Since his career first took off in the 1980s, actor and icon Ernie Hudson has built one of the most enthralling and varied careers in Hollywood. Consistently performing in both film and television with roles that push boundaries and genres, Hudson’s sweeping likeability edges him into performances audiences love, and his latest in BET’s The Family Business is looking to once again reframe the actor.
Speaking exclusively to PopCulture.com about his new eight-part series following an upstanding family who lives a dangerous secret life, Hudson is excited about the New York Times bestseller’s adaptation to TV not just because he’s starring as family patriarch, L.C. Duncan, but he’s also taking charge as executive producer for one very important reason.
“I was blown away by the whole family dynamic,” Hudson said upon first reading the script. “I really wanted to be a part of bringing this to the screen, which is why I sort of took on the title of executive producer even though I’m not actually doing the real producing work — I wanted to do anything that I could to make sure the story gets told.”
The 72-year-old, who is also best known for his role in the Ghostbusters franchise, says as an actor he’s done a lot of supporting work over the years that fans have been loyal to, but has never been involved in how that story is illustrated — until now with The Family Business.
“This is a story that I really was passionate about and that I wanted to tell because of the family dynamics [and] in a sense it’s The Godfather with a black family,” he said. “It’s not a black story, but it’s about a family that happens to be black and they own the largest exotic car dealership in the country. But they also have some other activities that aren’t exactly legal.”
With Hudson commanding a stellar cast, including the likes of Valarie Pettiford (Tyler Perry’s House of Payne), Armand Assante (HBO’s Gotti) and Emilio Rivera (Mayans M.C.), The Family Business follows the Duncan family from Jamaica, Queens in New York City who must navigate growing tensions around them that involve the mafia, drug cartels and corrupt politicians.
With a warm humbleness, Hudson adds he has been “blessed to work with some really great people from the beginning” of his career and this one is no different.
“This cast is definitely one of the best casts I’ve ever worked with. The people playing my children are so amazing and interesting,” he laughs. “[Between] Armand and Valarie, these are all veteran actors who’ve been around for a long time.”
As a lover of film, TV and theatre, Hudson said he truly admires their work, but to get the chance to play with them while bringing to life Weber’s characters is a real pleasure.
“It is a certain integrity, I think, the truth of Carl Weber’s writing, the dialogue — to be with actors who also know how to interpret and bring that to the screen has been really amazing,” he said. “I just think it’s a great cast.”
Sharing how the show is fundamentally about a father and his four children, Hudson values how unique the story is as well in today’s social climate.
“It’s that whole, how do you protect your family, hold your family together, how do you build a legacy that you can pass on for generations,” Hudson said. “That’s what the story is about [and] I think it’s important.”
While the series was initially divided into two movies, Hudson said upon screening them, he felt turning it into an eight-part series provided a better, “more complete story” that would allow viewers a more rounder look at the family.
“I want to leave something [with] that fans could go, ‘Oh okay,’” he said of the legacy he hopes to leave behind. “Now, I have Ghostbusters and The Crow and Oz, and a few things that still resonate with people, but I wanted something that people would really, really enjoy.”
While some have drawn comparisons to The Godfather or even The Sopranos, Hudson says they are all “richly different” families.
“Truth of the matter is we’re not like anybody else. None of us are,” he said with a laugh. “Every family is uniquely different. This guy that I play, L.C. Duncan, who kind of came up really rough [and] it was most important for him to build a family, be a father.”
However, Hudson adds that in the same way they are different, there are “two things at play.”
“We’re all the same and yet, we’re all uniquely different and both of those things are true,” he said. “This is a specific group of people in how they survive and how they deal with crises and how they still hold that bond together, I think is one of the big issues in our country right now is how do we leave a better world for our children? And that’s a real challenge now because I’m not sure we’re doing that.”
With the episodes airing every Tuesday on BET, Hudson teases fans on what they can expect each week.
“Expect the unexpected. You know, it’s one thing to say, ‘I love my children,’ but when the children are so uniquely their own person…” Hudson laughed. “How do you hold that family, how do you still keep the love, and how do you control the disappointment, the anger, the frustration, all that stuff. When you build something, how do you keep people from trying to come in and take it over? So, all of that, I think people can relate to.”
Hudson shared that seeing this family and everything that goes into their lives will also add some incredible drama to the dynamics.
“We see these people, we see what they do [and] it’s very hard sometimes to understand why but we can see what goes into those choices,” he said. “[And] having to live with those consequences, I think that’s what you’ll see in this family.”0comments
The Family Business airs every Tuesday at 9 p.m. ET on BET.
Stay tuned to PopCulture.com for more on Ernie Hudson’s new series, along with his Ghostbusters legacy and upcoming role in L.A’s Finest.