When “Goodnight for Justice” premiered on the Hallmark Movie Channel in January 2011, it became the network’s highest-rated film ever. “Goodnight” star, series creator and executive producer Luke Perry returns as Circuit Court Justice John Goodnight for the second part of the intended trilogy, which premieres on the Hallmark Channel Saturday, Jan. 28 at 8/7c. “Goodnight for Justice: The Measure of a Man” follows Justice Goodnight as he travels alone through the Wild West dispensing justice to towns that would otherwise stumble into chaos. On this particular journey, John finds himself facing a woman from his past, Callie Bluepoint (played by Stefanie von Pfetten), who lives in a town threatened by a murderous outlaw, Deke Spradling (Teach Grant).
Celebrity Extra: When you learned that the original “Goodnight for Justice” broke records for the Hallmark Movie Channel, what were your hopes for the future of the “Goodnight” franchise?
Luke Perry: I was hoping maybe to get the chance to do another one. That’s what I was hoping. I just don’t go into it with any expectation other than I just try to make the best movie every time. Sometimes it works out, and sometimes there’s a baseball game or basketball game or something on that draws all the television audience away. There are just too many variables to worry about and that kind of stuff, so you just make the movies that you can.
CE: Because of the success of the previous film, did you feel the pressure to really deliver with “Measure of a Man”?
LP: I felt pressure to deliver a really good movie. I feel the pressure to do all I can to promote the film, but I’ve been doing this long enough to know that audiences are fickle and different things happen. You just try to make the best movie you can and control what you can, which is your part of the process.
CE: Last we saw John Goodnight, he had a lady friend, Kate Ramsey, who isn’t in this movie. I assume the traveling required of him for his job makes maintaining relationships pretty difficult.
LP: Yeah, it’s just the nature of the position — you have to travel. She wasn’t in a position to go with him, and he’s got to keep traveling. But it would be great for him to get back to her eventually.
CE: When we first see John, there is definite evidence being on the road is wearing on him: His hair is shaggier; his clothes are a bit shabby …
LP: I’m glad you liked that and noticed that, because those are the kind of things — believe it or not — that you have to fight for. People were like: “No, clean up. Look good in the clothes.” I said: “Wait a minute, guys. He’s out there weeks at a time; it’s just not going to happen. You gotta look rough.” And I do look rough.
CE: Since there are few ties to the original film aside from some explained back story, “Measure of a Man” really can be viewed as a stand-alone movie as well as part of a series. Was that your intention?
LP: I hadn’t thought about that. That’s a very interesting point that you make. One of the things that I had discussed was that with each movie and the nature of the franchise is that each one is going to be a different story. He’s going to be in a different place, always traveling, so within the telling of the actual story, you don’t have to cover [what he’s been doing between movies]. The next movie that you will see is the one where it all comes full circle. I feel like we really hit our stride completely. “Measure of a Man” is the perfect segue between the two. It all ramps up, and by the third one we just all go in gangbusters.
CE: I also have to tell you that from the opening frames of the movie, the musical score really caught my attention — it’s just beautiful.
LP: I’m glad you mentioned that, and I would really like to take the time to talk about Graeme Coleman, our composer. He’s just such a talented guy. I told him: “Graeme, go for it. Give me that big Western stuff.” I want the music to be as much a character in this movie as anything else, because in all my favorite ones it is. And he doesn’t shy away from it. He steps right up to it. People who love traditional Westerners are looking for a good score. I’m very proud of Graeme’s work.
CE: You have a lot of scenes with Cameron Bright (of “The Twilight Saga”), who plays Will. Did you spend a lot of time together off set to build up camaraderie and chemistry?
LP: Oh, yeah. We had dinner together almost every night. I spent a lot of time with Cameron, and he was cool because he came in and put some time in — as much as he could — before the movie, getting to learn stuff he didn’t know how to do. If you don’t know how to ride a horse, don’t say you do. He didn’t do that. He was really honest about what he could do, but he was also really honest about being willing to learn, and he had a good capacity for it, so it was cool.
As we were shooting, I’d think, “Let’s just see how much of this we can get shot today, and Cameron was really great. He stayed in that saddle a lot longer than a lot of other people would. He hung in there, and we climbed him up there in those mountains, and he was great.
CE: Cameron plays Alec in the phenomenally successful “Twilight Saga,” which has a screaming-fan contingent wherever the stars seem to go. You’ve had to deal with your share of screaming teens; did you give him any advice?
LP: (Laughs) I wouldn’t know anything about that sort of thing.
CE: This time around, John has really found his niche and is in his element. What does he enjoy about his job and his life?
LP: Anytime you have to kill someone, even in the name of the law, it is no small feat. It’s not something this character does lightly. I think it’s really rewarding for him because you can see how the law can really be the great leveler in protecting the weakest among us, and that’s what it’s supposed to do. What I think is interesting about him also is he’s an active participant in this world by traveling through for his job.
CE: You mentioned a third “Goodnight” film. Can you give me any details?
LP: Well, we shot the third one. We started shooting it the day after we finished the second one. The third one is, it’s not as heavy a story. I said they can’t all live in a super highly dramatic state. Sometimes this guy is just out there, and there is still some justice that needs to be weeded out, but it doesn’t always come down to a life-or-death thing, and it doesn’t always come down to something intensely personal for him. Some of my favorite Westerns were a little bit lighter in tone, and there’s some good run and jump in the next one.
CE: Is the third film the end of the John Goodnight saga, or can we expect a new chapter?
LP: We are actively negotiating the future for this character, because so far it’s something that has worked out well for everybody. I like making them, and they do very well for the channel, so if that continues, then we will continue.
CE: You could be like Tom Selleck with his “Jesse Stone” movies …
LP: Aw, man — compare me to Tom Selleck. Yeah, I wish. He’s so great. I’d love to do a Western with him.