Another reason for Winston’s appearance may have been the scene where Ray explains the containment system to him (and therefore us) shortly before the EPA guy shows up. Otherwise we wouldn’t know why shutting off the power would be a Bad Thing.
Ray’s role was originally meant for Eddie Murphy, but he turned it down. My guess is they completely revamped the role to accomodate an actor who can’t do what Eddie Murphy was known for doing in films back in 1984.
Parminder Nagra in Ella Enchanted. She’s supposed to be Ella’s friend, and has only one scene – where Ella tells her to go away, something that, while dramatic, doesn’t really do anything more than elaborate on what we already have seen – and then vanishes completely from the movie until the final scene. If she were cut out, it wouldn’t matter at all.
Assuming the IMDB trivia entry is accurate, I think there is a fairly straightforward explanation.
Eddie Murphy was a hot commodity in '84. He’d just been in 48HRS and Trading Places and Aykroyd and Ramis knew that getting him into their movie would make it an almost certain hit. He was a funny enough guy (at least back then) that they didn’t need much of a reason for his character to be there. His personality would make up for any plot flimsiness.
Of course the intended casting didn’t work out and the movie was a huge hit anyway. I think Ernie Hudson did a great job, though I sort of wonder what it would have been like with Eddie Murphy as Winston.
On preview: dammit, Enderw24!
That might’ve been interesting. At the time, both Murphy and Murray had wise-ass comic personas that could’ve played off each other quite nicely or canceled each other out.
I once wrote a parody of the film which I submitted to Mad Magazine. I remember it had a panel that went like this:
**Venkman ** (called Pacman in my script) : You’re hired. You’re exactly what we need.
**Winston ** (called Winsome in my script) : A fourth Ghostbuster?
**Venkman ** : No, a token black character.
It was returned a couple of weeks later, and their own parody was published a couple of weeks after that. I was pleased to note that their writer had used a couple of the same jokes I did.