Film & TV

Ernie Hudson Talks Ghostbusters and Being Black in Hollywood

​​​You probably know Ernie Hudson because he once played a man who was afraid of no ghosts. But Hudson's not only known for his role in the classic comedy Ghostbusters, he's been in countless films and shows, including fan favorites like Oz, The Crow, and Heroes

Hudson was cast in the Broadway revival of August Wilson's Joe Turner's Come and Gone two years ago. The guy's got talent and he's thoughtful. Hudson will be in town for comic con this weekend, fighting off old ladies who just love him in The Hand That Rocks the Cradle. We spoke with the actor about The Substitute, meeting fans, and what's it's like to be black in Hollywood today. 

New Times: You've played a range of roles. Which has been the most fun to play?

Ernie Hudson: I've have some friends who've been fortunate enough to have roles tailor made for them. That hasn't happened to me, so part of being a character actor, which is how I see myself, your job is to be true to the story, and then be true to the character. If you can lose yourself and the audience forgets that it's you, then you've done your job well. I like playing characters that are truer to my own view on life. I like guys who are nice guys. I like guys who are ethical. I like guys who are stand-up people. I like guys who are responsible.

But I find, a lot of times they say the bad guys are more interesting. They're not more fun, but they can be a little more complex, because I'm always faced with "What am I putting out here? Am I being responsible?"

For example, we shot a movie, actually we shot it in Miami, we shot The Substitute, the first one. And I played a character, who at the beginning you thought he was a good guy, but he turned out to a really awful person. There was an actor, Glenn Plummer, who was in the movie, a black actor, who was a good guy, and so it made it safe for me to just really let go and have fun with the character, because I didn't feel like I was sort of representing something.

Are there more roles now for black actors? You said you don't feel as responsible anymore. Do you feel like there's more of a marketplace for diversity? 

I don't see it as much as I would like to see it. Back in the old days there weren't that many roles, now we have the President -- people in places that you know we never did in the past. My heros in life are the guys who get up everyday and go to work, and take care of their family, don't run away from responsibility. I admire those people. I like representing those guys and I don't see a lot of those in movies for blacks.

If it's a family, or the guys's like a regular guy, like Tom Selleck would be the lead of the family, or you see Parenthood and you get, Craig T. Nelson. Just regular guys, who fall in love and just do just life stuff. If I'm cast in something, it's usually a character that's an exceptional something or he's not really explored in the film. He comes in and gives some information he disappears, I've done so many roles like that, that I've really started turning down those roles, because I go like who's this guy? Where does he come from? What does he do?

I think being black, sometimes people like having you there, but the chance to really bring your humanity there, it's a lot more difficult. We've got a long way to go in terms of telling other stories. I don't just mean that in terms of being African American, I mean than in terms of being Asian, in terms of being Hispanic, so many stories that are wonderful stories that just aren't being told.

When I do theater, I see so many talented young people spending their lives trying to build their craft, and there's just no work. When I see the young black actors, the odds of finding any steady work is pretty grim. If you look at TV on any given evening and you see two black on a TV show, you go, "Oh, there's a lot of blacks!" Most of the films I've ever done, I've been the only black in the movie. There just aren't a lot of possibilities, a lot of roles out there.

You're coming down to comic con?

I never even heard of these conventions until maybe like ten years ago, and they have them all over the world. I've done conventions in Europe and I've done them in Asia, they have them everywhere. I don't do a lot of them. It's almost interactive where you can literally go there and the person who you saw in Star Wars is there. You can go over, you can say hello, you can connect, you can talk to them. Years ago, if you saw a movie star, you'd never get the chance to come face to face, meet them, have a conversation.

I was in New Orleans, and there's a New Orleans chapter, all the states have a chapter of Ghostbusters now, it's amazing how it's grown. So they all went to dinner, we get a chance to hang out, and get a chance to meet the fans who see the movie, and that's really a lot of fun. I think for a lot of us actors, we get a chance to go someplace we haven't been to meet people and it's a safe environment to do it. If I'm on the street, and came up to me and wanted to tell me about when they saw The Crow, I tend to back up because I don't know who these people are. I'm looking forward to coming down to Miami, and I haven't been there in years, so it'll be a lot of fun. 

Wizard World Miami Comic Con take place from this Saturday and Sunday at the Miami Airport Convention Center.

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Liz Tracy has written for publications such as the New York Times, the Atlantic, Refinery29, W, Glamour, and, of course, Miami New Times. She was New Times Broward-Palm Beach's music editor for three years. Now she plays one mean monster with her 2-year-old son and obsessively watches British mysteries.
Contact: Liz Tracy