By Najib Aminy
To the person who dislikes anime, science fiction and costume fornication, I-Con is not the place to be. With hundreds of peculiar fans dressing up as their beloved characters, it appeared as though Halloween came early this year. However, amid the sword-dueling ninjas, the medieval women and—yes—Moses, there was one of American culture’s greatest supernatural fighting legends, Ernie Hudson, the ghost buster.
Entering the athletic complex, my eyes opened to a world of devotion and extremism with which I was unfamiliar. One could say that those who dress up for I-Con are similar to the fans who paint their chests at sporting events; regardless of this conjecture, my one purpose in attending this carnival of eccentricity was to meet the man who defeated the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man—the man who had slain an army of diamond-protecting animated chimps and a hippo—the man who was a detective in a neighborhood of sexually frustrated housewives.
Walking down the stairs, I was a bit star-struck when I saw Ernie Hudson for the first time. I was surprised to see the sixty-three-year-old legend signing autographs and greeting fans as if they were old acquaintances. Ernie Hudson is well known for playing Winston Zeddemore in Ghostbusters I and II, Sergeant Albrecht in The Crow, Captain Munro in Congo and Detective Ridley in the popular Desperate Housewives. As I learned later on, during a question-and-answer session Hudson held, this ghost buster was one cool character, on and off the set.
Hudson entered the room with a swagger that boasted a reserved, yet friendly, manner. “So, yeah…what’s up,” asked Hudson, breaking the ice, as he leaned back in his chair and raised his feet onto a table. Hudson was asked many questions that resulted in him talking about everything from being a ghost buster to his view on religion, as well as the heroes he looks up to.
Hudson explained that it was an elevator talk that introduced him to the movie Ghostbusters. “I was on an elevator and Ivan Reitman got on. He produced a movie I did called Space Hunter. That long silence down the elevator [was broken when Ivan said] he was doing a project called Ghostbusters. But he said there was nothing for me. I am like ‘Ok, whatever.’ But then I found out there was a part for me.” So Hudson tried out for the role, after two months of trying to set an interview, and took part in one of the greatest movies in American cinematic history.
When asked if he failed to initially appreciate the tremendous success of the movie, Hudson said, “No, no. I think I appreciated it. I think when the movie first came out, it was so huge, and I really expected certain things to happen. And it took me a while to realize that, you know, it’s never going to be what you think it is, so drop your expectations. It’s all good.” The movies were huge; according to the-source.com, while the first Ghostbusters grossed a worldwide total of $215,500,000, the second eclipsed that with $291,632,124.
Hudson was very nonchalant in describing his role in the movie, simply saying that he was just an actor. “It is very hard for any actor to understand his place in all this and ask, ‘How popular am I? Am I more popular then this actor or that actor?’ To me, it is just a job; that is what it really is. None of it has really been life-changing.” Hudson went on to explain that he was very fortunate, also saying that it was a blessing to still be working after so many years of acting. When asked if he still believes in “UFOs, astral projections, mental telepathy, ESP, clairvoyance, spirit photography, telekinetic movement, full-trance mediums, the Loch Ness monster and the theory of Atlantis,” Hudson replied just like he did in the movie twenty-four years ago. “If there is a steady paycheck in it, I’ll believe in anything.”
Hudson also joked when asked about being so mellow. “Yeah, after you go through Ghostbusters and all that disappointment, then you learn how to go, ‘You know what? Hey, whatever.’ You survive that. You just go, ‘Hey, whatever.’” Clearly joking, Hudson created a placid feeling in the room, as he was so calm and friendly.
When asked about the Statue of Liberty scene in Ghostbusters II, Hudson talked about how many members of the cast felt honored to be filming at Ellis Island. He said that many people were excited, as their grandparents had come here many years ago. “I was like, ‘my grandparents didn’t stop at Ellis Island.’ I knew what it was about, but part of me was like, ‘hell naw!’” Hudson then talked about taking his kids to the Statue of Liberty. What was supposed to be a homecoming for Hudson turned sour as a fan recognized the famous ghost buster and made sure everyone on the ferry ride to Ellis Island knew about it. In fact, as the boat docked, the ecstatic patron made sure everyone at the docks knew as well. “So I never left the dock, and my wife took the kids to see the Statue of Liberty. So we don’t talk about that,” said Hudson, laughing.
Asked about being the token black ghost buster, Hudson replied that he was not too fazed by it. “I think it is important for movies to reflect the society that we are a part of. It annoys the hell out of me—like Woody Allen movies (and I like Woody Allen)—but it was like, ‘What New York is that? There are no black people, Hispanics or Asians,” said Hudson. He then went on to joke about black characters who seem to be included purely for the appearance of sensitivity to race-consciousness, saying, “I think it’s great, but I never look at a character like, ‘oh, thank God, they have a black character.’ I am always happy to play a black character because I always have a shot at a job.”
Somehow, religion was brought into the conversation, and Hudson revealed his beliefs on sin. “The thing about religion is the sin thing, and I am like, ‘why don’t we drop the whole sin thing and replace it with mistakes?’ I work in a business where we can do a lot of takes, and if it doesn’t work, we can forget ‘bout it. Just do it over again.” Hudson said he believes in a superior being but does not invest too much into it. As he says, “We all sense something greater than what we see. There is something along the lines of what we don’t know. The end of the world, and God appearing—even if we don’t believe it, there is something going on—something intuitive. You can deny it, but you know there is something beyond this physical thing.”
The heroes Hudson looks up to are the people who are always there: the average guy who does what he has to do to get by. “The guy who gets up and goes to work and takes care of his family, and then his kid, at eighteen, says ‘fuck you, Dad!” He laughed and went on to say, “Or the guy with the wife who says, ‘I should’ve done this and this and this’—just the guy who shows up. Not the guy who just goes and gets some cigarettes and you never see him.”
Hudson spoke about how he wished for people to value themselves. “I wish people really got how special they are and that they didn’t feel they had to do something to earn that.” It is a problem he has experienced with his friends and many of the people with whom he has dealt. “You don’t have to earn it, it is already there. But it is not there unless you see it. Once you see it, then you don’t have to worry about taking anything from anybody else to make you whole.”
Hudson has a few films coming out, as well as a video game. His upcoming movies include The Man in the Silo, which will come out later this year, and Dragonball, based on the cartoon show DragonBall Z. Hudson collaborated with his Ghostbusters costars to make the eponymous video game, which is due to come out later this year, and which was named one of the years’ most-anticipated video games according to Image Games Network (IGN).
To meet an actor—it is ok. To meet a movie star—it is a little better. To meet a person who is just so cool and content with life as a whole—it is rewarding. Ernie Hudson is more than a ghost buster—he is an inspiration; the epitome of coolness.