
Westerns tend to resonate very well with the Midwest because the characters tend to be straightforward, with a no-nonsense quality. Since you grew up in small-town Ohio, does it make it easier for you to step into a western role like this?
Luke Perry: Well, I believe in justice, and I think that it’s important to define what justice is. I’ve always been curious about it, and I think for me the simpler you keep it, the easier it is.
Even back then, in the 1880s when this movie takes place, lawyers would try to get in there and obfuscate things. The judges were empowered a great deal more than they are today to just cut through all that stuff and say, ‘No. He’s guilty. She’s not, and this is how it’s going to be.’ That really appealed to me.
At the same time I found that this character had to carry the responsibility of being judge, jury and executioner, that’s a lot to carry around, and it was compelling to me. But I share the viewpoint that justice is pretty simple. I think a lot of times we all look at something and we know it’s wrong, and you do what you can to try to right it.
As you were directing this, could you relate to the character’s straightforward quality?
Jason Priestley: Yeah, very much so. The movie takes place in a much simpler time, and that is something that was very appealing for us as well. Also, we shot the film in British Columbia, which is where I’m from. So for me, it was a great opportunity for me to actually go back to the province, and I was able to utilize a lot of actors who I’ve known in the past and actors I’ve worked with before, which was beneficial to us.
We shot this movie in a very quick time frame and not only having the wonderful shorthand that I have with Luke, because of the very long careers that we have had together, but to be able to have a shorthand with the other actors as well was very beneficial for us.
At the end of the film I was practically humming the theme to High Noon. Was this a homage to that?
Jason: Yes, it actually was. High Noon was one of the films that I watched a lot to take a lot of the visual cues for this. Thank you for noticing.
Luke: One of the great things about doing westerns for me is you get to find little moments like that, where you can just touch on things that you love. If you’ll notice, when you’re watching the town, there’s a sign up that says ‘A. Devine Dry Goods.’ Andy Devine was one of my favorite character actors of all time. You get to paint stuff like that on the building. You get to throw stuff in there. I love doing that.
What took you so long to work together again?
Luke:Yeah, it’s been about ten years, hasn’t it? The challenge was always finding material that wouldn’t have us retracing steps that we had already done. And putting us in any sort of contemporary setting, it’s real easy to immediately jump to that.
Jason: It’s always just a matter of finding projects for us that are the right thing. This is a project that Luke’s been developing and working on for a very long time, and he brought it to me a while ago. And I feel very fortunate that he entrusted me with this project that is so important to him. It was a lot of fun, and it’s always great to work with your friends.
When you and Jason were doing 90210 as relative kids, did you ever envision taking direction from him someday?
Luke: Yeah, I remember showing up to do the first episode and he already wanted to direct, so I knew eventually I would be directed by him. And he’s pretty competent at it. So I’m alright with it.
Do you mostly want to focus on being behind the scenes now?
Jason: No, I split my time 50/50 these days. I spend a lot of time behind the camera, but I also spend a lot of time in front of the camera, and I enjoy the balance. I think it pays dividends for me on both sides
Because of the way the movie ends, it appears that you’re going to turn this into a franchise. Are you thinking of future stories?
Luke: I’ve sure got some stories in mind, and we have talked about it. I’ve spoken with the folks at the Hallmark Channel about doing a couple of other ones. I told them a couple of other stories I’d like to do with Jason and it’s just a matter of scheduling.