On Working with the late Gordon Parks
In my research on Ernie Hudson one of the pleasant points was to look at the time in which he was developing his art and the great black directors, photographers and writers that fledged and developed black actors during that time. One great name is the late Mr. Gordon Parks. Ernie Hudson worked with Mr. Parks in his film Leadbelly and remained friends with Mr. Parks until his recent passing. He had a lot to say about Mr. Parks and what that relationship taught him and meant to him.
“Working with Gordon Parks was a great experience. He was an unusual man, given where he was from and the success he had as a photographer, as an artist and a filmmaker. By the time I met him I think he had already did Shaft, yet with all that he was still able to see me. When I went into the audition he told me the project was Leadbelly and that I would have to drive a team of horses and asked if I had experience with horses and I said yes. Then he said there is a dance sequence and asked if I can dance, and I said yes, which I lied because I couldn’t do either. So after the interview as I was walking out I just couldn’t do it and I turned back to him and said,’‘Mr. Parks I really don’t have experience with horses but I can learn.’ He just looked at me. I went on and said, ‘And I’m not a dancer but I can learn. Just give me the chance.’ He just looked at me. I knew he saw that I was willing and that I wanted it and as opposed to writing me off he gave me the opportunity. It was a great experience working with him and he was a friend for the rest of his life. I will always have so much respect for him because he took a chance on me. Sometimes you need people to just give you that opportunity. Yet, in order to do that they need to see something. I think most times its bringing honesty. That was something my grandmother would always tell me. When I went to apply for Wayne State I was rejected. Wayne was not one of the most difficult schools to get into but my high school GPA was 1.7. My grandmother said, ‘You go and sit across from someone and you ask God to speak for you.’ I did. I went there and spoke to the guy from my heart and he gave me a chance. That is what Gordon was willing to do and when it was over he came to me and thanked me for the job I had done. The other side to that is that I knew that I couldn’t let him down for taking a chance on me. Without that who knows where I would have been. All along God has put people in my life that were willing to say, You know what, he deserves his chance. However you got to be prepared. You have to be prepared and I had done a lot of work before I had met him. Luck is when opportunity meets preparedness. That is why I think it is important to prepare yourself. You should work hard even though you don’t see right in front of you; how it’s all going to work out. I didn’t know 3-4 days before I met Gordon that I would have the chance to meet him. I travel around the world and I meet a lot of people and I think in general people want to help you. I think people genuinely want to help but they want to know that you are going to appreciate the opportunity and you are willing to take advantage of their help. There are so many people I have reached out to and tried to help and then they didn’t follow through. I have had that happen so many times. So when that opportunity comes you really have to appreciate it and prepare yourself before that opportunity comes. So when it comes you can seize the moment.” (Continued on page 3)