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Ernie Hudson On The Quantum Leap Revival, Ghostbusters, And The Crow - Exclusive Interview

"Who you gonna call?" Everybody knows that catchphrase made famous by the original 1984 film "Ghostbusters," but only a select few can actually answer.

When you think of the Ghostbusters, four names instantly come to mind: Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Harold Ramis, and Ernie Hudson, who shot to fame playing hired hand Winston Zeddemore. It's a role that has defined Hudson's career, although his acting résumé offers so much more.

Outside of starring in the first two "Ghostbusters" films and making guest appearances in the franchise's more recent reboots, Hudson has starred in films such as "The Crow" and "Miss Congeniality" and on TV series including "Oz," "Modern Family," and the 2022 revival of the cult-hit series "Quantum Leap," which airs Monday nights on NBC.

On "Quantum Leap," Hudson plays Herbert "Magic" Williams, head of the Quantum Leap time travel project and a Vietnam War veteran that briefly appeared on the original series. The revival takes place 30 years after Dr. Sam Beckett (played by Scott Bakula) vanished into the Quantum Leap accelerator and follows a whole new set of scientists working on the project, including Dr. Ben Song (Raymond Lee), who also finds himself stuck in the past and leaping into the bodies of different people.

During an exclusive interview with Looper, Hudson talked about working on the new "Quantum Leap" and looked back on his time in "Ghostbusters" and "The Crow."

Quantum Leap offers a lot of 'thought-provoking' storylines

What's it like being part of the revival of such an iconic cult-hit show like "Quantum Leap"?

It's one of those things where I had watched the original with my sons, and we would have discussions about it. I love the idea of quantum ... Is it possible to time travel? If it was, what would that mean? All those questions that series kind of evoked.

When they said they were doing this new [series] 30 years later, I was really excited about it and excited to have a show that families could watch and be in whatever political divide and still have a conversation about it. It's one of those things I felt was really thought-provoking and could appeal to a lot of people around the world, and not many shows have that.

You mentioned watching the original back in the day. I'm wondering how you feel about the somewhat controversial ending? They didn't know if the show was getting renewed, so they shot this ambiguous Season 5 ending and then tacked on some title cards to try to wrap things up when the series got cancelled, leaving Scott Bakula's character lost in time forever.

That was controversial, and I went, "Really? What?" It raised more questions. How do you leave somebody out in the ether somewhere, and why? [It's] one of the things that, when we decided to do the new "Quantum Leap" 30 years later ... technology has improved. For my character, who had been leaped into back in the day in Vietnam, that's one of the things that bothers him the most is that we left this guy hanging out there. Is he still out there? Can we retrieve him? How can we fix this?

Hopefully, this new series will address that. I don't know how Scott Bakula feels about that, but I would love to see that addressed in a real way. Even if he can't make an appearance, at least explain what happened to him. That was always interesting and unsatisfying for me, but fans still love the show.

Hudson enjoys playing a 'complicated character'

Speaking of Scott, he was in talks at one point to star on the new series but ultimately passed. Hopefully he comes back and makes an appearance. If so, what would be your dream scenario with him?

Well, my character had this troubling experience where he saves his platoon, he gets a lot of credit and he's commended for it, but he doesn't remember it. He doesn't know what the hell happened, and it has created this weird space in his life. Then, as he moves up in the military, he finds out what happened to him and that this guy [Dr. Sam Beckett] actually saved his life. 

It's not a question that without that, he would've died. He feels a sense of obligation, a sense of "I owe you." To shut this program off without bringing [Beckett] back feels like a little bit of a betrayal. He's committed to making that happen and getting a chance to say "thank you" for being a part of this thing. It's important for me, too.

That's the driving force. When my own doctor, Dr. Ben Song, decides to take it upon himself to leave without permission, that complicates everything and jeopardizes everything that Magic's been working so hard on. Whereas Sam Beckett was at the front of the importance, I've got to get this other guy back here before the whole thing falls apart.

What's been your favorite leap so far in this series?

A couple. I love the Halloween episode. That was fun, the way they committed to it. I also loved the one with the earthquake, where we learned a little bit about Ben Song's relationship with his mother. That was very personal, and we got to see the individuals as opposed to the leap itself. I like those two the best.

What's your favorite part of stepping into Magic's shoes?

When I first came aboard, I was concerned about not wanting to be that guy who he leads by barking orders at everybody. You don't see his humanity then.

He struggles with things, and I want to see that he struggles with things. He has a relationship with these people that is both boss and friend. It is a complicated character, and I wanted to see that on screen, because sometimes, writers don't always include that or feel it's necessary, especially since the show is really about the leaps primarily. 

Thankfully, they've assured me that Magic has a history, and as we move forward, we'll find out more about him. It's about being able to establish these relationships with these different team members and to show that he has compassion, even though if he has to demand certain things, he's capable of doing that as well.

