Ernie’s thoughts on his TV and Film Career
If you Google Ernie’s television career you will see that he appeared on just about every hit show doing different roles during what I call, “The golden era of TV sitcoms,” which was the late 70’s early 80’s (aka TV land). All of those roles lead up to his hit movie Ghostbusters, however, unlike many other actors who get a hit movie and have to turn down films, the opposite occurred with Ernie. I was intrigued to find out why and what were his thoughts on working in both TV and film.
“Life is fascinating. It’s never quite what you imagine. It is what it is and you have to embrace it. For me, I think it was about 10 years of preparing myself for that ‘break’ and when Ghostbusters came along that was what I was told I needed. The plan was to be in a big studio movie and if successful it was going to turn my life around. So I did Ghostbusters and it was huge. It turned out it was just the opposite. I couldn’t get any movie work, not even with Columbia. It was Columbia that produced Ghostbusters but I couldn’t get an interview /audition for a Soldier’s Story. So that was interesting. Sometimes life forces you to look at things differently. So that’s why I did all the TV stuff- One Day at a Time, Different Strokes and all those shows, because I couldn’t get a movie. There was one year where I did a different television show almost every week. It was like I had my own series within a series. Shows like Taxi, Little House on the Prairie and all those shows. Funny, I’m not sure why that happened. I still can’t tell you why after the biggest hit in my career I didn’t get any work. Then finally after three years I got a movie called Weeds with Nick Nolte. Once I did Weeds the movie offers opened up and I did 8 movies back to back. Then Ghostbusters 2 came about and I did that; and as soon as the movie came out I couldn’t get another movie again. I can’t explain that to you but I always give thanks and say to myself maybe it’s time to look at something else. An actor friend of mine, during that time told me this is your season to do something else. All those shows gave me a different experience than working in movies. A couple of years after Ghostbusters 2 I did The Hand that Rocks the Cradle. After that I was in a lot of big movies and my movie career turned around again. Yet one of the things that I thought as an African American was that once the African American film community started to grow there would be opportunities for me. Yet I haven’t been included or invited to work with Spike Lee or John Singleton and directors like them as of yet. Again, I’m not sure why that is and I’m not blaming anybody, but I have not been asked to work on those movies. Yet it’s odd because I know within the black community I am well known and people love my work. It’s odd because I do certain interviews and they ask, are there roles for blacks and should whites be able to…yada yada yada…but you know what, if it weren’t for certain people I wouldn’t be working. So to succeed I think you need to let go of a lot of those ideas. In the end it is really one planet and one race; the human race.”
So true! We are in a global society and some of those ideals hold us back as a community of people as a whole. However, Ernie even stated that with a global mindset you must also never forget your roots for that is an important part of the culture of being global. There is a fundamental process. It begins with knowing where you came from, to knowing where you’re at, to knowing and understanding where you want to go, to ultimately getting there. (Continued on page 5)