It's about time we recognized that Ernie Hudson's Zeddemore is the beating heart of the Ghostbusters films

ghostbusters zeddemore
(Image credit: Sony Pictures)

If there’s something strange in your neighborhood, who ya gonna call? Well, the Ghostbuster at the top of my speed dial is none other than Ernie Hudson’s Winston Zeddemore. Yes, while Bill Murray’s Venkman, Dan Aykroyd’s Stantz, and the late Harold Ramis’ Spengler are all, of course, individually brilliant in their own way, the real beating heart of the beloved franchise is the endearing Zeddemore. And it’s about time we recognized that!

In the 1984 classic, the Ghostbusters team didn’t feel complete until this final member joined them, responding to a recruitment advert as more ghosts started causing chaos on the streets of New York. Although the initial plan from the writers was to have the character be a part of the ghostbusting gang from the very beginning, having Zeddemore join later on works a treat, as he rounds out the incredibly chaotic squad.

The everyman

winston zeddemore

(Image credit: Sony Pictures)

Zeddemore stands out within the team as unlike Venkman and co. he doesn’t have any real interest in science or the supernatural, and he certainly doesn’t have any formal qualifications in those departments either. Instead, he responds to the call simply in search of a means to pay his bills. As the beloved buster tells feisty receptionist Janine when she asks if he believes in the likes of UFOs: “If there’s a steady paycheck, I’ll believe anything you say.” And he doesn’t mean that in a dismissive or sarcastic way either – unlike the other Ghostbusters, there’s no snark when it comes to Zeddemore, instead there’s only an affectionate warmth.

That’s something that comes across as soon as the grinning Ghostbuster steps onto the scene and never fades with every appearance the character has in the franchise, mostly thanks to Hudson’s charming performance. Indeed, that beaming smile immediately brightens up any screen. He’s also easily the most grounded member of the team and is therefore the one we as an audience can most relate to. Now, that’s not to say that it’s difficult to form a connection with the others, but ultimately Zeddemore brings in that crucial everyman perspective, which is made clear from our initial meeting with him.

Having the character as our way into this wacky world allows what could feel alien become more real. Let’s be honest, the franchise is extremely out there and weird with the likes of Venkman living on Mars - we need Hudson’s buster to bring it all back down to Earth (well, as much as you can in this fantastical world). He exists as the voice of reason in every wild conversation the team have, saying exactly what is on our mind in these bizarre situations, like when he tells Ray to simply nod and agree when being questioned by a malevolent entity from another world. Just like us, Zeddemore wants a steady income and an easy life. 

The tools and the talent

zeddemore ghostbusters

(Image credit: Sony Pictures)

It’s a shame then that the Ghostbusters franchise has regularly failed to show both Hudson and Zeddemore the respect that they deserve. The actor has always been open with his criticism of the character’s reduced screen time and the fact that this key member of the ghostbusting crew didn’t appear on the marketing posters for the original movie. Then there’s also the fact that his paycheck was significantly less than those of his co-stars. Thankfully this has changed over time as Hollywood has started to see the errors of its ways, with Hudson and his character being treated more fairly.

In fact, one of the greatest things about 2021’s legacy sequel Ghostbusters: Afterlife is that it placed Zeddemore as the leader of the team. There we found out that he has become a wealthy businessman and uses that money to keep the lights of that infamous fire house on, bringing the newly assembled team back to the franchise’s home of New York City for the latest installment Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire (which seems Hudson once again don that legendary jumpsuit).

Within the world of Ghostbusters, Zeddemore is the only reason the gang is still in business doing what they do best - busting ghosts - which is further emphasized in the new movie through his funding of the Paranormal Research Center and support of the team. Although, he's getting more love with these later movies, it's worth remembering that Zeddemore's genius has always been there, ever since that Ray Parker Jr.'s famous theme song first rang out.

As as the legendary buster would say himself too: he's definitely got "the tools and the talent".

Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire is out in theaters worldwide now.

For more exciting new films that will soon be coming your way, check out our guide to all the upcoming movies you need to know about.

Emily Murray
Entertainment Editor

As Entertainment Editor at GamesRadar, I oversee all the online content for Total Film and SFX magazine. Previously I've worked for the BBC, Zavvi, UNILAD, Yahoo, Digital Spy and more.