When you think of John Goodman, you likely picture him as Walter Sobchak, the gun-toting bowling enthusiast from "The Big Lebowski," Dan Conner, the easygoing family man from "Roseanne," or Sulley, the kind-hearted furry monster from Pixar's "Monsters, Inc." franchise.
But when Goodman thinks back on his four-decade career and the over 170 credits to his name, he mostly remembers that it was a lot of work.
That still holds true today as the 71-year-old pulls double duty playing patriarchs on two very different TV shows.
On ABC's "The Conners," a spin-off of "Rosanne," Goodman once again plays the working-class husband, Dan Conner, the role that made him a star through the 1990s and brought him seven Emmy nominations.
As the megachurch pastor Eli Gemstone on the HBO series "The Righteous Gemstones," Goodman is anything but the everyman, playing the wealthy and ruthless head of a dysfunctional family of televangelists.
He'll admit, the last few years of simultaneously filming both shows have led to him sometimes needing a minute or two to figure out which part he's playing — or what city he's in.
"I was flying back and forth between Los Angeles and Charleston, that broke me," Goodman told Business Insider. "I've just been working too hard. And I don't need to, because I've been doing this forever."
Clearly, Goodman still enjoys the work, especially when playing a character like Conner.
"We're coming up on our 100th show of this run on it and I'm still thrilled to be here," Goodman said of the milestone "The Conners" will hit in its sixth season, which premieres Wednesday on ABC.
After playing Conner for nine seasons on "Rosanne," the character was thought to be dead when the show initially ended in 1996. But Goodman returned to the role when the show came back for season 10 in 2018 when the show explained that Conner's death was just a dream. Following controversial comments Roseanne Barr, the show's star, made months after season 10 ended, the network launched "The Conners" as a spinoff, excluding Barr.
The twists and turns of Conner's fate meant Goodman has learned to expect the unexpected on "The Conners."
"Maybe I die again," he joked.
For the latest installment in BI's "Role Play" series, Goodman discusses his favorite Coen brothers movie, why "Bringing Out the Dead" was a hard movie to make, and the time he called 411 looking for Al Pacino.
On his favorite Coen brothers movie and faking it in his first movie role
You made your movie debut in 1983 in 'Eddie Macon's Run,' which stars Kirk Douglas. You don't have any scenes with Douglas, but did you ever seek out the legend on set?
No. I never got to meet him. I had friends who worked with him. They enjoyed the experience. I was in Laredo, Texas, for a couple of weeks. I only had one scene. But I had a lot of friends on the film so it was fun. And it was all of our first movie.
Did you even think of just going to set the day Kirk was on? Just to see how he acted?
I was at sea basically. I didn't really know what I was doing. I was faking everything, much like now. And I just didn't want to ruffle any feathers.
Your work with the Coen brothers has led to you playing some of the most memorable characters in movie history. What is your favorite Coens movie you starred in?
What is it today?
Yeah. It was all enjoyable and it was easy because everything was right on the page for me. Just show up and have a lot of fun.
With 'The Big Lebowski,' does it still amaze you that it will be the movie you're most known for? It's certainly on the Mount Rushmore of movies and TV from your career.
It would make me very happy to think that. I enjoyed doing it so much and working with Jeff and the brothers. I'm proud of it. It helps me think that I was right.
On working with Al Pacino and the casting rumor about him he's never heard
Here's one of those internet facts that comes up about you: Is there any truth to the rumor that you were considered for 'Uncle Buck?'
That's the first time I've ever heard that! Probably not. I'm sure glad the way things turned out because John [Candy] was brilliant in it.
OK, glad we could debunk that.
Yeah, that's not true. Not true at all.
But is it true that after you saw 'The Godfather Part II' you tried to seek out Al Pacino by dialing Information?
Through Information, yeah. A buddy of mine, we went back to our house and tried to call Information and see if they had a phone number for "Al Pacino," "Alfredo Pacino," "A. Pacino." It didn't work out.
I told him that story when we did "Sea of Love," and he was amused. It was a great opportunity to work with Al. He was very kind and very patient and we just kind of fit in the same groove together. It was very rewarding.
You've worked with Pacino numerous times, and Denzel Washington multiple times. Tomorrow, you get calls to work with both actors, but you can only fit one into your schedule. Whose project do you choose?
Well, there's another factor in this: the script. So I'm going to go with the one that has the best script. That's how I'm going to skate around this question.
On the movie that felt like he 'wasted a great opportunity'
What memories come to mind with starring in Martin Scorsese's 1999 movie 'Bringing Out the Dead?'
Oh, I was in a bad place. My wife brought my daughter up for the shoot and she got appendicitis. I got home from work at about six in the morning. She had been up all night. We brought a doctor in. We had to get her to a hospital in midday Manhattan and it was impossible. I was not getting a lot of sleep. Dan Aykroyd and his family took care of my daughter for a while when I was working. Plus, I was in a bad place mentally then. I wish I would have been present for the film because I feel I wasted a great opportunity.
To the point that you burned a bridge with Scorsese?
I don't think he even considers me to have burned a bridge. I'm not worried about that. I had some problems going on at the time.
That's a tough movie to do if you're not in the right headspace, I would imagine.
But it was good because I was in my old neighborhood and we got to work nights, there was nobody around. That was kind of cool.
Any Nicolas Cage stories from set?
He's certainly his own man. He's just filled with a lot of energy and ideas. Same with when we did "Raising Arizona" together.
On the performances he'd go back and redo
Is the 1992 biopic on Babe Ruth, 'The Babe,' still the movie you want a do-over on?
Yeah. And I'd love another shot at "Barton Fink," too.
No kidding! Really?
Yeah, a couple of things make me cringe. But "The Babe" just deserved a better shot. I wish I would have had six months for research. I spent every day throwing left-handed, but then I learned he pitched side arm so I could have done that all over. But there's a lot of things about my performance that bothered me.
Give me one thing you would have changed from 'Barton Fink.'
There's a couple scenes with John [Turturro] that I would have changed. I think I'm a better actor now. I'd just do them differently.
Do you think you'll ever perform 'Long Day's Journey Into Night' for the stage? I know that's on your bucket list.
I don't know, I'd probably need a year of preparation for voice work. Studying Eugene O'Neill. That would be comfortable for me. My voice has gotten terrible over the years and I just need to hammer that. I'd love to do it sometime.
How about on the screen? Any role you still itching to do?
I'd love to do another comedy. I've done a Western, but I wasn't on a horse. So I'd like to do a Western comedy.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
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