In the original script for Ghostbusters, Winston Zeddemore was intended to be the smartest and most capable of the Ghostbusters, a former Marine with multiple degrees and a Ph.D., making him more suited for the job than the founding three Ghostbusters. However, in the final screenplay none of these qualifications were mentioned. The changes are discussed in detail in the commentary on the DVD of Ghostbusters, the explanation being Winston allowed the technobabble to be put into layman's terms.
However, the novelization of Ghostbusters mentions Zeddemore's service with the Marines prior to joining the Ghostbusters. Further, in Ghostbusters: The Video Game, while the Ghostbusters are on a mission in the New York History Museum, Zeddemore reminisces about the time he spent studying for his doctorate in the museum's Egyptology wing. (In context, it's unclear if Zeddemore studied for the doctorate prior to joining the Ghostbusters, or sometime between the events of the movies and the game's setting in 1991.)
Zeddemore is a religious man to some extent, saying in a discussion in Ghostbusters that he believes in God and "loves Jesus' style". While driving the Ecto-1 with Ray, he voices his thoughts that the sudden spike in ghost appearances might be a sign of the apocalypse, pointing out that while they have come to treat capturing ghosts as routine pest control, in a very real sense the dead are literally "rising from the grave".
After working with him the previous year on Trading Places, Dan Aykroyd originally wanted Eddie Murphy to play the role of Winston Zeddemore. Aware of his comic abilities, his characterization of Winston would have been in a semi-improvisational style, similar to Bill Murray's performance as Peter Venkman. Murphy was too busy shooting Beverly Hills Cop to commit.
Winston Zeddemore's first on-screen appearance is in the movie Ghostbusters, when he responds to a help-wanted advertisement the team has posted in an attempt to deal with their sizable workload. Questioned extensively during his application by Janine Melnitz as to whether he believes in a large number of supernatural occurrences and beings (such as UFOs, the Loch Ness Monster and the theory of Atlantis among others), Zeddemore replies, "If there's a steady paycheck in it, I'll believe anything you say." Later in the movie, having seen the level of paranormal activity present in the city, he remarks, "This job is definitely not worth eleven-five [$11,500] a year!"
Though Zeddemore has no previous background in paranormal studies and is not initially a firm believer in the existence of the paranormal, he readily accepts the existence of ghosts and the supernatural as he encounters them as a Ghostbuster. However, despite this, he continues to act as an 'everyman' and voice of reason for the team, and when the jailed Ghostbusters seriously proposes asking a U.S. federal judge to release them because they must fight an invading god, Zeddemore reminds the others that no one will believe their claims.
At the start of the sequel Ghostbusters II, the team has been forced out of business due to legal injunctions and property damage lawsuits. Zeddemore and Ray Stantz work as unpopular children's entertainers, but rejoin the team after the ban against them is lifted. Winston helps Ray and Egon investigate the mysterious river of slime under the city, being "hit" by the specter of a train that derailed decades earlier and caused hundreds of deaths. Later, he helps them pilot the Statue of Liberty (suffused with slime charged by positive emotions) through New York City to rally the public and defeat Vigo the Carpathian. He remarks that the slime reminds him of Jell-O, a dessert he hates.
Many details of Zeddemore's personality and character are revealed in episodes of The Real Ghostbusters. The episode "Cry Uncle" clarifies that, in the show's continuity, Winston has no doctorate; he also informs Egon's skeptical Uncle Cyrus that, prior to becoming a Ghostbuster, he too doubted the existence of ghosts. In "Mr. Sandman, Dream Me a Dream," Winston states that, unlike his three colleagues, he is not a scientist, causing him to doubt his ability to resolve a crisis when the Sandman traps the others within their own dreams, but with encouragement from a dream-version of Albert Einstein, he meets the challenge and wins the day. "The Ghostbusters in Paris" reveals that Winston was once a construction worker prior to joining the Ghostbusters. This idea seems to be further reinforced in the episode "The Brooklyn Triangle", when the Ghostbusters respond to a construction site headed by his father; this would indicate that it might have been a family business, until Winston decided to join the Ghostbusters.
