This was posted on Thursday, March 2, 2017 by Rodney Ho on his AJC Radio & TV Talk blog
Ernie Hudson over 41 years has collected more than 225 acting credits, according to imdb.com. That’s more than Samuel L. Jackson (172), Betty White (113), or even his buddy Beau Bridges (198).
Among his biggest credits: “Ghostbusters,” “The Crow” and “Oz.”
I spent nearly two hours at breakfast earlier this month at the Intercontinental Hotel in Buckhead while he was in Atlanta shooting a role for “Survivor’s Remorse.” We talked about how he got into acting and hit on parts of his long career, from his early days right up to his current roles on three TV shows, including Fox’s “APB,” which debuted last month.
He has worked with everyone from Bette Davis in a TV movie to Tom Hanks (“Bosom Buddies”), from Allison Janney (“The Cowboy Way”) to Leo DiCaprio (“Basketball Diaries”) from Laura Linney (“Congo”) to Sandra Bullock (“Miss Congeniality”). He even did eight episodes of “Law & Order” as S. Epatha Merkerson’s character’s boyfriend.
“I don’t think I’ve done any show in the last ten years where there wasn’t somebody on the cast or crew I hadn’t worked with before,” he said.
He said his career has had its share of ups and down. Right now, he’s on a definite upswing. He hasn’t had to audition for a role in years. “I have reached a point in the last few years where I was able to get out of the begging mode that actors go through,” he said. “Auditioning to me is like pulling my pants down. I always work really hard to get a part. When I don’t, I feel like crap! Too many hits can wipe you out.”
But he said he’s never sure if there’s another job. “You’re always uncomfortable in that time space,” he said, when there is no work.
And although his career speaks for himself and he has had a fair amount of accolades as an actor, he said, “you’re never too sure… Denzel has two Academy Awards. I have none. You’re always in that judgment thing. I’m just thankful to be. Just be.”
Hudson said he now picks roles based on three criteria: the part, the money and/or the people involved.
He lives in Minneapolis, away from the Hollywood hoopla, and has shot shows in the past year in New Mexico (Epix’s political thriller “Graves” with Nick Nolte), Netflix’s “Grace & Frankie” in Los Angeles (where he plays Frankie’s boyfriend), then “APB” in Chicago.
His “APB” character Capt. Ed Conrad oversees cocky Justin Kirk’s billionaire character Gideon Reeves’ police precinct in Chicago he took over after a close colleague was murdered there. (He is a bit like Richard Branson.)
In the early episodes, Conrad doesn’t have much to do. He appears to be a by-the-books cop who has moved up the ranks and while supportive of Reeve’s efforts, he’s understandably skeptical of his sometimes radical tactics. At first, Hudson told the producers, “I know you’re paying me and I’m glad to be here but what am I doing?’ He was flattered they asked for him to do the role. They promised him he’d have more to do over time and Hudson said “it really gels around the sixth, seventh episode.” (Ratings started solid, have slid downward.)
Reeves “is well intentioned,” Hudson said. “It’s not just him. He has stockholders. They want profits. This stuff isn’t particularly profitable. He’s fighting his own board and fighting the city.”
Here are some other random bits from our conversation:
Grandmas rule the world: His grandmother gave him the confidence to get out of the projects in one piece even without a father. “She inspired me. She taught met that we all have a common denominator. We’re all human beings. We’re all spirits. That’s what I held on to my whole life.”
His one-episode role on “Survivor’s Remorse”: “I play a former basketball player who broke into the NBA when there were still quotas for black players. He comes in with an agenda. I know Sally Richardson [a “Survivor’s Remorse” producer]. I like the cast. I like the show. Jesse Usher [who plays Cam[ played my son on another show. RonReaco [Lee] also played my son on a show here, ‘Let’s Stay Together.’ ”
On the TV One Atlanta-based 2015 movie “To Hell and Back,” a modern retelling of the story of Job: “I loved that character. The problem was a lot of people didn’t see it.”
On the “Ghostbusters” reboot: “I would have preferred an extension 30 years later maybe with a new set of ‘Ghostbusters’ but we’re still around.” Still, he was thrilled to make a cameo.
On playing a version of himself on “Hot in Cleveland”: I was one of Wendy Malick‘s ex husbands. It was a running joke. I loved working with Wendy. I had also worked with Valerie Bertinelli before. She and I were both on an episode of ‘Touched by an Angel.’ ”
On Justin Kirk, the lead of “APB”: “I like the way he deals with the crew and the way he carried himself. As No. 1 on the call sheet, people look to him, then act accordingly. When the leads are not balanced, things could spin out of control.”
How he got into Yale’s theater program: “I applied but it was past deadline. They said to apply the next year. My wife is a librarian. She had a conference in Pittsburgh. I called the director of admissions at Yale. We made an appointment for the day after her convention. We drove straight to New Haven, checked into a cheap hotel with our two sons, bags in the car. I drove to his office, parked in front. I asked for him to make an exception for me. I submitted two plays. He was clearly annoyed and got up from his desk. He went to the window and saw my kids, who had gotten out of the little Volkswagen and were playing. ‘Are those your children?’ ‘Yes.’ ‘Did you drive here from Detroit?’ ‘Yes. Going to Yale is the most important thing in my life.’ By the time we got home, the phone was ringing. I was accepted with a full scholarship! You have to believe you’re in the game. You have to ask and you have to believe it’s possible.”
How he kept from going down a different path: “I never doubted for a second that I wasn’t loved. I always had somebody. My grandmother who raised me spent a lot of time loved me and would have laid down her life for me.”
A miracle in his life: About 14 years ago, he had a very close cousin who was dying of cancer. She had been given less than a day to live. He rushed to the hospital and arrived early in the morning. She was still alive but barely. He started talking about their life and what they used to do when they were kids. Four, five hours later, she was able to pull herself up. Soon, she was able to get out of the bed. He helped give her a reason to keep living so she did. And she’s still alive.
Fasting: When he was a kid, his grandmother overcommitted to the church and didn’t have money for food. So the two of them didn’t eat for three days. He has since done a fast each year for several days in honor of that. “You get a different type of energy,” he said. “You go into a different zone.”
Don’t punch Ernie: During the shooting of “The Jazz Singer,” Hudson played an audience member watching Diamond sing in blackface. When he figured out Diamond was white, he jumped the stage. Diamond punched him. “He really punched me,” Hudson said. “I’m from the projects. I wanted him to say he was sorry. But he didn’t. I said, ‘If you hit me again, I’m going to kick your a**!’ ” He added, “I still love his music.”
Memories? And to prove that he has done a lot of roles, he recalled Bill Bixby 38 years ago on “The Incredible Hulk” punching him. Then he realized after some thought that it was the other way around. And he described the scene as it’s shown below, including Lou Ferrigno as the Hulk picking up an engine from beneath a car and throwing it at his character, then seeing a toddler and picking her up. She kept on crying, take after take. They needed her calm. Finally, the mother spoke to the kid, who then did the take with a wondrous smile. Hudson asked the mom what she had done. “I said, ‘We need the job!’ ”
“APB,” 9 p.m. Mondays, Fox
“Grace & Frankie,” returning for season 3 March 24, Netflix