Ernie Hudson — best known for playing Winston Zeddemore in “Ghostbusters” and “Ghostbusters II” — will speak at Fresno City College on Wednesday, Feb. 18, as part of events commemorating Black History Month.
Hudson will focus on how to move forward in a system that insists you remain in place.
“It’s all about how we perceive ourselves and how our environment affects us,” Hudson said. “We feel like we are locked into what we can do. It’s all about changing our lives in the way we want to change them.”
Hudson has been fighting back all his life. His mother died from a battle with tuberculosis when he was 3 months old, and he never knew the identity of his father. He and his older brother were raised by their grandmother. He lives by many of her teachings.
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“She gave me some basic principals to hold on to. In her mind these principles were like laws,” Hudson said.
His grandmother, who Hudson described as a very religious lady, told him he was a “divine creation” and could “realize anything.” Those words made him feel extraordinary and pushed him to move forward with his life.
After a stint in the Marine Corps, Hudson became the resident playwright at Concept East, the oldest black theater company in the United States and later graduated from the Yale School of Drama. He has been a professional actor since 1976 and has amassed more than 200 acting credits. It was 1984’s “Ghostbusters” that brought him the most attention.
Getting into acting wasn’t easy. He made several trip to Los Angeles before landing work. At the same time, he was raising two young sons on his own.
“I was told I should leave Hollywood because there was no work here. When it comes to black actors, there are only three guys working,” Hudson said. “I kept going because of my grandmother and my faith.”
He dealt with all the years of being pushed into certain roles because of his race. Hudson’s view was that he was an actor and could handle almost any role.
“But the systems say, ‘This is you.’ A friend and I went up for some slave production. I saw him preparing and doing very stereotypical things. I knew that wasn’t him and asked him why he was doing that,” Hudson said. “He told me, ‘You know this is what they want.’ ”
He might have known the way casting agents and directors thought, but Hudson refused to give in to the system because of his two sons.
Hudson didn’t want to be a hypocrite and tell his sons one thing to then do the opposite. He wanted to teach them to follow their dreams and keep moving forward.
All kinds of acting roles began to come his way. Nothing resonated more that the two “Ghostbusters” films. Hudson went on to appear in TV shows — from “Oz” to an upcoming episode of “Once Upon a Time” — and feature films such as “The Hand That Rocks the Cradle” and “Miss Congeniality.”
But fans have always wanted to know when another “Ghostbusters” movie was going to be made. He’s OK with the attention he gets from “Ghostbusters.”
“To have something like a ‘Ghostbusters,’ I’m very honored to have been a part of that,” he said.
Right now there are plans for a new “Ghostbusters” featuring an all-female cast that includes Melissa McCarthy. Hudson is happy another film is being made. He has not been contacted to be in the movie.
As for Hudson’s appearance at Fresno City College, Dr. Gennean Bolen, chair of this year’s Black History Month, said Hudson was a perfect selection to speak because of his “heart for children and heart of education.”
“We know he will be an inspiration to African-American students who feel like they can not break free and show them what they can overcome with education,” Bolen said.