In the episode "Devil To Pay", Zeddemore mentions having a girlfriend, though she is never seen on screen during the series. In "Night Game", he is shown to love baseball, and his favorite team is the Jaguars. In several other episodes it is shown that Zeddemore loves mystery novels and detective stories, and in "Boodunnit" he is the one who solves the mystery novel left behind by a deceased mystery writer similar to Agatha Christie, allowing her soul to rest. In "Doctor, Doctor" it is revealed that Zeddemore also likes classical literature, including the works of Herman Melville and Charles Dickens. He is also a fan of The Alan Parsons Project. "The Brooklyn Triangle" introduces Winston's father, Ed, who works in construction. Their relationship is shown to have been strained because of Winston choosing to be a Ghostbuster, but they reconcile by the end of the episode.
Finally, in the episode "The Moaning Stones", Zeddemore is revealed to be the reincarnation of Shima Buku, a shaman at war with an immortal demon known only as the Undying One.
Zeddemore and the Ecto-1
Winston is the primary driver of Ecto-1 for more than a few moments in the two films. As a result, he is almost always shown driving the car in The Real Ghostbusters cartoon, and is often seen performing routine maintenance such as oil changes on the vehicle. In an episode of the cartoon where the Ghostbusters are sent back in time to the 1950s, Winston sees Ecto-1 in its original role as an ambulance; telling the other Ghostbusters he would know the vehicle anywhere, he says to the car, "Hang in there Ecto--better days are ahead for you", illustrating how fond Zeddemore is of the car.
Winston only appears in the two-part series finale. After the closing down of the Ghostbusters, Winston got his pilot's license, being the first and only Ghostbuster to be a certified pilot.
Ernie Hudson appears as Winston Zeddemore the "Slime Buster" in the episode "Slime Busters" of The Super Mario Bros. Super Show.
Winston was featured as a playable character in Ghostbusters II for NES.
Winston was featured as a playable character in New Ghostbusters II for NES and Game Boy.
A likeness of Hudson, circa 1991 (the year in which the game takes place) appears in the Ghostbusters: The Video Game that was released on June 16, 2009. Hudson also reprised his role for the game by voicing him. In the game, between the Vigo incident and Thanksgiving 1991, Winston has acquired his doctorate, is now addressed as "Doctor" along with his colleagues. Zeddemore can be heard quipping "That's Dr. Zeddemore to you, punk!" when defeating enemies. He mentions that he "pretty much lived" in the museum's exhibit on ancient Egypt while working on getting it, revealing that his degree is in Egyptology.
On his one day off, Winston went to go see a performance of the Aida opera. However, the Psi Energy Pulse officially cancelled his plans. After Janine delivered the message, Winston left to meet up with the other Ghostbusters at the Sedgewick Hotel. He endured four hours of traffic but made it to the hotel just in time to sight the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man. During their final confrontation, Ivo Shandor mocks Winston, saying that he always thought Winston was the "slow" one of the group, much to Winston's surprise. When Shandor is destroyed, everyone flees the mausoleum. Winston carries the exorcised Mayor Mulligan outside until he regains consciousness.
Zeddemore appears in Beeline's Ghostbusters game for iOS. The game was released on January 24, 2013.
Zeddemore appears in Lego Dimensions, with archival audio of Ernie Hudson being used to represent his character.
The name "Zeddemore" is misspelled as "Zeddmore" in the closing credits of Ghostbusters. As a result it was also sometimes misspelled in scripts and other sources related to The Real Ghostbusters. The name is spelled correctly on the nametag on Winston's jumpsuit, in the shooting script of Ghostbusters (as published in the book Making Ghostbusters), and in the closing credits of Ghostbusters II. The name is also pronounced correctly (with three syllables) by both Annie Potts and Ernie Hudson in Ghostbusters.