SPENDING AN AFTERNOON WITH ERNIE HUDSON AT DRAGONCON
On my last visit to the amazing DragonCon, held once a year in Atlanta, GA I got to meet Ernie Hudson, chat him up for a bit one afternoon and sit in on a Q&A he had with his fans. Mr. Hudson just happens to be one of the coolest guys around, and a really down to earth, earnest, straightforward sort of fellow. Also, I’m convinced he’s immortal because he looks exactly the same now as he did starring in movies from before I was born. If the Ghostbusters Firehouse had a gym, we know the ONLY Ghostbuster to ever use it.
Q: Let’s get this one out of the way, and we’ll never ask it again. What’s the deal with Ghostbusters 3?
A: For twenty years now I’ve been hearing about Ghostbusters 3. I’ve talked to all of the guys over the years. They say we’re gonna do the movie; we’ve got a script. And then the studio would call and say something like we’re starting in September. So, I’d go on some talk show and say we’re starting in September, and nothing would happen and I’d look like an idiot. So, I don’t really know. The only information I get is from the fans, who e-mail me and tell me what they’ve read or heard. So, finally I got the point where I said “You know what? When I see the money, when they call me and say here’s the money and we’re gonna start in September; that’s when I can bank on that”.
Q: So, how did you get your start in the acting business?
A: Well, I was born in Benton Harbor, Michigan. After High School, I decided to join the Marine Corps. Because it was my way out of the city and into a better life. I was told that if you join the military you get to travel the world and meet a lot of amazing women (cracks a big grin). So, it was my way out. So, you get all these flyers from the Amy, Navy, and Air Force and there these dull blue and green pamphlets. But the Marines had these colorful brochures with their dress uniform, so I thought “I’ve gotta join the Marines, because they’ve got a better publicist and better wardrobe”.
But I’m allergic to shellfish and after a bad allergy attack and an asthma attack I was discharged after nine weeks. So I didn’t get the travel the world. And I thought, well I need to do something important. So, I got married to the girl I was dating at the time and eventually she got pregnant. And then you realize “This is it. This is your life”. So we moved to Detroit and I went to Wayne State University and got involved in theater. Then I went to Yale School of Drama. And when I got out of school, we moved to L.A. and my marriage ended and I had my two sons and I HAD to get a job. And I couldn’t tell them “This is America and you can have anything you want and do anything you want” if I couldn’t do it myself. So, it was really important to me to be successful as an actor if only so I could tell my sons “You can do anything that you want to do”.
Q: How did you get involved with Ghostbusters?
A: I did a movie called Spacehunter (chuckles and the crowd laughs), and we had the premiere in New York, and at the after party, it was one of those things where… I mean no one would look at me. I’d walk up to people and they’d look at the floor. BUT, Ivan Reitman produced it, and found out he was doing Ghostbusters. But he thought I’d be all wrong for the part because in Spacehunter I play this role who’s larger than life with my head shaved. But finally I got an interview and I got the job. It’s bit more complicated than that but that’s the short version.
Q: What advice would you give for someone going out that has that aspiration to be an actor for either stage or screen?
A: I think we’re called to certain things. I think I was called to be an actor. And my grandmother raised me. And she told me that when you get that high school diploma, you can have a great life. Now, my grandma was born in 1895, and I’m sure that was true… in 1895, but not so much when I graduated. So, I thought as long as I get my diploma it won’t matter. Except when I tried to go to college, I had a GPA of 1.7 which is a D average. So, getting into college wasn’t easy. So, I spent a lot of years doing a lot of jobs I was really bad at, and learning that I suck at a lot of things. But when I finally got on stage… I just knew. Like I said, we’re called… I don’t know, you kind of just know where you fit. I just trust that the universe will guide you to where you fit, because I don’t actually trust the industry, because they’re all crazy (big laughs from the crowd). They really are. These insane people are running this industry and they make decisions that make absolutely no sense at all. But I have faith, without getting real religious, I do trust that the universe will provide.
So, what was the question? (more laughs from the crowd) Oh right, my advice. So, my advice would be if you WANT to be an actor you’ve got to be committed. You’ve got to commit to it. Whatever your career, you should commit to it, and you should get some signal that you’re in the right place. I will say, that with acting, unlike some other professions, don’t wait to be discovered. If you like acting, you should get with some people that you like working with, and put out your own product. With today’s technologies, it’s not like the old days, you don’t need a studio, you can be the creative side as well as the working side.
Q: What was it like working with Brandon Lee? Or rather, what are your thoughts on Brandon in general?
