John C. Reilly on “Winning Time,” Jerry Buss and LA Lakers – Contenders TV – Deadline
John C. Reilly plays Los Angeles Lakers owner Jerry Buss in the HBO series Buying Time: The Rise of the Lakers Dynasty. Buss recruited Magic Johnson and transformed the Lakers in the late 1970s. Although Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was already on the team, Reilly said Buss’ colorblind recruiting paved the way for his success.
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“If we’re going to be blunt, his superpower was that he wasn’t racist,” Reilly said during a Deadline Contenders televised panel Sunday at the Paramount Theater. “It was a drastic thing to do at the time. The support from the black community and everyone who spoke at his memorial shows you that I think that was his superpower. To really see the people, to see who they were and what they could contribute and what they were capable of.
Reilly said Buss also broke through gender barriers by giving his daughter, Jeanie, a leadership role.
“Let it be his 18-year-old daughter [or] women stuck in administrative positions, he empowered them,” Reilly said. “He could see people. This idea if you can dream it, you can realize it, he really lived it. He put everything he had in his dreams.
Reilly said the HBO production is continuing Buss’ tradition with various behind-the-scenes talent.
“Even though this show is about sports and entertainment, we try to entertain you, the issues it deals with in terms of black and white relations, that was one of the deepest things for me,” Reilly said. “For me to go on set and be able to work with African American actors every day, to have the team represented by people of color, top to bottom, HBO has done an amazing thing in the way they built this show. I felt very honored to be one of those people.
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Newcomer Quincy Isaiah plays Johnson. For the 26-year-old, Johnson’s future accomplishments were as important as his athleticism.
“I just remember Magic being this huge businessman,” Isaiah said. “I knew him as one of the best basketball players that ever played, but I didn’t experience that. So it was hard for me to understand the weight of what he really did on the basketball court. I knew the weight of what he was doing in the business world with Starbucks and movie theaters and being an HIV advocate just being this superhero Being able to go back and see how he is became this person that I knew now, as a kid growing up, what I knew… I’m so humbled to be able to portray a legend at 20 when he’s just a kid.
winning time Showrunner Max Borenstein said the HBO series will also shine a light on people involved in the Lakers’ success who aren’t as well-known. Jack McKinney and Jerry West are also main characters. Many of them are throwback stories to when Buss comes on the scene.
“America is a second act,” Borenstein said. “Each of these guys and women on the show are at a time when they’re going to transform the culture. They have no idea. In [West’s] case, he thinks of all the regrets and the fact that he wanted to win each of those years. That’s what haunts you. If you’re a competitor like that, you think about the 7, 8 you lost. He has no idea he has this second act ahead of him.
winning time airs Sunday nights on HBO and has been renewed for a second season.
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