CHAMPIONS Star Ernie Hudson On Reuniting With Woody Harrelson, CBM Roles, GHOSTBUSTERS 4, & More (Exclusive)

CHAMPIONS Star Ernie Hudson On Reuniting With Woody Harrelson, CBM Roles, GHOSTBUSTERS 4, & More (Exclusive)

Ahead of Champions making its debut on Digital HD platforms, we caught up with Ernie Hudson to talk about reuniting with Woody Harrelson, the upcoming Ghostbusters sequel, joining the MCU and more!

By RohanPatel - Apr 28, 2023 12:04 PM EST
Filed Under: Ghostbusters

Ahead of Champions making its debut on Digital HD today, we were granted an exclusive opportunity to sit down with the legendary Ernie Hudson (GhostbustersQuantum Leap) to talk about his role as Coach Phil Perretti in the crowd-pleasing sports comedy.

He tells me all about reuniting with Woody Harrelson, their real-life friendship, developing their on-screen dynamic, working with Cheech Marin again, whether he based his character on any specific coaches, and working with the stars of the show: the Friends. 

Plus, he was also kind enough to tease his role in the upcoming Ghostbusters: Afterlife sequel and spoke at length about the possibility of ever joining the Marvel Cinematic Universe. 

Champions is now available on Digital HD, and available on Blu-Ray and DVD on May 2!

Watch our full video interview with Hudson below or read on for the full transcript - and please remember to SUBSCRIBE to my channel!

ROHAN: What was it like reuniting with Woody again after so many years? Had you stayed in touch?

ERNIE: Yeah, you know, we did The Cowboy Way, and I think that was in 94-95, somewhere in there. I just love Woody, I mean, we've been friends since that movie, He was the one guy from the movie that - you know, I always keep in contact with actors - but Woody has always been, I mean, I'm a fan of his. It's hard for me to imagine anyone not liking Woody. He’s just very charming and funny, and just a really great guy, but very, very down to earth.

When I read the script, and I knew he was doing it, it was was exciting for me, because Woody has a way of connecting with people, and including people that a lot of actors don't have, and I felt this was the kind of material that really needed him, and when I was on the set, when we weren't shooting, most actors would sort of retreat to their dressing room, but Woody would be there with the these young people and playing basketball and just hanging out, and I think that acceptance made them all feel welcome. Bobby Farrelly also has that kind of spirit. I mean, he is very inclusive. But it was just a great set to be a part of, and I think it’s really due to Bobby and Woody being great.

ROHAN: Your character Phil and Woody's character Marcus have an interesting friendship, and it's obvious that Phil is only looking out for Marcus and wants what's best for him. What did you see in that dynamic when you first received the script?

ERNIE: I look at their relationship and it reminded me of a couple I've had, and I have one still, and sometimes, as we sort of move forward, you know, we start out kind of together, relating is where the friendship is formed, but as you move along, some people kind of get in their own way, some people, you know, how do you manage situations, some people just aren't necessarily very good with it, they’re their own worst enemy. But when you have a friend, you recognize the talent is there, they have all the abilities, but it's not the talent that's preventing them from succeeding, and that's the relationship.

So, even though, their friendship is threatened, I think it's very hard for my character to not recognize that, yeah, given the opportunity, he really could be really successful. It’s just if he could just get past that impulsive, self-destruction, and so, I think he never gives up on the friendship. And, that's the thing sometimes with friends, when you've been through stuff, when you've known someone for years, they have a piece of you that even you may not remember, and those are valuable friendships, and I think, Phil is - he couldn't walk away from it. He wants to see him get it together, and he wants to be there for him, but he can't be there for him unless he can grow a bit and him managing this team forces him to grow up a little bit, and hopefully, it will make him a better coach in the process.

ROHAN: We don't see too much of Phil coaching, but it does seem like he's a coach very much in tune with someone like Phil Jackson. Were there any real-life coaches that you drew inspiration from?   

