Growing up in Benton Harbor, character actor Ernie Hudson said he led a "real charmed sort of childhood."Even though his father abandoned him before he was born and his mother died of tuberculosis when he was 3 months old, Hudson, 60, was surrounded by family and faith.He was raised by his maternal grandmother Arrana Donald. "Neither she nor anyone else in my known family ever met my father, or know who he is," said Hudson, best known for his role in the film "Ghostbusters." He currently has a recurring role on TV's "ER." "As a small child, my grandmother would tell me that God was my father. I have learned to be satisfied with that answer."His four uncles acted as surrogate fathers, instilling in him what it meant to have honor and to keep your word."They taught me how to be a man, each in his own way," he said. His grandmother raised Hudson in the church. They were active in the Church of God in Christ(it has since been torn down), which they cleaned every Saturday. He also participated in Christmas and Easter pageants, even writing some of them. In 1964, he graduated from Benton Harbor High School. After a brief stint in the Marines, he married Jeannie Moore, with whom he had two sons. They moved to Detroit so his wife could go to college. Hudson tried to enroll at Wayne State University but was rejected due to his grades. He attended a community college for a year, got his grades up, and eventually attended Wayne State, where he became the resident playwright at Detroit's Concept East Theater, which at the time was the oldest black theater company in the nation. He also established the Actors Ensemble Theater, where he and other black writers directed and appeared in their own works. After graduating with a bachelor of fine arts degree in theater from Wayne State in 1973, he was awarded a full scholarship to the master of fine arts program at the prestigious Yale School of Drama."I was the first in my family to have gone to college," Hudson said. "I hadn't planned on going."He didn't plan to be an actor, either. "I started out wanting to be a writer. Acting was fun to do. I enjoyed acting. I was good at it," Hudson said. "Being an actor never occurred to me. There was no one even remotely connected to the industry where I was from. It wasn't until I got to college that I realized how much I enjoyed it. There was a wealth of theater happening in Detroit in the late 1960s. It was a great place to be."Hudson believes he owes his success to his alma mater, which honored him with a Distinguished Alumni Award last month."I'm really honored anyone really remembered me at Wayne State. Once I got the word, I was honored to be remembered and that they're aware of my work," he said. "Wayne State taught me discipline. I've worked professionally for 40 years as a result of the training I got at Wayne State. When I grew up, there were so many talented black kids who never found their place. If it wasn't for Wayne State, I can't imagine what my life would've been like. I'm really indebted to them."While studying at Yale, Hudson starred in numerous critically acclaimed theatrical roles, which led to his film debut in 1976's "Leadbelly." His marriage ended that year, and his two sons went to live with him in California. Raising his sons was a very life-altering experience for Hudson, enriching him in many ways."They did as much raising me as I did them," he said. "I grew up without having a father, and I wasn't really sure what that role was. They helped me find it."Being an actor now was a necessity, not just a dream, because he needed the income to support his sons. "Acting is one of those professions, where you audition, get a job and get paid," he said. "The most important thing was raising my two sons."Hudson worked steadily in film and TV for 10 years. In 1984, his breakthrough role came as Winston Zeddemore in the blockbuster hit "Ghostbusters." "I lost my anonymity because that movie was so big," he said. "I'm glad people liked it and still like it. I still get people on the street saying to me, ÔHey, Ernie, who ya gonna call?'" He appeared in "Ghostbusters II," but there's no plans currently for a third movie, even though he'd "love to do another." His co-star Bill Murray, who co-owns the rights to the franchise, doesn't want to do a third installment. Hudson had supporting parts in several movies throughout the 1980s and 1990s. One of his favorite roles was the mentally disabled Solomon in 1992's "The Hand That Rocks the Cradle.""It was the most fun I ever had playing a character. It was different. I wasn't a threat to the other actors. I enjoyed researching that character," he said. "After ÔGhostbusters,' it was hard to get the dramatic parts I wanted. Doing ÔCradle' reminded the studios of what I could do, and it reminded me of the fun I could have while acting."Another favorite role was 1995's "Congo" as Captain Munro, which made Hudson believe he was leading man material and boosted his confidence as an actor. "I enjoyed that role; it was a very important role for me," Hudson said. "Whatever hasn't happened (regarding his not getting leading roles) has nothing to do with my ability Ð or lack of it Ð but with forces I don't understand."Hudson played Officer Albrecht in the 1994 cult favorite "The Crow" opposite Brandon Lee, who died filming that movie. "I thought (Lee) was incredibly talented. It was a great chance to show what he can do," Hudson said. "I'm glad we got the chance to finish because (Lee) worked so hard on it."Hudson had a chance to act opposite his son, Ernie Hudson Jr., in the HBO prison drama "Oz," in which he played Warden Glynn and the younger Hudson played inmate Hamid Khan. Hudson said his son would never watch a movie in which his father was killed."In ÔOz,' (my son) gets killed, and I got a sense of what he was talking about," Hudson said. "It was odd for me to watch that."Even though he has more than 100 films on his resume, Hudson thinks that his biggest challenges are ahead of him. He has several movies coming out this year, on both the big and small screens. He stars with Alan Rickman, Bill Pullman and Mary Steenburgen in "Nobel Son," where he plays a detective investigating the kidnapping of a Nobel Prize winner's son. He appears with Steenburgen in "Marilyn Hotchkiss' Ballroom Dancing and Charm School" (which just opened), as well as the action movie spoof "Sledge: The Untold Story" with Angelina Jolie, Snoop Dogg's "Hood of Horror" Ð "a silly horror movie that was fun to do" Ð and "The Ron Clark Story" with Matthew Perry on TNT, which is based on a true story about a small-town teacher relocating to an inner-city classroom. This summer, he'll appear on stage as the title character in "Othello" in Thousand Oaks, Calf. "I'm feeling as physically good as I ever felt. I'm looking for roles that I haven't had a chance to play. I'm always looking for something a little bit different, but I'm just happy to be working. I'm very blessed to be working Ð that's about the size of it," he said. "Acting is what I do. At the beginning, it might have been out of necessity, but I love it, I'm fascinated by it. To me, acting is a journey filled with incredible discoveries. Retiring will never be an issue for me as long as I can explore the parts I want to play."