When Ernie Hudson Lost a Role in ‘The Real Ghostbusters’ Cartoon for Not Sounding Enough Like Ernie Hudson

“I went in to read the material, and the guy said, ‘No, no, no, that’s all wrong! When Ernie Hudson did it in the movie…’ And I’m like, ‘Well, wait a minute: I am Ernie Hudson!’”

Erne Hudson at the 'Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire' premiere.
Erne Hudson at the 'Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire' premiere. / Dave Benett/GettyImages

Ernie Hudson’s involvement in the Ghostbusters franchise spans 40 years, from his introduction as blue-collar hire Winston Zeddemore in the 1984 original to 2024’s legacy sequel Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire. Oddly, one corner of Ghostbusters universe that Hudson was unable to occupy was The Real Ghostbusters, a popular animated series that ran from 1986 to 1991.

It wasn’t for lack of trying. Hudson, despite originating the role of Winston, was asked to audition for the cartoon. And he still didn’t get it.

The Real Ghostbusters was an attempt to keep the Ghostbusters brand thriving between live-action films and featured the characters from the original, including Drs. Ray Stantz, Peter Venkman, and Egon Spengler, plus Zeddemore. While Dan Aykroyd, Bill Murray, and Harold Ramis were all unable or unwilling to reprise their roles for the series, Hudson was amenable to it. The actor was even gracious enough to agree to audition for the show’s director, despite the fact he had already demonstrated his ability in the role in the two-hour audition tape that was 1984’s Ghostbusters.

In a 2012 interview with The A.V. Club, Hudson elaborated on the bizarre situation: “I went in to read the material, and the guy said, ‘No, no, no, that’s all wrong! When Ernie Hudson did it in the movie…’ And I’m like, ‘Well, wait a minute: I am Ernie Hudson!’”

Hudson left the audition with reassurance that it was just a formality. But when he didn’t hear any further word, he started to figure maybe it wasn’t a sure thing. Eventually, he discovered he had been effectively replaced—by actor and stand-up comic Arsenio Hall.

“Then I found out that Arsenio [Hall] was doing it. I was very busy doing other stuff, but I was really disappointed because the thought of someone else doing Winston was not something I felt great about. Arsenio’s a friend, so there’s no disrespect to him. But they had me come in and read, and even though they said I wasn’t auditioning, I dunno, I guess I was just there to have the director get on my nerves. Who knows what happened there? Whatever the case, I didn’t get the part. Unfortunately.”

In the 2021 book A Convenient Parallel Dimension: How Ghostbusters Slimed Us Forever, author James Greene Jr. quoted casting director Marsha Goodman as feeling bad about the Hudson debacle. “It wasn’t a matter of liking Ernie’s reading,” she said. “I felt terrible. He’s a wonderful actor. The producers said, ‘Use Arsenio. He’s funnier, he’s sillier.’”

That wasn't the only peculiar creative decision to come out of The Real Ghostbusters. For a time, executives at ABC were convinced the Ray Stantz character was extraneous and tried to persuade producers to write him out of the show. The network was also concerned about how pointed and angular the glasses worn by Janine Melnitz were and asked they be depicted more round. The reason? They felt kids were scared by sharp-looking objects.

Hudson returned to the role of Winston for 1989’s Ghostbusters II as well as Ghostbusters video games. In 2021, he appeared in Ghostbusters: Afterlife along with the other core surviving cast members; Winston’s role was expanded in 2024’s Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire.

In 2022, Netflix announced plans to pursue a new Ghostbusters animated series, though at this point it’s not clear whether it will follow the live-action continuity or feature a new ghostbusting team. If Winston Zeddemore appears, hopefully Hudson can skip the audition.

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