ERNIE: Well, I've heard about Phil Jackson, I'm not a sports fan. I've never really, you know, other than being a kid in school, playing sports, I was very good at it, but I was always leery of it. Where I grew up, I got a lot of encouragement to play sports, but I always was suspicious because I felt like they were channeling me to do that only because I was black. The school I went to, it was very segregated in terms of the academics. They clearly separated kids, but the sports was an area that was open, and I kind of resented that. So, I never really got that much into sports. And I still don't, I mean, once I got into theatre, that was sort of it.

But, I've heard stories of Phil, but unlike, the old days where I’d research a character and do a lot of research on the basketball games, and so, it wasn't so much that I felt like I really needed to get that deep into it. So, I kept it just about relationships and people and mentoring and all those things that I imagine a good coach would have to be. So, I do feel to be a good coach, you have to be there for your team, and, there's some calls, we had a couple of professional guys who sort of knew that and I sort of borrowed from them.

ROHAN: In addition to working with Woody, you're also working with Kaitlin Olson and Cheech Marin, but the real stars of the show are the young actors playing the Friends. What was your experience working with them on this really inspiring story? 

ERNIE: Yeah, I think we're all very happy to, #1) get this material, to get a chance to be a part of it. See it kind of come to life. Cheech, I’ve known for a long time, we did a television pilot. I don't remember the name of it, back in the 70s, maybe, long time ago, and we've maintained a friendship since. And when I say friendship, you know, we actors, I consider someone my friend, even though I might not see him for 10 years or whatever, but when I do see them. And, I loved that idea of working with him. Cheech, to me, he's like the perfect dad, even though I'm older than him, I think, but still, he sort of embodies that spirit. So, I really like him, he’s a very funny, funny man. And, Kaitlin, I hadn't worked with, but she's just very, very talented, and she sort of transcends that beauty. She's absolutely gorgeous, but she can lose all that and be in the character, and I really admire that about her.

So, I knew that the main cast would do everything they could do, but the heart of the movie is the young people and the team and also that community that they represent, and for them to be able to show that life is life. I think sometimes we feel that unless it looks a certain way, you know, unless someone is like us, whatever that means, then your life doesn't have value, and I think this film shows, no, it says, laughter, love all, all of life, and all of its fullness is with all of us. None of us are better or we think of ourselves as better, but the truth of the matter is, we're all given this wonderful opportunity to live these amazing lives, and it's not limited because people perceive you as being disabled.

ROHAN: I think in reality, we really like to see guys like Michael Jordan and Tom Brady, and Steph Curry succeed and win over and over again, but in movies, there's nothing better and more compelling than an underdog story. What would you say is the magic behind an underdog? 

ERNIE: Yeah, I think there's a part of us that feel like the underdog, you know, the odds are so astronomical that a lot of people don't even try and when you see an underdog who just doesn't stand a chance in the world, but still willing to fight for it and somehow breaks through, that's really, maybe that's all of our stories in a lot of ways, because for so many people, they bought the stories, they bought what they were told and didn't bother trying, but here’s a team who believes they can win and we look at them and kind of go, you don't stand a chance in the world, I mean, how dare you even think that you could, but they believe and I think that is what we all want to aspire to. It doesn't matter what the odds are, we stand a chance.

That's perhaps one of the things that disappoints me the most is we hear so many stories told to young people today about how impossible it is, that I think for a lot of them, they just sit it out, because what's the point in trying, you know, you try to go to college and you're hear you'll end up with debt, or you'll end up living in your mother's basement or something, and so, it breaks the spirit of so many people. But, there are people who just go, no, I'm gonna go for it and succeed.

So, I think we all root for the underdog at the heart of it. Excellence is, you see a Michael Jordan and yeah, we can root for them, because it's amazing what they can do, but we also recognize sometimes those players, they come from places that a lot of people would have considered impossible and yet there they are ruling the game. So, that's always inspiring. But yeah, I think we're all underdogs, in some ways, or what people perceive as underdogs. It really comes down to how we see ourselves.

