'Champions' Star Ernie Hudson on Why Working on Basketball Film Was 'Exciting' (Exclusive)

Ernie Hudson stars in the film Champions, which is out on digital now and will be released on Blu-ray and DVD on May 2. And while the 77-year-old actor has done a lot of work on film and TV over the years, working on Champions was enjoyable for him for different reasons. PopCulture.com spoke exclusively to Hudson who explained what drew him to Champions

"Well, I've done a lot of work over the last 50-plus years, and Woody Harrelson and I, we did a movie called The Cowboy Way about 30 years ago," Hudson exclusively told PopCulure. "Bobby Farrelly, I hadn't worked with, but I love his work. But I read the script about a special needs team of players. It was really exciting because I felt that that community has been so underrepresented in film and TV and even, I think, in society in general."

In Champions, Hudson plays Phil, a minor league basketball coach who works with Marcus (Harrelson) before he was let go for shoving him and being arrested for hitting a cop car. Marcus becomes a coach for a basketball team that has players with learning disabilities and goes to Phil for advice throughout the movie. 

When talking about his role, Hudson mentioned he always had respect for coaches and athletes despite not being great at sports growing up. "As a kid, I was very good in athletics, but I never felt that it was a place for me, only because I felt that the people who try to encourage me to participate was interested in me because I was Black," Hudson said. "That's how it felt to me. Now, I'm older now and realize it was more to it than that, but I just felt because I'm Black, and the school system that I was in, which is in Michigan, they made a deliberate attempt to separate the Black kids and did not involve us in a lot of things except for sports. And so that, it was just very personal to me."

As Hudson mentioned, he and Harrelson worked on the film called The Cowboy Way in 1994. And now that they are working together again, it would not be surprising to see the two reunite for more projects in the future. "It's very hard for me to imagine anybody not liking Woody," Hudson said. "He's just a really great guy, but he is really uniquely individual. I mean, he is definitely Woody, but he just has a great spirit. And even watching him connect with the disabled people in the film, because when the director would say cut, unlike a lot of actors, he didn't just retreat to his trailer. He would actually spend time hanging out with him, really got to know everyone really well. And I felt that it was that sort of interaction and acceptance that made everybody feel like they were a part of the team and just took their edge away, so their performances are really, truly amazing." 

Champions home entertainment release special "Collector's Edition" features all-new, exclusive never-before-seen bonus content including 12 hilarious deleted scenes.