PLAYBILL.COM'S BRIEF ENCOUNTER With Ernie Hudson

Brief Encounter   PLAYBILL.COM'S BRIEF ENCOUNTER With Ernie Hudson Ernie Hudson's casting in the new revival of August Wilson's Joe Turner's Come and Gone makes more sense than you might think.
Ernie Hudson
Ernie Hudson

Though the world knows Hudson best for his roles in the "Ghostbusters" film series and the television drama "Oz," the Michigan native actually knew playwright Wilson before the theatre at large did. The two men got to know each other in the 1970s when both were at the beginning of their careers. While Wilson was alive, Hudson managed to take a role in one of his plays, a Minnesota production of King Hedley II. Now he's back, doing his first Broadway staging of a Wilson work, Joe Turner's Come and Gone. The Lincoln Center Theater production, staged at the Belasco, is directed by Bartlett Sher. Hudson talked to Playbill.com about Wilson experiences old and new.

Playbill.com: How did you come to be involved in the revival of Joe Turner's Come and Gone?
Ernie Hudson: Well, truthfully, I had been waiting to see if this television series I had been working on was going to happen. And it didn't. Then this offer came along and I thought, "Well, maybe it's time to do this."

Playbill.com: Have you ever done any August Wilson plays before?
EH: I did a production of King Hedley II at the Penumbra Theatre in Minneapolis. And I've seen a couple other of his plays, including Jitney and Two Trains Running, which I saw just recently. And a long time ago, when I was getting started and I was just starting to make a living as an actor, August wanted me to one of his early plays, Black Bart and the Sacred Hills.

Playbill.com: You knew Wilson as a young man? What was he like back then?
EH: He was a little guy with a lot of ambition. He talked a lot about Pittsburgh. We were in Minnesota and I was doing a play called The Great White Hope there. I liked him. I guess, not to my credit, I didn't pay much attention to his writing. We never got around to doing Black Bart.

Playbill.com: In New York, we have a sort of informal August Wilson repertory company, a group of actors who have appeared in many of his plays over the years. You have a couple of those actors in your cast there. Have you sometimes turned to them for advice on the material.
EH: Yeah, Roger Robinson is in the cast and he's done a couple of August's plays. And he's great. But, you know, to tell the truth, I've found with Wilson's work that people will sometimes tell you it has to be done a certain way. You'll say something, and they'll say, no, this is the way you say it. People are very protective of him. What I appreciate about Bart [Bartlett Sher, the director], is he's letting us come at the material fresh. It's just words on a page and we're going to find our way of doing it. I like finding my own way into the part. Playbill.com: Some people think Joe Turner may be Wilson's best play.
EH: Well, I can't say because I haven't read them all. But I love the play. It's wonderful. A play I really want to do some day is Fences.

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