On October 17, 2011, Ernie Hudson returned to Wayne State University to talk with and inspire graduate and undergraduate students in the Department of Theatre.
Born in Benton Harbor, Michigan, a career in show business seemed like an unlikely path for young Ernie Hudson, who was already married with a young son when he enrolled at Wayne State University as a Speech and English major. Hudson’s early ambition was to be a writer, and was for a time the resident playwright at Detroit’s Concept East, the oldest black theater company in the country at that time. Later, he founded the Actors Ensemble Theater, which allowed him and other black performers to stage and appear in their own works. After attending Wayne State, Hudson accepted a full scholarship to the Master of Fine Arts Program at Yale University. This led to a number of regional theater roles and critical acclaim, and his feature film debut in Leadbelly. Hudson found himself alternating between film and television roles until 1983, when he was cast as Winston Zeddemore, the fourth member of the Ghostbusters team. The two Ghostbusters films, starring Bill Murray and Dan Akroyd, were huge box-office hits and gave Hudson a higher profile than he had ever known.
Hudson’s subsequent screen roles included parts in Weeds with Nick Nolte, Leviathan, Sugar Hill, The Cowboy Way, Speechless, No Escape, The Substitute, and Basketball Diaries. When director Curtis Hanson (LA. Confidential) was making The Hand that Rocks the Cradle, he cast Hudson in the pivotal role of Solomon. “After Ghostbusters, it was hard to get the dramatic parts I wanted,” says Hudson. “Doing The Hand that Rocks the Cradle reminded the studios of what I could do, and it reminded me of the fun I could have while acting.” Another favorite role of Hudson’s was in the thriller Congo. “For a long time, I had been told that I wasn’t a ‘leading man’ type, and I had started to buy into that. The character in Congo was my Ronald Colman character, the man who ran the show. After I saw my performance in that movie, I felt really good about what I have to offer as an actor.” Hudson also co-starred as Officer Albrecht in the 1994 thriller The Crow opposite the late Brandon Lee.