Renowned actress S. Epatha Merkerson has tenderly remembered her late co-star Paul Reubens, known to many as Pee-wee Herman, following his quiet struggle with cancer. Her emotional reminiscence paints a heartfelt picture of their unique camaraderie, one that started with her TV debut in 1986 on Pee-wee's Playhouse, where she portrayed Reba the Mail Lady.
Today, Merkerson holds a notable role in the popular NBC series Chicago Med. In a statement to Entertainment Weekly, Merkerson fondly recalled Reubens. "I always referred to him as Pablo. The loss of my dear friend will be deeply felt," she expressed.
She laughed, remembering their first encounter during her audition for Pee-wee's Playhouse, revealing her confusion when she first met Reubens, who was far from his famous character.
Merkerson's Unforgettable Audition
At the time, Merkerson was oblivious to the character of Pee-wee Herman.
Her nephew Sean had briefed her, but nothing could have prepared her for the sight of Paul Reubens in cut-off jeans, boasting long hair and a goatee. He looked like a relic from the 60s! His eccentric appearance startled Merkerson, who recalled, "I think Paul noticed my bemusement and teased me throughout the audition." The laughter during her audition distracted Merkerson to the point where she doubted she'd secure the role.
"I thought, 'There's no way I'm getting this job!' I couldn't concentrate because he made me laugh so much!" she confessed. However, a surprise awaited her on the first day of shooting. Reubens, now in his iconic Pee-wee Herman costume, revealed he'd been aware all along that Merkerson was clueless about his famous alter-ego.
The shared amusement laid the foundation for their lasting friendship. Merkerson reminisced about their early days on the set of Pee-wee's Playhouse and the Emmy parties they attended to celebrate the series' multiple Daytime Emmy awards, further reinforcing their bond.
On Monday afternoon, Reubens' passing was officially announced. His representative posted a poignant message on Instagram, stating Reubens had been fighting cancer for the past six years. The late actor's words expressed his deep gratitude for his audience.
"I have always felt a tremendous amount of love and respect from my friends, fans, and supporters. I have loved you all immeasurably and cherished the joy of creating art for you," he wrote, leaving behind a legacy that is sure to endure.