You may know him as Winston Zeddmore, Sergeant Albrecht, or even Justin Jones, but right now Ernie Hudson is using his versatile talents in front of the camera to bring the character of Captain Ned Conrad to life on the FOX series APB. To celebrate the season 1 finale of the high-tech yet emotionally grounded police series, I had the great pleasure of speaking with Hudson about his new show, and we also had the chance to talk about his desire to play Winston once again in the world of Ghostbusters, why he doesn't plan on returning to The Crow franchise, and his secretive time on the Twin Peaks revival.
Congratulations on APB, one of many projects that you have going on at the moment. The show is unlike anything else on television right now and I think it's really relevant, too. How did you get involved with it initially and what attracted you to playing Captain Conrad?
Ernie Hudson: Well, I felt the same way you do. When I read the script I thought, You know what, with all the things that are going on that we don't quite understand, assuming a lot of stuff that was happening last year and the whole political thing and the hacking. All this stuff is in our lives and yet we don't know how deep it is in our lives.
This TV show was talking about some of this technology that could be used in a positive way, and certainly to help law enforcement and to say nothing of other areas, but this hadn't been available because of costs and police budgets. So I thought that was kind of cool. I thought it was very interesting and I really wanted to be a part of it. The captain, my character, was a sergeant in the beginning, and it wasn't well developed in the pilot. So I wasn't sure where they were going to go with it, but I just wanted to be a part of this show. I do love the way the character's developed over the twelve shows that we did. But my main attraction was just the idea of the show itself.
Yeah. It is nice to see how they blend timely issues with futuristic gadgetry and sci-fi elements. It's a really nice meshing of two different worlds, and it really speaks volumes about what's going on in today's society, so it's been really cool to see that play out over the course of the season.
Ernie Hudson: Right, and we did twelve shows, but hopefully it gets a chance to come back, and for those fans who do like the show, hopefully they'll let FOX know. But if we get a chance to come back, there's just so much going on that would be a lot of fun to see develop.
Yeah, and I love that Conrad knows the city. He's been through the ranks, he's seen a lot in his time in that position, and then to see him play against Gideon, played by Justin Kirk—you two have a nice back and forth, where he's totally out of his element in a way and you have to show him, "Okay this is how it really works on the streets and in the city." Has it been fun to play out that part between you and Justin?
Ernie Hudson: Yeah, I've really gained so much respect for Justin since we've been on the show. I didn't really know his work actually before the show, but I really appreciate the way he handles himself on the set. It's just a lot of fun to watch him work and see his process. But a lot of it for me, at this stage in my life, at the character where he is, you know you have to make way for the new and you know that the old way doesn't totally work, but you also know the importance of keeping some things in place and the importance of protocol. You can't just turn the whole shop over to these kids and let them have fun with their toys.
So it's nice to be in the mix, but it's also recognizing that there comes a point where you need to sort of move over a little bit, but still add some kind of value just in terms of being able to provide some kind of guidance. So it's an interesting character, but so much of it I relate to just in my life on a personal level.
And like you mentioned, he is able to play by the rules, but I also like that in a recent episode, initially he was hesitant to work with Andre [Deron J. Powell], but when he saw the necessity of working with the local gangs, he was able to walk that line without really crossing it. The moral compass of Conrad has been interesting to see play out on the show.
Ernie Hudson: Well, thanks. It's been fascinating to me, because one of the things that I suppose you have to recognize is that a lot of, I don't want to say "gangs," but a lot of these groups have connections in the community that the police simply don't have. And we make these judgements, but not everybody are in these gangs or whatever. For all the reasons that we think, we can judge it or whatever, but it really is going to take a coming together of everybody if we're going to move forward. All of that is very interesting, but it forces Conrad to really take a look and say, "You know what? Maybe I need to sort of back up a little bit and try, if we're going to be effective." Otherwise, we just keep doing what we keep doing.
Yeah and like Natalie [Martinez]'s character said, it's kind of a new 13th [District] so everyone's kind of realizing that this new era is beginning for both sides of the law. It's interesting to see that dawn of a new era, and hopefully we get to see that play out in future seasons, because you could really show a nice arc for the city itself.
Ernie Hudson: Yeah, and think of the possibilities, because so much just seems like it's just broken down in the cities across America. And I think it does help to consider other possibilities and how we impact each other. Because the tendency is to just make that judgment and then just bring in more tanks, but that's not going be the answer. That's where storytelling and television can make a difference and offer another way of looking at it. So I'm hoping we'll get a chance to come back to explore some of those areas.
