1 of 5 | Ernie Hudson is reflecting on his 40-year legacy with the "Ghostbusters" film franchise. File Photo by John Angelillo/UPI | License Photo
Feb. 22 (UPI) -- Ernie Hudson says he didn't feel like Columbia Pictures truly appreciated his value to the decades-old Ghostbusters franchise until the most recent film, 2021's Ghostbusters: Afterlife.
Hudson played Winston Zeddemore, one of the four titular paranormal investigators alongside Dan Aykroyd, Bill Murray and the late Harold Ramis, in the original 1984 Ghostbusters and 1989's Ghostbusters II, as well as Afterlife.
"When I came into the franchise, the guys -- and I will say this -- have always been amazing and welcoming and I loved them, the entire cast," Hudson, 77, told UPI in a recent phone interview.
"But I didn't feel that same kind of affection with the studio," he said with a laugh. "I think the studio saw that story a certain way and they felt [Winston] was an add-on, but I don't think the fans felt that way."
Hudson said when the first film was re-released for its 30th anniversary in 2014, the poster for it only prominently featured the characters played by Aykroyd, Murray and Ramis.
"I was like: 'Really? After all this time?'" the actor recalled.
The first two films were directed by the late Ivan Reitman.
Afterlife, which was helmed by Reitman's son, Jason, ended with a scene showing Winston as rich and successful and bringing the Ghostbusters' classic Ecto-1 home back to its old firehouse base camp.
"When we got to Afterlife, I think the studio began to see the character as really an important part of it and I think wanted for Jason to sort of acknowledge that," he said.
"I was very thankful that he gave Winston that moment in the end where Winston -- no matter how he came into the franchise -- is now at a great place and he is choosing to be a part of that."
Hudson thinks a lot of fans relate to the character and Hudson's desire to be recognized for playing him.
"To me, it acknowledges a journey that a lot of people have to go through," Hudson said.
"It might take you a long time. With Ghostbusters, it's been almost 40 years, but, finally, now the studio is saying: 'Winston did bring something to the table. He is part of that.' I think the fans have felt that, but it's nice to have the studio acknowledge that."
The studio is gearing up for another sequel and Hudson would love it if there's room for Winston in the story.
"We haven't locked things down, but I'm hoping that I will continue to be a part of it," he said.
"The fans have been truly amazing and, to the studio's surprise, I think the fans really embraced the character and identified with the character because he was kind of your everyman, just a common-sense guy who calls it like it is, but still shows up to do his job.
"It means a lot to me now to see the studio be inclusive."
Hudson can now be seen in NBC's Quantum Leap and his latest movie, Champions, opens in theaters on March 10.