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‘Ghostbusters’ Star Ernie Hudson Talks Inequitable Treatment, Pay Disparity: “It’s Not Quite That Simple” to Blame Racism

Ghostbusters star Ernie Hudson is opening up about the beloved franchise, the female-led reboot and the inequitable treatment he received during the ’80s on the original films.

Hudson has appeared in five Ghostbusters films, starting with 1984’s original, the 1989 sequel, 2021’s Ghostbusters: Afterlife and Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire, which hit theaters Friday. The actor also appeared in the female-led Ghostbusters reboot in 2016, albeit playing a different character.

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His role as Winston Zeddemore was first offered to Eddie Murphy before Hudson came on board. Reportedly, the role was reduced significantly before filming began (Winston doesn’t even show up until about halfway through the film). The character also wasn’t featured on the theatrical poster. But Hudson says it’s more complicated than chalking it up to racism alone.

“You know, being a person of African descent anywhere in the world, we’re all just learning how to live together and get along together and realize that we’re all connected,” he said in an interview with U.K. newspaper The Independent. “And it’s very tempting, sometimes, to blame anything that doesn’t work in your life on racism. But there are a lot of things that play into it. It’s not quite that simple.”

Hudson says he was paid less than his co-stars, but Murphy likely would have made more had he taken the role, given his higher profile.

“We can say it’s a racial thing, but I think if Eddie Murphy had played the role I played, he would have been paid very well,” Hudson said. “I think studios are in the business of making money, and they pay what they feel they have to.”

In addition to Hudson, original stars Dan Aykroyd and Bill Murray reprised their roles for Frozen Empire (the fourth original Ghostbuster, Harold Ramis, died in 2014). Hudson said Murray was a huge supporter of Hudson, fighting for a bigger role for his co-star during negotiations for Ghostbusters II. He “said he wouldn’t do another one unless I was involved. … That doesn’t happen very much in this industry,” Hudson said.

The actor also opened up about the female-led Ghostbusters reboot, which was released in 2016. Paul Feig directed the film, which got mixed reviews.

Asked his opinion of the film, Hudson said: “Look, I’m a fan of Paul Feig, so I have nothing negative about him to say. Other than: I don’t quite understand why you do a reboot, you know what I mean? Just make another movie.”

He said he finds the film’s four stars — Kristen Wiig, Melissa McCarthy, Kate McKinnon and Leslie Jones — “brilliantly funny on their own,” but added: “Fans were really invested in the story and the characters and I think it was disappointing. I enjoyed the movie, but I think it wasn’t what fans were hoping for.”

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