A Behind The Scenes Look at Doonby with Ernie Hudson
FlickDirect: I read the press release for Doonby: A mysterious stranger comes into a small town, and he is a fantastic musician. He makes a lot of friends, and things go well for him and the town. Then the bad guys in the town, sort of come down on him; and he leaves. At that point, things go badly. Sam Doonby (the main character) is played by John Schneider (Johnathan Kent from Smallville), and you play Leroy, one of his friends, I guess. Can you tell me why you chose this movie and the character of Sam Doonby?
Ernie Hudson: The movie for me, and the reason I did the movie is that it is a great story. It really deals with relationships and how we impact each other, as well as how things would be different if we weren't there. I think a few other movies have been able to capture that. I feel It's a Wonderful Life captures that well -- the guy is getting ready to die and realizes how important he was to people. I think most of the relationships we get into...we never do know. We do not know how life would have been without them.
This character, Doonby, comes to town a drifter; and we see how he impacts the town.
FlickDirect: Can you tell me more about your character specifically?
Ernie Hudson: My character, Leroy, is an old blues man, and I love that part about him. I love the blues, and I love music. I think it is a very universal language. He has had to make the hard decision about whether to give up the live he loves on the road in order to settle down with the woman that he loves.
So, he opens and runs a very popular blues bar in town, and has a lot of old musician friends. He worked with them over the years, and they come and play… so this is his take on life and is there for the people who work for him; he is a very open guy. He gives John's character a job which I think a lot of people would not have.
He befriends him, and a lot of the movie is about that relationship. My character's role is also about his love for the music and his wife. He is a good guy.
FlickDirect: Do you actually play an instrument in the movie?
Ernie Hudson: I play a saxaphone. I don't actually play in real life, but I did a movie a while ago 'Crazy Times' with David Caruso, Michael Paré, and Ray Liotta. They were three kids who would come to me, and I was like a mentor to them. This was back in '79, I believe. But that I played a sax player in the studio.
I learned mainly to do the scales but also to look like I could actually play the instrument, and I have retained some of that. So I do play a sax in the movie. I also sing -- I was hoping I would get a chance to sing during the movie.
I have really been a fan of watching performances as well, so I had a little bit of experience there.
FlickDirect: So the makers are keeping the movie a little mysterious with the guy coming to town a drifter; and then being mistreated and things turning bad. It is sort of a pied piper vibe for me. Is the movie entirely down to earth or is there a paranormal aspect to it?
Ernie Hudson: I think if we look at our own lives, and if we took some of the things that have happened to us that we have taken for granted and put it in a film form, people would probably say 'that's not realistic'! But it is realistic because these things happen to us all the time.
I think we take these things for granted. In the movie? There is something a little beyond the normal. But, I mean, that's life; a friend calls up and wants you to take him to the airport -- which is very annoying -- but you never know -- if not for that you, might have been in an accident somewhere. Basically, you never know in real life.
In a movie, we can view that from another perspective. That is what I love about films: we get to see the other sides of things.
It is kind of how Inception looked at dreaming in a new way; movies can show us things in a way we do not usually get to see. I think that reality is sort of paranormal anyway.
That comes through in the movie: everything is plausible. There are no aliens. It is not over the top.
FlickDirect: You will get to do that next year with Ghost Busters III, right?
Ernie Hudson: If that happens, and I would love to see it. If they can get the guys together, it will...but who knows?
FlickDirect: I would love to see it happen. I think probably everyone who was alive in the 80's would too.
Ernie Hudson: (Laughs). I think the fans, more than the studio, have really kept that alive. Everywhere I go in the world, I was doing a play on Broadway and people would come in Ghost Busters outfits. I have seen Ecto-mobiles made out of everything you can imagine. So people really love that movie.
People are introducing that to their children. I have to say, I showed it to mine, and I think it holds up pretty well!
FlickDirect: It is too bad you didn't get to do the voice for the cartoon. [It was given to Arsenio Hall]
Ernie Hudson: Yeah, I don't know what that's about. Talk about life being paranormal! I never understood that even though they tried to explain that to me. They said I would be 'too busy'. I said What!?
FlickDirect: How did you come by the script? Did you find them, or did they find you?
Ernie Hudson: I think it was Johnathan. We had done a Dukes of Hazard episode together back in the late 70's or early 80's, and we had become friends. Recently we were doing the Secret Life of the American Teenager. I am still recurring. So I think he was the one who gave them my name, but it came through my agent.
It was the story that got my attention, and that John was involved in it.
FlickDirect: You have had a heck of a TV career. Can I ask a few questions about that?
Ernie Hudson: Sure!
FlickDirect: You played the warden on HBO's Oz. What was that like? What were all the extras like there? It looked pretty intense.
Ernie Hudson: The main actors were all actors -- but a lot of the extras? I think some of them probably had just got out of prison. There was still professionalism and respect, but when I sometimes, with my character, wanted to relax a bit, I would see the guys go to places with their characters that was challenging!
FlickDirect: How about Law and Order. Did you find that being part of the big franchise was more, I guess controlled? Was it different than working for HBO?
