Ernie Hudson: A Voice of Faith
The veteran actor, currently of NBC's "Heroes" and known for past roles in "Ghostbusters" and HBO's "Oz," talks about his new audio Bible project and his issues with how spirituality is portrayed on "Heroes."
BY: Dena Ross
This is going back a few years, but religion played such a big role on your other big TV series, "Oz," where you played the prison warden. What was the significance of religion on the show? Was that just trying to portray how jail really is like with different religious groups? Or was it something else?
I had heard that Tom Fontana, who created that show, had studied to be a priest. I don't know if that's true or not, but I know that he certainly came from a very religious background.
The struggle that we all have with who are, and our relationship to God, our relationship to each other, is always the conflict-- good versus evil, who's guilty, who gets punished, who goes unpunished--those are all issues that we struggle with every day in life. We live in a world where things happen, and how do we judge that? The Bible says, "Judge not lest you be not judged."
Tom wrote [about] it from a more realistic level. I played a warden, and the struggle with him was who gets punished, who goes unpunished? How do I reconcile this? I'm angry, I want to take revenge. Is that the right thing to do?
Struggling with the right thing to do was really a part of my character on that show. And I think all the characters, who's really good, who's really bad, are human questions that we all work through.
The problem I have with "Heroes" is these are things that separates people, so it's not everyone that's going through that. I related to "Oz" a lot more and related to the characters. I thought they were honest characters.
I had read about a guy once, the first black warden of Leavenworth. His father was a minister and he called his work as the wardenhis ministry. And I thought that was interesting, his commitment to do this very difficult job.
When we find our place, when we find the occupation or whatever it is that we do, that is our ministry, and that's how we do Gods will and how we demonstrate truth through our work. But there's a struggle, especially when you're dealing with people where the lines aren't really clear. And in the case of "Oz," being a warden, all of those things came to play.
I just felt it was much more complex, and I certainly enjoyed working on that show a lot more. Tom Fontana was very clear about his vision of the show, whereas you get a show like "Heroes," they've had a number of changes in terms of producers. They're trying to find a show that works,that appeals, and they're willing to make whatever changes are necessary, whereas I know the creators of "Oz" would not make those changes. They really had a vision that they want to be true to. That doesn't happen a lot in TV.
Do you have a favorite Bible verse?
John 3:16 is kind of a reminder that God so loved the world, He gave His only begotten Son. That's always the first thing that comes to mind.
The Lord's Prayer is something I do every day, every night, every morning. Psalm 23 is something that whenever I'm stressed it relieves tension and calms me down.
What inspires you in your life and career?
My kids--I have four sons and they're all adults now. And my marriage, which is now 33 years [old]. And just people in general. I find that the more I begin to look around, I see so much good that people do that goes unnoticed. So many wonderful things. I'm just inspired by life in general. I see the difficulty and all of that. I see even my own sons, my family struggling with certain things. But then I see, on the other side, so much good, overwhelmingly so—just enormous kindness, people really going above and beyond for each other, but we don't notice it.
I go to the store and people just, for no reason, are really nice. I'm standing on the elevator, and someone would do things that just amazes me. We don't give our credit enough for just how good--how much faith--we have in ourselves and each other.
And [if] one person did an awful thing, for the rest of the day, I'm focused on that one awful thing. I missed the hundred acts of kindness that people didn't have to do. And now, I'm more aware of it, and it just inspires me to just want to be an example.
We drive up and down the freeway every day and nothing happens, and we hear about one accident, and suddenly the freeway is this dangerous place of accidents. It's really important for us to just see this earth, this better place that we live in. It's there if you're willing to see it.
I think the vision of Christ for me is seeing the truth that is always there. It's in all of us. And Christ could see that. And we have to have faith that it's there. And when he would heal he'd say, "By your faith," so I think having the faith to see beyond sight, to see what is true about each other even though we're angry or we're going through some difficulties, know that the truth about us is that we are greater than we even give ourselves credit for.
I was out the other morning walking my dog. The birds were chirping in the trees, and all of this life was just everywhere. I'm like, wow, in the middle of all this creation, God took time to create me. It's just beyond comprehension.
I read there's going to be a Ghostbusters III coming out in 2012. Are you looking forward to reuniting with the old cast?
I love the old cast. It was a real experience doing the first two. The first one was very difficult but I love them dearly, every one. I talk to them from time to time. And the fans, 25 years later, really love the movie. The kids who grew up with it who are now in their 20s and 30 and they're introducing it to their children. And so, it'll be great to get together. I look forward to the opportunity.
But, I haven't heard anything official from anyone. I saw [writer/producer] Harold Ramis a couple of months ago and he was talking about it. I know the guys would love to see it happen. If it happens, that'd be great— if I'm invited to come and do it. I never take anything for granted. I would love to do it.