Absolutely, and it looks like fans are going to experience some intensity in the season finale.
Ernie Hudson: Yeah, in the early episodes we saw the positive sides of all this technology, but there's another side, too. There's a darker side. Gideon's a character with good intentions, but what about those people who believe they're doing the right thing but just have a different and dangerous perspective and the damage that can be done? We hear about all of this hacking and rigging the elections and going into our identities—all this stuff that we really can't comprehend. But there are people out there who seem to understand it and we have to find a way to protect ourselves. But the first thing is becoming aware that we need to. We really need to, and I think these last couple shows are very exciting because it's a Wild West out there in a lot of ways.
Many of our readers are huge fans of Ghostbusters, so I have to ask, what was it like for you to come in and get to play Patty's [Leslie Jones] Uncle Bill in the new one?
Ernie Hudson: Yeah, they invited me to come in and play and be a part of that franchise. I was happy to see that they finally decided to extend it and do something because the fans have been asking for thirty years. So it was great to see. It wasn't quite the way I would've done it. I would rather it had just been a new movie and the girls answer the call thirty years later as opposed to the reboot. I just thought it kind of tied their hands a bit because they had to, on some level, do a version of us, which, of course, never works, because they're very, very funny ladies and I would've liked to see them create their own separate thing. And then we could've done cameos as ourselves. But still, it was fun. It was fun to be a part of it.
Yeah it would've been kind of nice to see Winston pass the torch and still be involved as Winston, you know. That would've been really cool. But I was happy to also see you guys, at least be in the movie and you did the final kind of say there at the end was pretty funny.
If the chance ever arose, do you still to hope to play Winston again?
Ernie Hudson: Yeah, I hope this last one and the way the movie performed and all that doesn't prevent future ones from happening, because I'd love to see Winston sort of bring in some young people, and I know Bill has been reluctant to do any more as the character Peter Venkman, but I think Zeddmore's always been ready to answer the call. I think the fans would like to see it, even now, after the other one. But I think [playing] Winston [again] would be a lot of fun. I know it would be a lot of fun. But, Ivan Reitman and those guys, hopefully they all see it that way.
I know a lot of the fans would love to see that, because Winston's still in great fighting shape and he's ready to bust some more ghosts.
Ernie Hudson: Yeah, and there's definitely a lot of ghosts out there that need busting. I think that Paul Feig's approach was interesting, but I think it'd be fun to sort of roll with the original concept.
Absolutely. Last year your name was mentioned on the full cast list for the Twin Peaks revival. Is there anything that you can say about being in that world or anything we can look forward to?
Ernie Hudson: I was really excited when David [Lynch] asked me to come in and do something. The problem is, I have no idea what that something was. I was there, and it was great working with him, but everything was so secretive, even with his actors. What happened in scenes before or after, I have no clue. So, when I finished, he said "Well, you know, don't talk about it." I'm like, "I don't even know what to talk about. I don't know what the hell's going on now." But I'm a big fan of his and of that series, so I'm glad to be a part of it. I'm looking forward to seeing it as much as anybody.
So you'll get to see the puzzle get put together when the series returns.
Ernie Hudson: Yeah, then I can see, "Oh, that's what that was about." But it was great to work with him.
And also, the Crow reboot has been in the works for quite a while. If you ever got a chance to play Sergeant Albrecht again in that project, would you be game to do that?
Ernie Hudson: No, when Brandon [Lee] passed away, that was it for me. I just think he was The Crow and I realize the studio is going to make more because there's money on the table and so they're not going to pass up on that, but I can't even imagine being involved with that franchise at all. Once Brandon died, it was hard for me to even go back and finish that movie. I just have no desire. But I'm not angry with them for doing it. Like I said, I understand business is business, but I just don't want to be part of that.
Brandon really was the heart and soul of that.
Ernie Hudson: Yeah, I can't even imagine. I've never seen the others, but I can't imagine. Brandon was The Crow as far as I was concerned.
Before I let you go, are there any other projects coming up that you can tease? Are you going to be back in the ice cream truck on Comic Book Men?
Ernie Hudson: [Laughs] That was funny, so many people saw that. I had so much fun. I love those guys on Comic Book Men. But there's a lot of fun things happening. I'm working with Rashida Jones, playing her dad on Angie Tribeca. I'm on Grace and Frankie with Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin. That's fun, we're in our fourth season of that. I do Graves with Nick Nolte and Sela Ward. That's on Epix, and we just got picked up for another season of that. And I love that all of these characters are different. But APB is just really special to me. I've just been very blessed and very busy.