‘Law & Order’: How The Show Is Connected to ‘Ghostbusters’

by Suzanne Halliburton

Old-school Law & Order fans, let’s drift back to the series original run, when a major character was diagnosed with cancer.

This was in season 20, the final season for Law & Order until NBC revived it earlier this year. And during season 20, doctors diagnosed Anita Van Buren (S. Epatha Merkerson), the commander of the 27th precinct, with stage 2 cervical cancer. She apparently got cancer from a sexually-transmitted virus. You could trace it back to when her first husband, Donald, cheated on her.

Van Buren deserved a good man, especially when she was trying to juggle cancer treatments with work. And that’s when Ghostbusters overlapped with Law & Order. Van Buren’s boyfriend, who eventually became her fiance, was Frank Gibson. And Ernie Hudson played Frank. You probably recognize him as Winston Zeddemore from Ghostbusters. Zeddemore answered a want ad and then partnered with Raymond Stanz (Dan Aykroyd). He got to drive Ecto-1.

Ernie Hudson appeared with Dan Aykroyd and Bill Murray for the Ghostbusters reboot last year. Since the movie originally came out in 1984, Hudson has spent a lot of time on the small screen, including in Law & Order. (Theo Wargo/Getty Images for Sony Pictures)

Since Movie, Hudson Has Acted Mostly on TV on Shows Like Law & Order

Hudson played Winston Zeddemore in Ghostbusters and Ghostbusters II and then had a cameo in last fall’s Ghostbusters: After Life. He also made an appearance in the all-female retelling of Ghostbusters in 2016. He played the uncle of Leslie Jones’ character.

Hudson, who is now 76, wrote about his stint on the Ghostbusters in 2014 in honor of the movie’s 30th anniversary. His character, initially, was supposed to have a much bigger role. But before production started, writers tweaked the movie and gave more camera time to the scene-stealing Bill Murray. Hudson has enjoyed an incredible career with meaty parts in movies and TV shows like Law & Order. But he didn’t get an expected Ghostbuster bump like some of the other characters.

“I credit Ghostbusters, actually, for lessons I learned—how you deal with stuff when it doesn’t work out the way you want and you still got to keep doing it,” Hudson wrote for Entertainment Weekly. “How you keep a career going when it doesn’t turn to be all these things you dreamed of doing. I’ve been blessed, and I don’t want to make it a negative. I’ve survived this 30 years because of what I learned on Ghostbusters; you learn to adjust.

“What I did was I turned to TV. I literally did a different television show almost every week, going from show to show. I was a single dad and I had to survive.”

Ghostbuster co-star Ernie Hudson posed with Slimer, one of the ghosts. (Aaron Lavinsky/Star Tribune via Getty Images)

S. Epatha Merkerson Now Stars on Chicago Med

And one of those TV jobs was playing Anita Van Buren’s boyfriend, then fiance. He appeared in seven episodes of Law & Order during season 20. Van Buren was one tough cop and she didn’t know how to deal with becoming a cancer patient. She refused to let the chemo treatment interfere with her job. Then in what proved to be the series finale (of the first run), Van Buren received good news from her doctor. Plus, she got engaged to Frank and learned that her fellow co-workers raised money to help her pay the medical bills.

Merkerson didn’t return for the Law & Order reboot. And that was a shame for the show’s millions of fans. After all, Merkerson appeared in 392 episodes of the Law & Order franchise. Broken down, 390 were with the original Law & Order, with an appearance in Law & Order: Criminal Intent and Law & Order: Trial By Jury.

However, Merkerson stayed at NBC and within the Dick Wolf universe. She still portrays a strong woman. But now she’s Dr. Sharon Gibson on Chicago Med. Meanwhile, Hudson is staying busy. He’s got three projects in post-production. Plus, he’s in the pilot episode of Quantum Leap, another TV reboot from the 1990s.

Law & Order premieres Sept. 22.