A: I think that when anyone makes “the transition”, it’s customary to say nice things about them. I would do that anyway. I gotta tell ya, in all honesty, Brandon was one of THE coolest guys, nicest guys I’ve ever worked with. I knew him for about eight years before we did The Crow. He worked with Miguel Ferrer, and we were working on a show called Broken Badges up in Vancouver and Brandon was over there and I got to know him. In this business, when someone says “wow you’re really a nice guy” they don’t mean it as a compliment. But I do, and he was. And when we were working on the movie, shooting in North Carolina, at night it would get really, really cold. And he’d be walking around with no shirt on, no shoes on, to get the shot. But as an actor, sometimes, you want to be accommodating and get along and not hold things up. And I feel that if had been a bit more demanding and demanded someone inspect the gun before filming. Because sometimes filmmakers can ask you to do some really stupid stunts, and it can be dangerous. And it’s really unfortunate what happened to him. It still breaks my heart when I think about it.
Q: You had a guest role on the show Pysch, where you played Gus’ dad. Can you speak about the experience on working on that project?
A: Dulé Hill, who plays Gus on Psych, he and I were in a film called Sugar Hill together, along with Wesley Snipes, where he played the young Wesley Snipes character. And I really liked him, and I really liked his show. So, I did it. So, they called me to do a second episode, and I was working on a film, and had about a week before I was free. So, they recast with Keith David. Who they said looked like me (crowd groans and laughs). But I’m like “…noooo”. But I loved the show and I loved being a part of it. It was a lot of fun.
Q: You played Captain Lubbock on the TV Series Heroes. Could you tell us a little about that experience?
A: I’ve been doing this gig a long time. I don’t need a lot. I don’t need a lot of money. Don’t get me wrong. I wanna get paid (the crowd laughs). But I do this because I LOVE to do it. But I want to DO SOMETHING. So, to invite me onto your show and not give me anything to do, it kind of sucks. For example, I did Desperate Houswives (a few audience members begin to applaud). No, don’t clap (uproarious laughter from the crowd). So, when someone calls you up and says “We love you and we want you to be on our show, Desperate Housewives”, and you say “Wow! Yeah, I’d love to do it” and you’re thinking “I wonder which character I’ll get to sleep with”. ‘Cause I mean it’s Desperate Housewives, come on! And they’re like “No! You’re the detective. You don’t sleep with anybody!”
So, Heroes, I’m thinking “Oh yeah! What kind of power will I have?! Will I walk through walls or the power of levitation?!” And they’re like “No! You’re the detective! You don’t have any powers! And you’re a bit of a stupid detective and you’re going to die very quickly” (more laughter from the crowd). So, it’s a lot fun… for other people. But the guys were great, and I love them all. But I was stuck as the detective. But Ray Park is the one that kills me on Heroes, and he says “Wow! Ernie isn’t this fun?!” and I say “It’s fun for you because you actually get to do stuff. I’m just sitting here” (another outburst of laughter).
Q: What has it been like for you having been the character Winston Zeddemore?
A: It was fun! Ghostbusters was a lot of fun. And it’s more fun now thirty years later. Because when I was doing it, it was hard job. You know, all jobs are difficult, for various reasons. But I’m happy to have been a part of it. I still wear the T-Shirts. I had more fun on Ghostbusters II. I felt more included. I made more money. I was at least included on the movie posters. Working on the second one was a lot of fun. And by that time, we really knew what the Ghostbusters phenomenon really was. When it first came out, it really exploded, and I didn’t foresee that. It was so popular, suddenly complete strangers knew where I lived. I had people come up to my apartment at 10 or 11 o’clock at night. It was a strange experience. But it was fun. And we were more prepared for that by the time the second movie came along.
Q: Normally you play very earnest, very down to Earth, relatable characters. But in the production of Congo, you got to play an over the top character alongside Tim Curry, and basically you out-Tim Curry’ed Tim Curry. Can you talk a bit about that experience?
A: I love Tim Curry! He’s a lot of fun! And he’s so talented. He’s just great. He’s amazing. And as far as working on Congo, I had read the book and in the book my character is portrayed with this British accent. And there was discussion about how to portray him in the movie, but it was a lot of fun because it’s a kind of character I don’t normally get to play. And having grown up watching all those old Tarzan movies, and if you’re a black guy in those movies, you’re going to die (audience laughs). You know you’ll be walking along, and suddenly… a boulder! Or a lion will jump out and get you! And it was just refreshing that my character went on this adventure and didn’t get eaten by a lion.
Q: Well the question about out-Tim Curry’ing Tim Curry was great. So, I can only think of one question that’s better. … “Are you a god?”
A: … When someone asks you if you’re a god… you say YES! (Audience erupts into thunderous applause)
I’m so glad I got to meet this awesome guy! I’m a huge fan and always will be!