ROHAN: You've spoken about your history with basketball, but you've also had roles in basketball films like this, Basketball Diaries, and you were also a part of NBA 2K20. At this stage in your career, what piques your interest about accepting a role in a sports movie or any movie really? Is it the script or character or some combination of both?

ERNIE: Well, some of its character. I did the The Hand That Rocks The Cradle, where I played a disabled young man, back in the 90s. It was that character, I just really related to that character, and I wanted to sort of bring light to that. Sometimes it's the story, and sometimes it's the people. In this particular case, I think the story was good, I enjoyed that, but also knowing I’d be working with Woody, I'd be working with Bobby, I’d be working with Cheech, you know, all people that I admire and admire their work. So, that was probably as much of it as anything. I mean, the same story with different people might not have been as interesting to me to want to do.

It could be a variety of things. It could be the story, it could be the part, sometimes it’s just nothing but the money and that doesn’t happen often cause if it’s really takes that much money to make it worth it, then it’s not. But, you know, sometimes it differs what motivates you, but, I think, as an actor, all you have is the option to say yes or no. And if you say yes, then you have to embrace it and bring hopefully your best to it and hopefully, the people you're working with will do the same.

ROHAN: You've tackled nearly every genre throughout your career in various different projects, is there one genre in particular that gets you more interested in coming onboard a movie?

ERNIE: One thing, for me, it's always something more. I was talking to Bill Atherton, we're working on the new Ghostbusters, and we were, at some point, what point is it that you say, you know what, I don't want to do this anymore. I can't imagine. But, I think relationships are really, to me, in movies. I mean, we’ve had a lot of - I've had a lot of the Marvel action stuff, and it's always at war, at battle. It bothers me to watch movies, where people have really bad intentions, you know, and we are kind of going with a character and then, they’ll do something really disgusting or awful, and I just kind of go, yeah, I don't want to watch this.

So, to do a movie, like a Ghostbusters, or Quantum Leap, that can appeal to a family audience, or at least trying to aspire to something good. That, to me, is very attractive. But, also, for me now, doing Grace and Frankie, I played Lily Tomlin’s boyfriend, it's just more about relationships, that's what appeals to me. I haven't always gotten the opportunity to do that dramatic lead, which would be fun to do, but even in Family Business, it's about crime and all that, but at the heart of it, it’s about family and it's about relationships. I think if it was something that was just about crime or just about action or war or whatever, I really wouldn't find that interesting, me personally.

ROHAN: Ghostbusters: Afterlife was a blast and I'm really looking forward to the sequel. I know you just started shooting, but is there anything you're allowed to tell us? Are you excited about the direction they're taking Winston?

ERNIE: I love the fact that, I mean Jason Reitman, Ivan Reitman, who did the first couple of films and who was one of the producers on the third film with the ladies, but his son Jason, who was in the second movie. He was a kid in the second movie, and directed the previous film. So, it's that whole Reitman influence, but Jason has really, really been supportive of me and saying, okay, we want to see Winston, because the fans have really embraced that character, unlike the studio expected. I had a studio exec say to me after the first film, ‘Wow, you know, the fans sort of think of Winston like he's one of the Ghostbusters.’ And, I thought, that's what I thought he was, I don't know.

But, I think now Winston has been very successful on his own, and he's made a lot of money, but he loves the franchise, and so, he's brought a lot of his wealth to the Ghostbusters, to try to go deeper into what's going on and make sense of it. So, we discover that in the new film, and it's just a great adventure. But, in the tradition of Ghostbusters, I love the fact that Winston, you know, has a place and is not feeling like an add on, he's very, very much a part of it. So, yeah, it's already there. It's a great script. Gil Kenan is directing this new one, Jason is producing, but it’s just great, and it's great to be back with Danny and Bill and Annie Potts, and the new cast, and yeah, it’s been 40 years. It feels like family.

