NAACP Image Award nominee Ernie Hudson nominated in the category ‘Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series’ for his role on Netflix’s Grace and Frankie. Confesses: “I’m an underworld model…”
During my one-hour conversation with NAACP Image Award nominee Ernie Hudson, I laughed, a lot. Cliché or not, if laughter is the best medicine, then Hudson is a powerful healer.
Nominated this year for an NAACP Image Award in the category ‘Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series’ for playing the laid-back lover of Frankie (Lilly Tomlin) in Netflix’s Grace and Frankie but most audiences, around the world, remember him as one of the fearless paranormal spirit chasers in the now iconic film “Ghost Busters.”
In the industry for more than 40 years, Hudson has embodied a triple-digit number of characters, and at 72 years-young, is still looking for roles that will challenge him.
Here is an edited conversation with NAACP Image Award nominee, Ernie Hudson.
LOS ANGELES SENTINEL: Congratulations on your NAACP Image Award nomination. It’s in the category ‘Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series’ for your role on Netflix’s Grace and Frankie.
ERNIE HUDSON: Thank you. It’s nice that the NAACP Image Award committee noticed. I love Gracie and Frankie. It’s nice to be a part of this show like this. I’m such a fan of the actors that play main characters—Jane Fonda, Lilly Tomlin, Sam Waterston and Martin Sheen. So, when they asked me to come and be a part of it and give me a chance to play with them it was very cool.
LAS: Your character is confident. He knows who he is. I appreciate that about him. That character choice compliments Lilly’s high-strung character.
EH: I agree. It’s so easy to love and appreciate working with [actress] Lilly Tomlin. I can see why my character Jacob would fall in love with Frankie.
LAS: Frankie’s personality is unique but she reminds me of people that I know, you know?
EH: Agreed. You know my Aunt’s husband, his name was CJ, he was very much like the character that I play, Jacob. My Aunt was a little hard to “deal with” and looking back, watching their exchange, I would be thinking ‘dude, how do you deal with her?’
LAS: (laughing) I think we all have an Aunt and Uncle very much like that? So what was Uncle CJ’s response?
EH: (laughing) Well, he would say, with a slight stammer, ‘well that’s just your Aunt, you know?’ He just appreciated her for who she was. Hindsight being 20/20, I do think (now) there is a certain point in life that you just love, who you love. And your thankful that you can love.
LAS: True. It takes courage to love and be loved. Any negative blowback about the interracial aspect of the paring? You’re Black. Lilly is White and this is Trump’s America—sadly?
EH: The whole interracial thing? We have much more of that now in the media than when I was starting in the industry. When I began my career, this would never happen. Things have definitely changed. I am amazed because I travel all over the world and Black and White people have shared, with me, how much they appreciate this relationship as portrayed in Grace and Frankie.
LAS: Like many Americans having President Barack Obama in the White House for two consecutive terms, it gave me the impression that real progress was being made to heal the wounds of slavery and the genocide of indigenous people. Sadly, that’s not the case. Thoughts?
EH: I know exactly what you’re saying. I think a lot of us felt they same way and perhaps many still do. We wanted to believe that hate was behind us, even though in our hearts we knew that it was not. I think that we have to be aware but on the other hand, we have to let go.
LAS: Explain that a little bit more, please, Ernie.
EH: Well, if you become so aware it’s hard to forget. It’s hard to not be suspicious. It’s hard to not bring your own stuff into a situation or circumstance. But it is important to come together and work for the positive as opposed to fighting against the negative.
I also think that the NAACP has done that. Over the years they have asked the intelligent question, which lets ______________ find out what we want and let’s work on that.
LAS: So, the NAACP Image Awards is a good thing in your opinion?
EH: Yes, absolutely. When we come together and appreciate each other, that’s always a positive thing; a step in the right direction. That is what the NAACP Image Awards do. If we can just come together and love each other, that’s important. I do feel like [there’s] a lack of love but oddly enough, we blame the lack of love on other people not loving and appreciating our accomplishments. But the real reality is we haven’t loved and appreciated our own accomplishments.
LAS: I can’t agree more. It’s hard to hear. It’s hard to admit but it’s vital for growth.
EH: Recently, I was giving a speech and I said that it’s time for many of us to “go home.” Not necessarily to move back home but rather to go back to our communities and support those outreach programs and those people who could use our assistance.
LAS: Why do you think that’s important?
EH: Well, one of the downsides of the integration, is that we let go of ourselves. We sort of abandoned our neighborhoods. And the ones we left behind weren’t really equipped or prepared to manage those communities.
I appreciate that the NAACP attempts to acknowledge ourselves. They do the positive stuff.
LAS: Is this your first NAACP nomination?
EH: (laughing) Actually, no it’s been 40 years since my last nomination for the play “The Great White Hope” but it doesn’t matter when it comes; it’s nice to be acknowledged.
LAS: Netflix has ordered another season of Grace and Frankie? So what’s next? Any films on the horizon?
EH: Yes. On the film side, I recently finished “Family Business” and that’s based on Carl Weber’s New York Times best-selling novel.
LAS: Yes, I’ve been tracking the film. It’s directed by Trey Haley and the novel was published in 2012, and it launched eight books. The series chronicles the lives of the Duncan family and has sold over two million books. Congratulations!
EH: Thank you. The other film is also based on a book. Do you know it—”Nappily Ever After”?
LAS: “Nappily Ever After” by Trisha R. Thomas. Sanaa Lathan is the lead and I think she’s also a producer on the film. Didn’t it go to Netflix?
EH: Yes, she’s the lead and one of the producers. It’s directed by Haifaa Al-Mansour, she directed “Wadjda.”
LAS: What’s the film about, in your words—please.
EH: “Nappily Ever After” is about a girl named Violet Jones (Lathan), who appears to have a perfect life until the wrong beautician messes up her hair, causing things in her life to get very complicated.
LAS: What’s your role in “Nappily Ever After”?
EH: (laughing) I play her father who is an underwear model.
LAS: Repeat that???
EH: (laughing). I play an “underwear model” and my first impression was ‘wow, this is really kind of cool’ and then I realized that I might have to be in my underwear but it was fun.
LAS: Gosh. Well. I am definitely going to watch “Nappily Ever After”. I heard that Sanaa is a dream to work with as an actor, and as a producer.
EH: She is. She is. Sanaa is a lot of fun. I enjoy these type of roles. Did you see her haircut? That’s because of the film “Nappily Ever After”.
LAS: Anything you want to share in closing?
EH: (laughing) Happy Holidays. Happy New Year and…
EH: Let’s love each other.
Sanaa Lathan (@justsanaa) | Twitter
Ernie Hudson (@Ernie_Hudson) | Twitter
The NAACP Image Awards will air live on January 15, 2018, Martin Luther King Dr. Day