He would love to go back in time and meet his parents

Did you go back and watch the original series before taking on this role, particularly the one where your character shows up back in the day?

I didn't watch every episode, but I was well aware of the original series, and I would watch it with my kids, and it was always included good things to talk about and discuss — "What if?" and all that. Once I got the role and realized who Magic was, I went back and watched [his episode] and some other episodes too. I had to go back and at least see my involvement and how he got from there to now. 

It's been more than 40 years in his world. That was very helpful to see how it has impacted his life and his relationships, his decision to become a career military man and all those things. It opened the door to a lot of different possibilities that I was excited about.

What's the coolest part of stepping onto the "Quantum Leap" set?

I love that the set they built is a brand-new stage at Universal. Nobody's ever shot there before. I love the cast that I work with — very talented and committed. I love when people are committed to doing their best work. Everybody, the writers, the crew, is wanting to do the best show. Over the years, I've worked with people who aren't so committed. That can be a little bit challenging sometimes, but that's not the case here.

When we shot the pilot up in Vancouver, we had time to bond together, being away from home, and I have so much love and respect for them. Being on the set and seeing everybody come together and putting their best foot forward and being able to watch the show and see that it shows up on screen, that's very special.

You've touched on it a little bit, about thinking about time travel. Do you believe in time travel, and if you could travel back to any time in your life or culturally significant era, when would it be?

As a species, we spend most of our days trying to time travel. We look back and think about how that should have gone or if we could do it over again 10 years later — making a phone call, thinking if we can only go back and clean that up, the future will be different. The idea of time travel is fascinating. Quantum physics, it's interesting. I look at American history and the more I've learned, the more I go, "I don't know if I want to go back there."

I never knew my mom and dad. I never met them for various reasons, but I know that they existed because I'm here. I know they got together. I'd be very curious to go back to the 1940s [and meet them] — not be in [the body of] either one of them, no, but I'd love to be a good friend who was around to see how that came together. Whatever happened still impacts my life now, who I am, and the decisions I make. All of that stuff, it's in us. I have got so many unanswered questions, so I would really be curious to witness that.

He's 'proud' to have been part of the original Ghostbusters

Speaking of going back in time, I wouldn't be doing my job if I didn't ask you about the "Ghostbusters" franchise, of which the original is one of my all-time favorite movies. Can you reflect back on that time in your life and what Winston Zeddemore means to you?

I'm so thankful because I've done a lot of work over the years, I've been doing this now for over 55 years, and to have one film in my list of credits that people still love ... Every Halloween, I get pictures from kids all over the world in their Ghostbuster jumpsuits, and it is very special.

I knew, working with the people that I worked with, I felt the film would do well, but I had no idea that almost 40 years later, we'd be having a conversation about it. I'm very proud to have been a part of that.

There were so many issues that I had when we started, but over the years, I can't even remember what they were. I have love and appreciation, including for Jason Reitman, who did the last one, "Afterlife." I talked to him, and I know the studio is moving forward with another "Ghostbusters," and that's very special. I never assume anything in this business. I haven't negotiated anything, but I'm assuming that I'll be involved and they'll be kind. I'm excited and so thankful to be a part of that.

"Quantum Leap" has that potential to reach that vast audience that can cross generations. The fans have been very loyal. I did a podcast a couple weeks ago, "The Quantum Leap Podcast." I thought the studio had put it together because we have the show but no, they've been doing this podcast for over 10 years. [That's a testament to] the fact people love the series so much. I'm very thankful to have been a part of "Ghostbusters."

He felt a 'spiritual' connection to Ghostbusters: Afterlife

You mentioned "Afterlife." What was it like reuniting with the original cast of "Ghostbusters" in that?

When you work in the business, like with this cast, you get to know each other fairly well and get to spend some time together — dinners, drinks, you get to hang out a little bit. Filming is over, and then you probably won't see each other ... over the years, the "Ghostbusters" crew, we've come in contact. I love them all. I consider them all friends.

After about 15 years, I got past the belief that we'd ever get back together again. It wasn't happening for whatever reason, which I never really understood. Then, I get a call from Jason saying that we were doing "Afterlife," but I still didn't believe that it was actually going to come together. Finally ... I got on the set and the first thing I had to do was put on the jumpsuit, and I walked out and Bill Murray and Dan Aykroyd were in their jumpsuits. It all came flooding back and felt like however many years ago.

It was a spiritual thing. I was very moved by it. I saw Sigourney Weaver and Annie Potts, and I felt so blessed and thankful to have been around to see what impact the film has had and so thankful that we all came together to do something that fans really appreciate. Through the different conventions and all, I've met a lot of people, and you hear stories of how it impacted their lives.

I was getting gas a few years back, filling my car up, and a car drove by. He did a U-turn and came back and thanked me because I had signed a photo for his son five years earlier. The son, who had been in and out of trouble, was not doing well in school and on a [bad] track. I signed the picture, and I told him something about the importance of studying hard and that being a Ghostbuster meant that if you study hard, you could be anything you wanted to be — something to the effect.

