In his over five decades in show business, Michigan native Ernie Hudson, 75, has had a chance to tackle many roles and work with a who’s who of actors, but there are still a few he’d like to “play” with. We got to the bottom of that in our recent chat.
Ghostbusters: Afterlife — what took so long?
There was always talk about a possible third film, but it all seemed like it would never come together. I think the fans would have appreciated something maybe 20 years earlier, before we all got old. But the fact that we’re having a conversation about the movie almost 40 years after the fact — that’s impressive.
Rate the three Ghostbusters with your cast.
The first one  is the most genuinely creative, so unexpected. The second one  in some ways was trying to repeat the magic of the first. Before I saw the new one, I was concerned that maybe it wouldn’t live up … It really, really is what the fans have been waiting for.
Let’s talk about ghosts. Real or not?
I’ve had some experiences. I have never had a ghost walk up to me and say, ‘Hey there, Ernie, what’s going on?’ and have a conversation with me. But there were some things that I kind of go, ‘That was weird,’ or ‘What was that about?’ Yeah, I believe it’s possible.
Who are your acting inspirations?
When I was a kid, the Westerns were really popular. Gary Cooper was always my favorite actor; Burt Lancaster. I think the idea of being a man and what that meant, those lessons I learned from the movies. [Hudson was raised by his maternal grandmother and had some “good uncles.”]
You played Lily Tomlin’s boyfriend for a time on Netflix’s sitcom Grace and Frankie, a show starring older people about older people ...
To see people of a certain age having a life... Sometimes we get the feeling that after 50 it’s all over. To see them being zany and having mishaps and falling in love and falling out of love and life goes on. I’m amazed at the number of younger people who are huge fans of the show. I’m very proud to have been a part of it.
Ernie Hudson at 40, Ernie Hudson at 70 — what’s changed?
You have to live long enough to be able to let go, to not feel you have to be a certain way or act a certain way or prove certain things or be afraid to let your guard down. As you get older, you just realize that none of that really matters, and the thing that is most valuable to you is when you can let go and just appreciate life and where you are.
Retire or keep working?
When I was younger, I was always running desperately to accomplish something, to do something, to prove something. Now I don’t need another credit. When the kids [four sons] were small, when they were in college, I never felt like I had a choice, I needed to take this job. I got to keep the mortgage paid; we got to stay above board. And now that everybody is grown up and the mortgage is paid, I don’t have to chase it anymore. I don’t have to compromise. I can really say, “Why do I want to do this?” If I don’t have a good answer, let someone else who’s excited about it have the job.
What’s your fountain of youth?
If you want your body to stay active, then you have to find time to play a little bit just for the sake of playing: Get on a bicycle; push-ups; sit-ups; stuff you learned in elementary school, jump rope; whatever it is that appeals to you. You can’t go for long periods of doing nothing — then you build a wall that’s so hard to overcome.
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