Ernie Hudson, who became a hit with his role as Winston Zeddemore in the 1980s Ghostbusters films, recently said that he was “pushed aside” and severely underpaid for his part in the two movie blockbusters.
In his recent appearance on The Howard Stern Show, Hudson said that the two original Ghostbusters films were “the most difficult movie I ever did.” And in a follow-up interview with Yahoo News, Hudson further described how studio executives never thought of him as an important character in the franchise.
Hudson noted that he stayed quiet about how he felt for years because, like many in the business, he was afraid to speak out.
“There are certain things in this business that you don’t talk about, but I’ve mentioned before that that was a difficult job. Most of the time, you accept those things and move on, because you’re afraid — you don’t want to do anything or say anything, because you’re happy to be working. The last thing you want to do is stop that,” he said.
Hudson said that his part in the production was “really chaotic,” but he was never really told why. He also bashed Columbia Pictures (now owned by Sony) for his low pay. “They couldn’t have paid me less money,” he said.
“I’m thankful to be a part of it and I don’t regret anything. But it wasn’t a barrel of laughs—it was a real challenge to keep my balance while I was doing that. I’m so thankful I didn’t follow my impulses and punch somebody! That experience forced me to be a little more responsible and look at this industry from a realistic perspective,” he added of his experience in the two original films.
“I know so much of this business is about how you’re perceived, and [the perception is that] certain people deserve to make outrageous amounts of money. Whereas other people who work just as hard and may have more credits are not thought of as deserving in that way and the studios are insulted they would even ask for it,” he said.
Hudson pointed out that he never got royalties for any of the merchandise that featured his face and character, saying his agent told him, “Oh, that’s not part of your deal.”
Indeed, he was told that Columbia never even considered him a main part of the cast, even later when fans really responded to his character. “I spoke to one executive who said, ‘Ernie, to the fans Winston is just part of the Ghostbusters.’ And I thought, ‘Isn’t that what I was always meant to be?’ I didn’t realize they thought of me as something else,” Hudson said.
Worse, Hudson was excluded from voicing his Winston character for the three seasons of The Real Ghostbusters cartoon show. Instead of hiring him, the producers hired Arsenio Hall and then Buster Jones to voice Winston.
“I’d done a lot of animated work by then, but for whatever reason it seemed they didn’t want me, and that would have made a huge difference at the time in my life. I didn’t make much money on the movie, so it would have been nice to at least do my voice in the animated series,” Hudson revealed.
But Hudson did credit Bill Murray for making sure that he was involved whenever the studios hosted Ghostbusters events and reunions. Hudson said Murray told him very early on that he had his back, as if Murray knew ahead of time that the studios would not likely treat Hudson as an integral member of the movie cast. “But from day one he’s been like, ‘Ernie, I got your back.’ He’s the one who always says, ‘I will not do another Ghostbusters movie unless Ernie’s involved.’ That’s unusual in this business.”
Hudson also said that Jason Reitman, son of the original films’ director Ivan Reitman, has tried to be more inclusive of Hudson with his recent sequel films such as Ghostbusters: Afterlife.
Hudson is thankful that he has been a very busy character actor and that he has not had to rely on Ghostbusters. “I’ve been able to keep working almost in spite of it — I can’t think of any other movie I’ve gotten because I was in Ghostbusters. I’m still happy to be part of the franchise and over the years the fans have made the difference,” he said.
Hudson is currently co-starring as project leader and former Navy SEAL member Herbert “Magic” Williams in the NBC reboot of the 90s-era series Quantum Leap, which was just renewed for a second season.
He is reprising his 1990 role from the original series starring Scott Bakula and Dean Stockwell, from which the current reboot is patterned.
The former Ghostbusters star is the second actor this month to charge studios with underpaying high-profile black actors.
Prolific character actor Djimon Hounsou, who hit it big in the 1997 Steven Spielberg epic Amistad also claimed he still struggles to be recognized and has never been paid what he is worth in racist white Hollywood despite his more than 30-year career and multiple award nominations.
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