ROHAN: I feel like every time Ernie Hudson shows up in a movie, people get very happy cause they're just excited to see you and I feel like that's a real testament to your character. My brother and I met you in Miami like ten years ago and you were just the nicest guy ever. We really enjoyed meeting you. Since this is a basketball movie, do you pride yourself on being a team player and having a positive impact on people's lives?

ERNIE: Well, I think as an actor, I always felt like I'm just sort of starting out and I realize I'm not because, like you said, when I show up, you know, someone on the crew or whatever, I will have worked with or they will have certainly seen my work in some movie. The Crow, for example, I was working on Quantum Leap, and we had a scene that takes place in Korea Town, and Simon Rhee and Phillip Rhee, who I did a movie called Best of the Best, and Simon was my martial arts trainer for years - they happened to be there.

So, yeah, I love what I do, and I love the people that I get a chance to play with and I do now, get a little respect of being the older guy or the guy that’s been around or whatever, I don't know, but it also gives me a chance to come and do what I do. I love Ghostbusters and working with Danny Aykroyd, you know, we old guys, working with Lily Tomlin and Jane Fonda, we have an approach that's a little bit different than some of the younger people. We came into it in a different way, and, and I just love being on the set and going, we're here to work, and it's gonna be a fun day, and it usually is. But, yeah, it humbles me that I work with people who know my work and, and seem to be happy to see me there, you know, that to me, that's a real blessing.

ROHAN: You mentioned working on a few superhero projects in the past, mainly voiceover and guest spots, but have you ever been approached about doing one of those big Marvel movies or a DC film or anything like that? Is that something you'd be interested in doing?

ERNIE: Yeah, I'd love to. Louis D’Esposito, who is one of the presidents of Marvel, I've known for a while, and I keep saying, I'm over here, you know, I thought when they were making Black Panther, there were fans that sort of floated the idea of me being his dad, that didn't work out. Louis was saying, we want something bigger for you and I was going, yeah, you know, it doesn't have to be so big. I would love to though, I would love to be a part of those films, or one of those franchises, I mean, it'd be fun. If nothing else, to my grandkids, I'm sure they'd be really excited about it, but there hasn't been a role yet. I did a couple episodes of, I think it was Arrow, the television show, but it hasn't been for lack of interest on my part, it just hasn’t happened yet.

So, you know, it's one of those things where I sort of think that my career seems to have a life of its own. When I was younger, I used to really kind of get out there and pursue and I’d try to do things that I thought would generate work, and now, for the past 10 years or so, it's like, you know, people know who I am, and if they want to work together, I'm not hard to find. If I got to convince you to give me a job, then I really don't want to do that job, so I would love if the opportunity came up to be able to work in that whole Marvel Universe or the DC Universe, but, if it doesn't happen, I'm okay. I'm thankfully at a point where my kids are all grown up and healthy and my mortgage is paid, and so the only reason for doing any of this stuff is because I want to do it.

Woody Harrelson stars in the hilarious and heartwarming story of a former minor-league basketball coach who, after a series of missteps, is ordered by the court to manage a team of players with intellectual disabilities. He soon realizes that despite his doubts, together, this team can go further than they ever imagined.

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newhire13 - 4/28/2023, 12:20 PM
Loved what he said about GB4! Can’t wait!
Origame - 4/28/2023, 12:21 PM
I'm still curious about what Ghostbusters would've been like if they went with the original plan of casting Eddie Murphy. Apparently the original idea was for Winston to be a former marine with the joke being that he's absurdly over qualified for the job. Don't know if there's an early draft somewhere but it's just interesting.
TheShape9859 - 4/28/2023, 12:48 PM
Can't wait to see this
OrgasmicPotatoe - 4/28/2023, 12:53 PM
I know it's probably one of his smallest gig, but I always remember him as "the step dad in Son of Zorn"

I can understand why it didn't get past one season, but some of the gags had me in stitches nonetheless !
grif - 4/28/2023, 12:56 PM
wont be watching any more gb movies past 2
dragon316 - 4/28/2023, 5:04 PM
Champions was good
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