Former Ghostbusters actor Ernie Hudson voices government liaison Agent Fowler in Transformers Prime, the award winning animated series on The Hub Network.
After co-starring in two Ghostbusters films as one of the Ghostbusters crew, Ernie Hudson has gone on to carve out a stellar career in film and television. Hudson played the simple-minded handyman Solomon in the box-office hit The Hand that Rocks the Cradle before his seven season stint as Warden Glynn in the critically acclaimed HBO series Oz. In a career that spans four decades, Hudson has been one of the most successful working actors in the business.
In 2011, Ernie Hudson took on the voice role of government liaison Agent Fowler in The Hub Network series Transformers Prime, which went on mid-season hiatus last week. Along with Ernie Hudson, the Transformers Prime family includes a multitude of acting talent in Peter Cullen, Kevin Michael Richardson, Frank Welker, Josh Keaton, Steve Blum, and many more.
Following the mid-seaon break of Transformers Prime, The Deadbolt went one-on-one with Ernie Hudson for an exclusive chat about his animated role as Agent Fowler, working within the Transformers franchise, the appeal of the series, his involvement in a potential third Ghostbusters movie, and Hudson’s thoughts on why Ghostbusters 3 has taken so long.
THE DEADBOLT: So, who’s in better shape, you or Agent Fowler?
ERNIE HUDSON: I’d like to think that I’m in better shape. But certainly I have what you need in Hollywood, I look like I’m in better shape. So that’s all that really matters. He’s probably in better shape than I am, but I love Fowler and his intensity.
THE DEADBOLT: What do you like about voicing a guy like Fowler?
HUDSON: I like when you look around and see people that appear to be different. I like finding that common denominator, what his role is and what his perspective is, because it’s very different than my own. I like discovering his humanity and the things that he believes in. Fowler is probably from a different political party than I am, but I like the discovery of, who is this guy and why is he this way?
The writers are the ones who reveal it to us little by little, but I like him. I like his spirit. I like bringing that passion in the voice. I can turn up the gears when I’m working, but when I’m not working I tend to have things very much in the low mode. I never quite get to that high place, but Fowler does very quickly. I like that.
THE DEADBOLT: When you first got involved with the show, what really sold you on the potential of the series?
HUDSON: Well, first, it was very cool to land a role in Transformers Prime because my kids have always been big fans of the franchise. It was cool and it was a job and I didn’t think much about it. But when I went to the first session and I met all of the people involved, especially the cast, they were all people that I’d heard of through my kids.
My youngest son is a huge Transformers fan and he had told me about Frank [Welker] and Peter [Cullen] and gave me information on them. And I was really surprised. I was like, really? As an actor, a lot of that is just voice over stuff. But when I met them and got a chance to play with them, I just thought it was really special when I heard the voices.
Unlike another animated series I did years ago, we didn’t come together and we did it at different times. That’s what great about about this show, it feels like family when I’m there. But when we got through the first episode that I did, I just thought it was really cool and something very special.
THE DEADBOLT: How long are you guys on hiatus for?
HUDSON: You know, I’m not sure. I’ll wait to hear. I think maybe about six months or so, but I’m not sure.
THE DEADBOLT: Why do you think the show has become so successful?
HUDSON: Success is always so hard to figure out as to why people went this way as opposed to that way. I watch the show, my kids watch the show, and my grandkids watch the show. For me, I love the fact that the Autobots are really there for the humans, for the planet. We’ve got this evil force that we all subconsciously believe is going to happen someday. Somebody from outer space, another planet, the Dead Zone is going to come and try to eat us all. But you want to believe that there’s someone looking out that has a little more power than we have.
The relationships, not just the Autobots but also Megatron and the other guys, I like the relationships. I think that’s what separates it from being just a bunch of machines doing what they do. You feel like you know them. It’s interesting to see from their perspectives how they deal with things. At the end of the day, I guess all that says is that I think the show is very well written. When you get good story, that’s the basis for all of it. For an actor or director, writer or producer, whatever the position, we’re storytellers. These are very well written scripts.
And the animation is beyond anything I could have ever imagined. When I went into my first session and met everyone, I really felt that. When I visited the studio and saw the animation they were putting together, it was like watching a film, which I had never really seen before. I just think it’s amazing. It’s nice to be able to say that and really mean it as opposed to saying it just to be nice. I’m just very impressed with all of the effort. You can tell the care is there. This is really well done. I don’t watch a lot of animated stuff, but just the look is incomparable. I’m very lucky to be a part of it.
THE DEADBOLT: How do you relate to the relationship between Fowler and Prime?
