Ernie Hudson: 'Champions' is a story about acceptance

"We all have our own unique talents and, given the opportunity, I think, we can thrive," the actor told UPI.

"Ghostbusters" icon Ernie Hudson reunited with his "The Cowboy Way" co-star Woody Harrelson on the new sports comedy "Champions." File Photo by John Angelillo/UPI
1 of 5 | "Ghostbusters" icon Ernie Hudson reunited with his "The Cowboy Way" co-star Woody Harrelson on the new sports comedy "Champions." File Photo by John Angelillo/UPI | License Photo

NEW YORK, July 9 (UPI) -- Ghostbusters, Oz and Quantum Leap icon Ernie Hudson says he hopes his new sports comedy, Champions, reminds viewers to keep their minds and hearts open to those who might not look or act like them.

Directed by Bobby Farrelly, the film is now available on DVD and Blu-ray, as well as streaming on Peacock.


Hudson plays Phil, head coach of a minor-league basketball team who remains supportive of his friend Marcus (Woody Harrelson), even after the hot-headed assistant is fired and later court-ordered to manage the Friends team of young-adult players with intellectual disabilities following a drunk driving arrest.

Champions co-stars Kaitlin Olson as Alex, a Shakespearean actress who devotes her life to her younger brother, Johnny (Kevin Iannucci,) who is one of the players and more ready to be independent than Alex realizes.


"This movie is really about acceptance of people who aren't like us -- whatever that is -- and who will never be," Hudson told UPI in a recent phone interview. "We all have our own unique talents and, given the opportunity, I think, we can thrive."

The 77-year-old actor added that the film also carries a message of forgiveness by showing how Phil treats Marcus.

"These are guys who have known each other since college. I see he's always been a bit self-destructive," Hudson said, noting Phil knows Marcus is essentially a decent person, but needs to grow up to fulfill his potential.

"They have history and Phil's really disappointed that he has put himself out on a limb to get Marcus this job and he blows it, but, even after that, Phil still reaches out to make sure Marcus is OK," the actor said.

"Phil genuinely cares about people, but especially about Woody's character."

Phil's wisdom falls on deaf ears and it isn't until Marcus starts working with the Friends players that he starts to think about people other than himself and re-evaluate how he defines success.

"You can't hear what you can't hear," Hudson said, explaining he saw his own brother experience a similar late-life epiphany before he died a few years ago.


"He was telling me how great life was and I was saying: 'Yeah, but, you know, this could have happened like 20 years ago. It just took you a long time to get here, but it's all been here.'"

Another lesson the film imparts is how people should be kind to themselves.

"We have to recognize that we do grow and change," Hudson said. "You have to allow yourself the space to forgive and to move forward."

Champions marks a reunion for Hudson and Harrelson who previously worked together on the 1994 comedy, The Cowboy Way.

"I have great memories. I loved working on the movie and Woody and I formed a friendship that has lasted," Hudson said.

"I have so much respect for what he has done with his career and how he has stayed true to himself," he added.

"Woody is very genuine. I think when you are very accomplished and comfortable with yourself, there is a tolerance that allows other people to be who they are and Woody has that. He's not trying to get everyone to agree with his opinions. He comes to do the work and he is there 100 percent."

While many people Hudson's age are thinking about retirement, the actor's schedule remains jam-packed with film and TV projects, including a rumored appearance in the next Ghostbusters installment.


There's a simple reason for that: Hudson's still having fun.

"I can't control what's coming, but I am enjoying this journey," he said.

"I'm so thankful that I chose this profession, that I allowed myself to embrace what I love because there was a lot of pressure to do other things," he added.

"I'm so looking forward to what happens next. That's maybe the most fun about what I do -- the next project will be with different people, a different role, a different story, a different location and that's really exciting for me."

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