In a long career, Ernie Hudson (shown here) has ranged from crimebusting to ghostbusting.
He’s been steady, solid, dependable; the world around him, however, keeps quaking.
Part of that involves national tumult, but other parts are strictly show-business. “I’m in awe,” said Hudson, 74. “We’re reaching people in different ways now.” Consider his current shows:
– “The Family Business” was planned as a movie. with Hudson as head of an automotive company with tangled dealings. It became a cable series, then disappeared for 17 months. Now its second season is set to arrive Thursday (July 2) … but on the BET+ streaming service.
– “LA’s Finest” went in the other direction. It started on the Spectrum internet service; this fall, it goes mainstream, as part of the Fox network.
That’s typical of the swirling changes. “You used to do press conferences, going from city to city,” Hudson said. “Now there’s Zoom.”
He was talking by phone from his home in Minneapolis – the center of life’s most extreme changes.
This is his wife’s home town, a place with a “Minnesota nice” reputation. “I just it has such good people,” said Hudson, who moved there five years ago. “It is so progressive.”
Still, it was in Minneapolis that George Floyd died in police custody. “It breaks my heart …. I had been aware that there were problems with the police department, but I personally never had a problem.”
But yes, as a black actor who’s long been in the spotlight, he’s seen hints elsewhere. The oddest was 35 years ago, he said, in Pasadena or Los Angeles.
As one of the “Ghostbusters” stars, he’d been invited to a school to talk to kids and make them “junior ghostbusters.” Later, he was leaving his hotel and heading toward the car. “I was grabbed by police and thrown on the ground and put in a chokehold.”
It was sudden, disorienting … and brief. Someone recognized him and soon the police were asking him to sign autographs and pose for photos. “They said, ‘You fit the description of a kid we were looking for.’ …. I was 40 years old; a kid?!?”
It was a lesson in what studies have proven: When another race is involved, identification errors are common, including by police. “I understand we’re asking them to do a difficult job, but …”
Hudson has played plenty of cops – plus, in “L.A.’s Finest,” an ex-cop whose estranged daughter (Gabrielle Union) is on the force). He’s played doctors, professors, pastors, wardens, judges, colonels, a general, an admiral, a president and a CDC director. He’s gone a long way from his days as a Benton Harbor, Mich., kid who did theater in Detroit and then at Yale.
But “Family Business” brought him to new turf as L.C, Duncan, a successful business mogul, albeit one with lots of troubles. “He’s made some decisions I can’t imagine making.”
Duncan has a sleek and steel-minded wife (Valarie Pettiford), ambitious sons and entanglements with criminals. Armand Assante, Robert Picardo and others show up in support.
The first season ran its eighth and final episode on BET in January of 2019, then seemed to disappear. Then Tyler Perry and BET linked to create BET+, a streaming service.
That includes has past shows from Perry and from BET, plus occasional new ones. There’s Perry’s “Ruthless” and “Bruh,” plus shows from elsewhere – “First Wives Club,” “Bigger,” the “All the Way Black” talk show, the Canadian “Diggstown,” some movies (“Sacrifice,” “Influence”) … and now the second season of “The Family Business.”