HUDSON: Well, these guys who are bigger than life could step on him and squash him in a moment, but his ego is big enough that he can be on top of them. Prime is in charge, but dammit, I’m in charge, too! He can keep the situation contained. His spirit is big enough to get in his face and be heard. So, he doesn’t back down. Fowler, he’s not intimidated. Now if he was working with Megatron, he might have a problem. But Prime is just kind enough to put up with Fowler. I think they both hold their own and Fowler certainly doesn’t feel inferior in any way. When the opportunity comes to get out there and mix it up with all he has, he puts it into it.
THE DEADBOLT: With Agent Fowler and your role on Secret Life of the American Teenager, what’s it like to have a younger fan base at this stage in your career?
HUDSON: Secret Life is interesting because a lot of teenage girls are huge fans of that show. So wherever I go now, I see a lot of young kids, 11, 12 or 13, and a younger fan base. And with Transformers as well, my grandkids love the show. It’s nice.
But we live out stories and we find ourselves in all of these stories. Some of them even touch us in ways that go beyond our consciousness. It’s nice to know that they’re tuning in and paying attention. And what I love about Transformers is that at the end of the day, it’s very human. I think love always sort of wins.
I don’t want to get too New Age, but the fact that someone cares enough to look out for us is very important. It’s very important for young people to believe and know that because it’s so easy to get cynical and just give up. In a way, it inspires hope. I don’t think that’s necessarily the only intention of the creators, but I think that’s what comes out of it. I think that’s what a lot of young people respond to.
THE DEADBOLT: How bad do you want Ghostbusters 3 to happen so you can stop answering all of the questions about it?
HUDSON: Ghostbusters 3, I don’t know how bad. It’s something that I’ve done, it’s over, and I’m good with that. I’m fine. I’m very happy to have been a part of it and I’m very proud of it. If it happened again, I’d be very disappointed if I wasn’t included. I’d love to do another one if everybody’s up to doing it. But I would not like to do another one if there’s going to be a lot of confusion.
It was a great experience, like doing Transformers Prime where we’re all putting 100 percent in and everybody’s happy and I want to be there. But if it’s anything less than that, I’d just as soon not do it. I think the fans deserve the best we’ve got. If it’s not a good script and it’s just not good, what’s the point? I’d rather not see something bad. I think it holds up the way it is.
But sure, I’d love to. The guys, the three guys, they’re the best at what they do. I’d love to have a chance to work with them again, but only if it’s going to be the best we’ve got.
THE DEADBOLT: What do you see as the biggest hurdle to getting it made?
HUDSON: You know, it’s very hard because I’m not part of the creative team. I’m not one of the guys making comments on the script. I’m the last guy they come to and go, “Ernie, are you on?” So, I have no idea. I’ve known what I’ve heard rumors of but I don’t know if that’s true. I don’t know why. I don’t know why it would take 20 plus years to make a sequel when the fans are screaming they want it. That’s beyond me.
But there’s so much in this industry that I’ve reached a point in life where I have to admit, I don’t get it. I don’t understand. I mean, it ain’t that hard. We’re making a movie. I don’t know why it would be that difficult. But apparently, it is. Nobody has called me up and shared it with me.
I’ve talked to everyone involved and everybody has said to me at least that they want it to happen. But I have no idea why. I don’t know if it’s money or who knows what. But I can guarantee you it’s not me. Thankfully, until they can figure it out, I’ve got Transformers Prime to go to and have fun with these other great people. I’ve always been blessed as an actor to have had someplace else to be.
But I’d love to see it happen. I have so much respect for the fans of Ghostbusters. You talk about loyalty and keeping a franchise alive without any help from the studio, these guys are amazing! No matter where I go in the world, guys show up in their Ghostbusters outfits with the backpacks and Ectomobiles that they personally spent their money on to make. I’ve just got so much respect for the fans. It’s great to see how that happens over 20 plus years. It’s also great to see Transformers Prime just getting in because I see the same type of enthusiasm with the fans. That’s really cool.
THE DEADBOLT: I hear you’re interested in making a project about boxer Jack Johnson. Is that true?
HUDSON: That’s my passion. I did The Great White Hope back in the 1970s and it changed my life. I’ve always sort of related to this guy in a sense that I don’t think he got a fair shake in history. He was an extraordinary man. My thing now is bringing his story and telling it because I think it’s so relevant for today. So that’s where my passion is.
When I’m not acting, that’s my 100 percent of everything I’ve got in telling this story. Hopefully in a few months we’ll get it up and see what happens. You never know what’s going to happen but I do want to tell that story. It’s probably the most important thing to me right now.