Was Ernie Hudson Not Allowed to Voice Winston on the Ghostbusters Cartoon?

For a generation of kids growing up in the late 1980s, there is a very good chance that their first exposure to the world of the Ghostbusters was not, in fact, the popular 1984 film of the same name starring Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Harold Ramis and Ernie Hudson, but the animated television series that ran from 1986-1991 (titled The REAL Ghostbusters because of a competing Filmation series called Ghostbusters, which was based on a 1970s series called The Ghost Busters). 

The animated series adaptation, which was story edited by J. Michael Straczynski (who also wrote a number of episodes) was of a much higher quality than most cartoon adaptations of films. As a result, it hung on for an extended run (five years is an eternity in syndicated cartoon series), although Straczynski departed after the first “season” of 78 episodes due to some changes made to the series (he returned to write a few episodes in 1990 before the series ended).
As is the standard custom for animated adaptations of films, the characters were not voiced by the actors who portrayed them in the film. Lorenzo Music voiced Bill Murray’s character, Peter, Maurice LaMarche voiced Harold Ramis’ character, Egon, Frank Welker voiced Dan Dan Aykroyd’s character Ray and Arsenio Hall voiced Ernie Hudson’s character, Winston. However, did you know that in an odd turn of events, Ernie Hudson actually auditioned to voice Winston?

And he lost the role to Arsenio Hall!

Ernie Hudson was already an accomplished voice actor before he even starred in Ghostbusters and to this day he continues to do voice acting (he was a regular on Transformers: Prime). He did the voice of Cyborg in the Super Powers animated series in the early 1980s.

In an excellent interview with Will Harris at the AV Club, Hudson opens up about how he lost the role that he portrayed in Ghostbusters in the animated adaptation of Ghostbusters…

Yeah, I did, and it was funny, ’cause they said, “You don’t have to audition for the part, but the director wants to hear you read the material.” So I went in to read the material, and the guy said, “No, no, no, that’s all wrong! When Ernie Hudson did it in the movie…” And I’m like, “Well, wait a minute: I am Ernie Hudson!” [Laughs.] So when I left, they said, “No, it’s not a problem, you’re gonna do the voice.” They called me about it—I was shooting a film; I can’t remember what film I was doing—and then I never heard anything from them. Then I found out that Arsenio [Hall] was doing it. I was very busy doing other stuff, but I was really disappointed because the thought of someone else doing Winston was not something I felt great about. Arsenio’s a friend, so there’s no disrespect to him. But they had me come in and read, and even though they said I wasn’t auditioning, I dunno, I guess I was just there to have the director get on my nerves. Who knows what happened there? Whatever the case, I didn’t get the part. Unfortunately.

It certainly sounds like something other than “he wasn’t right for the part,” but whatever the reasons, it is still utterly bizarre. Be sure to read more from the interview to hear Hudson’s fascinating thoughts on his frustrations with the Ghostbusters franchise!

The legend is…

STATUS: True

Thanks to reader Charlie L. for the suggestion! Thanks to Will Harris and Ernie Hudson for the information!

Be sure to check out my archive of TV Legends Revealed for more urban legends about the world of television.

Feel free (heck, I implore you!) to write in with your suggestions for future installments! My e-mail address is bcronin@legendsrevealed.com.

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