Ernie Hudson on Taking Care of 'Family Business' & the 'Ghostbusters' Reunion
Days before Hollywood shut down due to the coronavirus spread, Ernie Hudson was in the middle of filming Season 2 of The Family Business. Six episodes of Carl Weber’s series will land July 2 on the BET+ streaming service. Hudson returns as patriarch LC Duncan, who leads the double life of Duncan Motors CEO by day and unflinching crime boss by night.
The next chapter picks up as the rivalry with the Zunigas turns up along with other potential enemies waiting in the darkness. At the center of the conflict is a breakthrough for the Duncan business in the form of a drug called 'HEAT.' Hudson enjoyed sinking his teeth into such a meaty role, anchoring the drama. Here Winston Zeddemore he is not. Before taking care of The Family Business, the busy Hudson sits down to preview what’s to come. The 74-year-old also looks back at the recent Ghostbusters reunion that raised more than $15,000 and counting for the Support Equal Justice Initiative.
What was the feeling on set before COVID-19 forced production on The Family Business to stop?
Ernie Hudson: We tried to get as much done as we could. I began to worry because I wasn’t sure how much of a shutdown it was going to be. My family, our home is in Minnesota. My concern was getting stuck in Los Angeles and couldn’t get home and would have to sit it out by myself. We shot at the very end of February. I got a call from one of the producers who were concerned because apparently I’m the oldest person on set. There was so much uncertainty at that time and still is.
I finally got home and knew I had to quarantine myself for at least a couple of weeks. I got word one of the actors who I worked with [Dennis White] the last few days had contracted the coronavirus that landed him in the hospital. We had a scene together where it was a shootout. He is driving me and my wife [Valarie Pettiford as Charlotte Duncan] to an anniversary dinner. After the shootout, I had to pick him up and carry him to the car. So, there is really close contact. It was a month before I finally got to relax some. But we’re not any more clear of what is going on or the specifics. I’m sure they don’t know a lot of specifics. You see people go back to work, but how do we?
You did manage to finish the first part of the season and step back into the role of LC, a multi-layered character who wants to do right by his family — but at what cost?
That’s the fun part of LC that I can relate to. This is about his family. He has built this empire because he felt it was best for his family. I might question that in terms of how he goes about doing it. He has enrolled his entire family, but there are also the risks to doing that. His family is deeply involved. I don’t think he sees an alternative, so he doubles down on it. I think he is also at an age where you have to question some things. Through it all, he has to live with these decisions. When you’re young and you make the decisions, you don’t think they’re going to impact you. Then you get older and have to live with this stuff. He is struggling, and his kids are old enough now where he sees the negative affect in what is happening with them. You don’t have a lot of time to catch your breath because all the adversaries are coming in to take over. There is a lot going on. I like the fact he isn’t a simple bad guy. There is more.
There is a sense of urgency he might feel to create a lasting legacy. How would you say the stakes are raised with the Zunigas and other outside forces we may not even know about yet? What can you tell us about Season 2?
In addition to all the things coming in, his son [Orlando] has created this new drug called HEAT. It is hugely popular. That changes his position with the cartels. Suddenly, he becomes even more of a target. It’s one to hold your position. It’s another when you are a threat to everyone else around you. There are direct attempts at his life and his family. When things are going well, you know there is always a danger. Now it’s all in his face, so becomes a matter of how you survive it? How do you hold things together? The legacy, you can still believe it and sell it. But you can also see it crumbling down. [The] first season starts off with LC feeling like he has built this thing and wants to step back to let his son take over. He and his wife want to go to Florida and live the remaining years there. It doesn’t work out that way. This year it’s the total opposite of where he was.
You recently also got a chance to reunite with many of the Ghostbusters cast as part of Josh Gad’s “United Apart” fundraising Zoom calls on YouTube. How did it feel to see familiar faces and come together for a good cause? How often do you all stay in touch, besides maybe coming together for the new movie?
It is always great to come together. We came together for the movie. That was a brief time. Ghostbusters always had this enormous impact and really changed the trajectory of my life. Now I look back and see how impactful it has been. These are people who I shared this specifically with. You develop an appreciation and love. It is really family in a real sense. Honestly, when we were working I almost became emotional because it was great to see Billy [Bill Murray]. Over the years we would run into each other. We’re not best friends or hang out all the time, but I’m really happy to see him. We’ll grab dinner and everyone will make promises to get together, which I never do. To see Sigourney [Weaver] and getting together on that Zoom, even just having a conversation and being in the same place. It was very special to me.
More viewers have the chance to see you in L.A.’s Finest when Season 1 airs on Fox in the fall. What are your thoughts on the show continuing in these emotionally charged times?
I’m so happy it’s being shown on a platform where more people can have access to it. It’s a great show. Gabrielle [Union] and Jessica [Alba], I’ve always been a fan. Both are extraordinary. This is a place to show that. There is a diversity in the cast and stories. It’s all very timely right now. It’s nice to be a part of that. [Joseph Vaughn] is very different than the character on The Family Business. Gabrielle plays my daughter. It’s still on some level about family and relationships. How do we work this out? This is how really my life has been. I have four sons, but I didn’t really have a dad that I knew. It becomes how do I lead and leave a legacy?
Winston on Ghostbusters stood out as a trailblazer, when you think about it. Even today, you’re having the opportunity to stand at the forefront. Where do you think we are in terms of representation on TV and movies?
There has been a huge shift. We have come a long way. I’m so inspired by it. Not only because there are more roles out there, but for creators. I’m an executive producer on The Family Business. A lot of behind-the-scenes writers are there. I’d worked on a lot of shows where there have been black actors and cast, but nobody on the crew. That’s changing. We are seeing progress.
What I love is you are getting more diversity in writing and producing and directing. The characters are more honest. In the early days, I’d get a role written how someone thought I should be. I didn’t relate to certain roles. You take a role like on Ghostbusters and try to bring the honesty and truth to it. Luckily, on Ghostbusters I worked with Ivan Reitman and the guys. You still had the humor, but it leaves you intact. The integrity was there. I’ve worked on shows where they’d want me to show a certain kind of humor or attack a thing a certain way. It’s great to work with people who really trust you.
The Family Business, Season 2 Premiere, Thursday, July 2, BET+