At any rate, the kid hung the photo up on his mirror in his bedroom and turned his life around. [By then] the kid was in college, and the dad was so thankful. It's how we impact each other's lives, and that movie has resonated all over the world.

Yesterday, in fact, I was watching "World News Tonight" — or it might have been "[Last Week Tonight with] John Oliver" — but they were in Ukraine, and there was a soldier who had survived an attack. All he was able to save was his guitar, and he said, "I'm so glad." He had his guitar and he started playing the "Ghostbusters" song, singing "Ghostbusters." That is very humbling and very touching.

He still has his original jumpsuit from Ghostbusters

This past Halloween, I played some Halloween songs on Alexa for my 4-year-old son and the "Ghostbusters" theme song came on, and he loved it. The next generation of "Ghostbusters" fans are coming up...

It's very special, and I'm very thankful to be a part of it. Hopefully, the next film will be really good and people enjoy it.

Do you have any cool souvenirs or keepsakes you still have from either the original or the sequel?

I have my jumpsuits from each of the movies. I have an incredible backpack that one of the fans made for me. It's actually cooler than the backpacks we had in the movie. I've seen some amazing backpacks. Most of the stuff I have is from fans who make stuff and give to me. I have all my original jumpsuits. I wasn't going to take it...

I remember on the first movie, it was the last day, and I was getting ready to leave and Harold Ramis says, "You going to take your jumpsuit?" I said, "I didn't know we could." He said, "Ernie, we're the Ghostbusters. Take the suit." I have my jumpsuits. I had a chance to buy an Ectomobile, but I thought, "I'm not going to own an Ectomobile." [Laughs.]

He believes The Crow franchise ended with Brandon Lee

Outside of "Ghostbusters," you were also in one of my other all-time favorite movies, "The Crow," which is getting a reboot, starring Bill Skarsgard. What are your thoughts on that, and what was it like working on the original?

I love Brandon [Lee]. I met Brandon about six years before we did the movie. I was shooting a television series in Vancouver with Miguel Ferrer, and Miguel and Brandon were friends from L.A. Brandon had just flown in from China, where he had worked, and he stopped by and hung out for about eight days. I got to know him fairly well, and I really liked him. I thought he was a very nice young man.

When I got a call about "The Crow," Brandon had requested me. I loved the script, and I saw [director] Alex Proyas' reel and thought, "This guy's really talented." Working on that was really, really special.

When the accident happened — I guess I can call it an accident — it was unworldly. It was very hard to process. I still have a hard time processing it.

Unlike "Ghostbusters" that seems to cross generations, "The Crow" is a period in people's lives, like their teens or 20s, when they can relate to it — not little kids, not old people, but it's a period for people who are going through that. When they decide to make another "Crow" ... For me, "The Crow" ended with Brandon Lee. He was The Crow. I'm done.

I got a call once about ["The Crow: Stairway to Heaven," which aired for one season], but I can't revisit it. It was hard enough to go back and finish it [after Lee died]. This is a business that's about money so, yeah, I'm not surprised. When Brandon died, that was it. Still, I'm thankful. He would have been proud of the movie. I know he had done a lot of movies that he didn't feel good about, so I'm glad he got a chance to do this movie.

It's a great movie, he's great in it, and it stands the test of time. 

They did a couple of other sequels that I didn't see. Like I said, it's a business, I understand that, but Brandon was The Crow, and that's it for me. I like Skarsgard. I like his stuff; he's a good actor. I'm sure if he can make it his own and not try to redo it, do something original with it, I'm sure it'll probably work.

They've been trying to get it off the ground for quite some time with a bunch of different people, and at one point, Mark Wahlberg was [offered the lead role].

God, no, I wouldn't want to see Mark as The Crow. I know Mark, I love him, but no.

He wishes he had nabbed a role in Black Panther

You've dipped your toe in the DC comics and Marvel universes by lending your voice to "Batman: Bad Blood" and the "Spider-Man" series, among other projects. Do you have a dream role within the DC Comics or Marvel universes you'd jump at the chance to do?

I thought at one point they were talking about me being the Black Panther's dad, or the fans were talking about it, at least. I don't know if anybody else was talking about it. I don't know why I haven't been [tapped for a larger role]. I'm like, "Hey, guys!" I keep raising my hand. "Hey, over here, it's me, it's Ernie."

I love comics. I grew up loving comics. I'd love to do it. I'm open to anything that would be fun to do. I'd love to be a part of it, but I'm past the stage of begging for a job. If they found something that was interesting, I'd love to be a part of it. You do those things because I have grandkids, I have great-grandkids, and those are things they'll watch for some time to come.

The first half of Season 1 of "Quantum Leap," including the fall finale, can be streamed on Peacock.

This interview has been edited for clarity.