Every great actor eventually encounters a role that threatens to devour them. Sometimes the actor wins: Although John Gielgud revisited Hamlet many times after his legendary 1930 performance, he never let it define him. Other actors aren’t so fortunate: James O’Neill had worse luck with The Count of Monte Cristo, playing Edmond Dantès more than 6,000 times over 40 years as his artistic horizons narrowed. And then there’s John Goodman, who revisited his famous performance as Rex Tillerson on Saturday Night Live this week, perhaps for the last time.
Goodman, who first treaded the boards as the Prince of Exxon in December of 2016, returned to his signature role with a vengeance, upstaging veteran players Bill Hader and Fred Armisen without breaking a sweat. And yet despite the onstage fireworks, it was a poignant night for the New York theater scene, as one of its brightest navigational stars has dimmed forever. Goodman practically inhabited the role of Rex Tillerson, night after night (literally—he played it twice), and even if some yet-unknown actor revives the part decades from now, we will not see the likes of Goodman’s Tillerson again. Rex is dead; long live Rex!