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‘Winning Time’ Will Change Small Screen Sports Storytelling

John C. Reilly has played a ton of great parts in his career. I loved him in Bull Durham. In ‘Winning Time’, he plays businessman, father, and playboy, Dr. Jerry Buss, who owned the Los Angeles Lakers at the time they drafted Earvin ‘Magic’ Johnson. Buss had a good side and what I called a smarmy side, and Reilly talked about that in a recent interview.

“When I was offered this part, it was seven days before the pilot started shooting,” Reilly admitted. “I came in very late in the process, but I knew Adam McKay would have my back, and it’s somebody I really trusted and had great success with, in the past. Ya know, that smarminess, it’s funny.

“If you looked at the facts of his life, he had these certain hedonistic habits like a lot of people in the basketball world. The most telling thing to me with Jerry Buss, and his whole way, and I tried to be as sensitive as I could be to his family. While trying to tell the truth or at least some version of the truth about what happened. The smarminess when you get that much power and success.

“It happens with actors all the time. Eventually, someone starts bringing you coffee, and you just feel like you’re someone who deserves to be brought coffee. It’s not a character flaw, it’s just an acknowledgment of reality. People treat you this way and you guess that’s just the way it is. People treated Jerry like Hugh Hefner, who was one of his friends. To me, the most telling thing about Jerry Buss is when you look at his memorial. For all those women he dated for all those years. All the players and all the people did business with, every single one of them loved that guy.”

Reilly explained that perfectly. And that’s a big reason why I loved the series. It’s about the details. And so, the reader doesn’t miss any of them. This will be broken up into a few parts.

Buss thought of the Lakers as a family, and the family dynamic in this series was interesting. It was messed up at times, but it centers around Jerry’s mother, Jessie Buss, who did the books for Buss. The incomparable, Sally Field played this character to its fullest, as she does with everything. Viewers are going to love the wardrobe.

“The exterior of Jessie is a big part of it,” Field explained. “There were outrageous clothes and the jewelry and the hair and fingernails. I worked on the physicality in her voice. She’s a drinker and a smoker. She’s got some toughness about her. She’s a survivor. The crew would always wait for me to come on set and see what I was wearing like ‘OMG, here we go’. Each outfit was topping the other one. As Stanislavsky would say, that’s part of creating a character. Create the exterior before you create the interior. That was helpful.”

Field is a Lakers season ticket holder and a massive fan!

“It was the Lakers games. It’s what we did together as a family. I was there. I watched Magic at this time. I watched Kareem. We watched the evolution of all of it. I watched young Kobe when he was in the arena for the first time. My two oldest boys would go. My youngest son may be the world’s biggest Lakers fan. When a game is on, we all text each other. This was a big, big, part of my life.”

We are just scratching the surface here. Stay tuned. Listen to this exclusive interview with co-creator, Jim Hecht

The series will premiere on HBO on March 6 at 9 pm. ET/PT

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