Chicago holds a special place in the heart of veteran actor Ernie Hudson, who will continue as Lily Tomlin’s love interest when the second season of “Grace and Frankie” launches Friday on Netflix.
“When I think of Chicago, the first thing that comes to mind is that this is where I got my Actor’s Equity card, when I came here from Michigan in the mid-1960s,” said the actor, sitting in a quiet corner of the Nico Osteria in the Thompson Hotel on the city’s Gold Coast. “I also remember being so in awe of the whole big-city thing.”
Best known as one of the paranormal investigators in the 1984 classic “Ghostbusters” and its sequel, Hudson has some inside knowledge about the much-anticipated new “Ghostbusters” film, coming in July and featuring an all-female team of ghostbusters played by Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig, Kate McKinnon and Leslie Jones.
“I’m not really allowed to talk about it too much, but I can confirm that I’m in it,” said Hudson, adding, “I can confirm that I’m not a ghostbuster.”
The actor clearly loved the quartet of women comics who have stepped into the roles made famous by the late Harold Ramis, Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd and Hudson himself.
“By the time I got to the set, I could tell the girls had developed the kind of chemistry and relationship that reminded me of the way it was between us back on the first two films. They are not copying what we did — and that’s fine, they need to do their own thing — but there’s a similar sense of fun on that set that we had on ours, back in the day.”
Until he got to the new “Ghostbusters” set, Hudson said, “I hadn’t met any of [the key actresses] and they were so respectful of me. Suddenly it made me aware, ‘Of course! I’m the old guy here from the original film!’ It was kind of funny, because when I worked on the first ‘Ghostbusters,’ Harold [Ramis] was the guy who took me under his wing and mentored me in the ways of big Hollywood filmmaking.
“Everything goes full circle, doesn’t it?”
Hudson is hopeful that the new female “Ghostbusters” will live up to Ramis’ standards. “The very last conversation I had with Harold was about the idea of a new ‘Ghostbusters.’ He kept saying, ‘It has to be right. It has to be perfect.’ … I’m hoping they achieve that with this one.”
As for his other big gig, “Grace and Frankie,” Hudson is happy with the soon-to-launch second season — and the fact that shooting already is under way for the third season.
“I think everyone has found their groove now. … I have a lot of fun. I love being Lily Tomlin’s love interest, but originally I was supposed to be Jane Fonda’s boyfriend. … They they told me, ‘We’re going in a different direction. You’re going to be Lily’s love interest.’
“That was fine with me, but I had been working on thinking of Jane Fonda and getting into a ‘Barbarella’ connection,” said Hudson with a huge laugh. “With Lily I have to go in a completely different way. There’s no ‘Barbarella’ factor there!
“But once I met Lily and began working with her, we immediately clicked. She’s so down-to-earth and funny and smart and kind. It was not hard to fall in love with her — both on set and off set as well!”
Speaking of Tomlin, Hudson shared a favorite scene he loved from her “Grandma” film last year. “It was the one where she goes to old boyfriend Sam Elliott to get money to give to her granddaughter to get an abortion. First Sam’s character agrees to give it to her, but then changes his mind and refuses.
“Lily tries to cajole him into giving it to her, saying, ‘Look, I make a mistake, I’m sorry,’ because she walked out on him.
“Sam’s character then says, ‘You didn’t make a mistake, you make a choice.’ … I loved that scene and that line and all that represented,” said Hudson.
“And guess what? Now Sam’s on ‘Frankie and Grace’ and he’s the one they tapped to be Jane Fonda’s love interest.
“Wonder if he’s thinking about her in ‘Barbarella,’ ” Hudson said with a wink.
Hudson was in Chicago for some time late this winter, shooting a Fox TV pilot tentatively titled “APB,” a crime drama produced by the same folks behind the hit Fox series “Empire,” also filmed in the Chicago area.
“Hopefully, it will go to series and be shot here,” said Hudson. “It’s a different kind of thing. It’s a police drama set in the future. Privatizing has been taken to a new level. A tech billionaire takes over the police department, which obviously causes a bunch of conflicts with the rank and file, but it also provides the police with all kinds of super technology. It provides for a new ballgame where the cops have tools equal to the criminals to fight them.
“In the show I play a grumpy sergeant, but I’m hoping to find out the background for why I’m grumpy all the time. I was told that my character ‘has a face that looks like a three-car pileup.’
“That made me think, ‘I guess I don’t see myself the way other people see me,’ ” said Hudson with a huge chuckle.
Clearly they must give the actor a lot of makeup work before he shoots any scenes. A ‘three-car pileup’ is about the last way you’d describe the Michigan native’s handsome demeanor.