Ernie Hudson: I was there as Epatha Merkerson's boyfriend, and in this past season, she had cancer. I loved being on the show as a guy who loved this woman and was there for her -- not as a cop or a bad guy. I kind of come in and everyone is very cool to me; but, you know, when you do a show for 2 or 3 years, they lock it down; and you better come prepared.
With Oz they were going forward each shoot no matter what.
It was great to be on Law and Order as I had never done that. Some of the guys from Oz were there too.
FlickDirect: With your extensive history, is there anything that you look back on that really grabs you?
Ernie Hudson: They are all special in their own way; but in movies, I loved doing The Hand That Rocks The Cradle. I had a lot of fun with that character. I don't normally get a chance to do a character that vulnerable. I had to play a mentally disabled guy with a person as intense as Rebecca De Mornay.
The movie Congo was great because it gave me a chance to do something I had never done before. I got to throw in an accent and be the safari leader. That was just really fun. They were on location in Costa Rica, and it was great. The guy who did Anabezie was there too. It was a great time!
I also did a show called 10-8 (10-8: Officers on Duty). It was just finding its legs, and we only did about 15 episodes. I loved that show and getting a character where I have a chance to let the audience know the person is great. When I did Desperate Housewives, I was just a detective who comes on to deliver some information, and that's it. That is more frustrating for me.
When I have a chance to really show the character's humanity, I think that is the best part of acting.
FlickDirect: The meatier the role the bigger the rush?
Ernie Hudson: Yeah. When you have an actor like Bill Murray, the camera will stay on his face for a long period of time. Most actors don't get that kind of time. When you get a chance to reveal that it's really good. TV is fast -- you hit the mark and move on.
On the other hand, TV pays more than things other than the really, really big movies.
I also like plays. I did some plays on broadway last year. I did Joe Turner's Come and Gone.
President Obama and Michelle came to see it after he was newly in office. That was great.
FlickDirect: You were there doing the play at the time? Did they run you through all kinds of security?
Ernie Hudson: They came a week before and did security checks. They told us it would be a senior government official; they didn't say it was the President. It came out on the internet, so everyone knew before we were officially told. The street was blocked.
When the President came, he was in a separate area. We were quarantined in our dressing rooms and weren't allowed to come out. It was madness, and the audience didn't know the President was going to be there -- suddenly there were flashbulbs everywhere.
So we were trying to get the audience back into the show which I think we did do for the first act. For the second act, it was a lot more work. It was a good performance though.
FlickDirect: Were they sitting right up front?
Ernie Hudson: About four rows back next to Meryl Streep.
FlickDirect: That must have been a little distracting? President of the United States right there?
Ernie Hudson: Yes, but I love this job. This is what I do. The President is in /my house/ now -- so let me do /my work/. I love that. If I ever go to the White House, I will let him do what he does. So I want him to sit down and enjoy the show, because this is what we do!
Getting the audience to let go and tune in to what we are doing…I think we did that. Unfortunately, the President and Michelle were going to meet the cast; but the crowd rushed him when it was over, so they got him out of there. There were a lot of young people in the cast who would have loved to meet him.
FlickDirect: You don't have to talk about this if you don't want to. You were in The Crow and I'm just wanting to ask if you were around the set when he was hurt and died?
Ernie Hudson: No -- you know -- I saw Brandon two nights before. I had a death in the family; my wife's brother had passed away, so he took us to dinner and was very comforting to my wife. We got a chance to talk about a lot of stuff and he was very exciting because The Crow was going to be a break out picture. He had a multi-movie deal and was getting married and things were happening.
So we flew to Minnesota; and when I got there, I got a call that he had been killed. It was so unreal. It still feels unreal. I work in an industry that is meant to look hard, but no one gets hurt. I think that no matter how much we plan or think we have it figured out, life is doing its own thing.
Thankfully though, I think, like me, Brandon had done a lot of films he wasn't thrilled about. In, I think, Showdown in Little Tokyo, he had to refer to Dolf Lundgren's private parts; and he had hated that! But this one was his chance, and it is one of my favorite movies. At least it turned out to be a good one. It would be a shame for that to happen and have it be a bad movie.
They called me about some of the remakes, but after what happened with Brandon I'm done with that.
FlickDirect: When does Doonby open?
Ernie Hudson: They are trying to create an early buzz. I am happy they are not going direct to DVD. It will play in the theaters. I hear they are shooting for the fall (the interview group says it is in post).
FlickDirect: Are you one of those actors who watches a film you are in?
Ernie Hudson: Yes. When I first saw Ghost Busters, it was in the theater; and I love sharing it with the community! It is a lot different than seeing it on the TV screen.
FlickDirect: Do you critique yourself when you're watching yourself?
Ernie Hudson: Mostly I watch other people, but I know the movie is good if I can get caught up in the story. If I can look at a movie and believe that my character is the character vs. knowing it is me, then I know it worked. It is always interesting to watch the audience's reaction.
I did a movie called Space Hunter. It was in the old 3D, and the projection was off. I sat there and watched the audience get frustrated. Not one of the best experiences, but it is always great to see how the audience does this.
FlickDirect: It has been great talking to you, and I hope I see you in Ghost Busters III!
Ernie Hudson: Thanks.
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