For all the complaints the series has received, “Winning Time” has pretty consistently had one very notable backer. Perhaps surprisingly given how central of a role she has in the show and how much seemingly every other central character in the show despises their portrayal.
However, Jeanie has repeatedly discussed how much she has enjoyed John C. Reilly’s portrayal of her late father, Dr. Jerry Buss. That was a compliment Jeanie once again handed out in an appearance on The Official Winning Time Podcast with host Rodney Barnes.
“John C. Reilly is absolutely breathtaking as my dad... I got a chance to meet him at a Laker game and I, you know, literally cross paths with him in the Chairman’s Room at the arena. And I thought for a second, I really should introduce myself to him because I knew he was playing my dad... So I introduce myself to him. And the look on his face, he goes, ‘Are you throwing me out?’ And I go, ‘Why would I throw you out?’ Like, you know, I said, ‘I just really want you to hear this story. I have to tell you the story that, you know, one of the things that my dad and I did, you know, one of our passions was to go to the movies. And, you know, my dad being very busy when we did get a day to go to the movies, he’d want to see two or three or four in one day. And, you know, so we had seen the movie Chicago and John C. Reilly, you know, was fantastic in that film. And after we watched the film, my dad said to me, it goes, I think I think he’s going to win an award. He was really he was really good. And, you know, when somebody that can be so funny can play such a tragic character, you know, I said, I think he’d be really honored that you were playing him.’”
Previously, Jeanie has spoken about how she feels Reilly deserves an Emmy for his work on the series. Award or not, he’s captured a lot of the essence of what made Dr. Buss such a fascinating personality.
For all the credit Reilly has received, the performances of two lesser-known actors also deserve praise. Both Quincy Isaiah as Magic Johnson and Solomon Hughes as Kareem Abdul-Jabbar have been fantastic, an even more impressive feat considering the lack of experience either had prior to this show.
“You know, there’s one scene where Quincy winks at the camera and I’m like, I’ve seen that wink a hundred times. I know that he’s got it down and that he captures that, you know, the essence of Magic just playing with joy... That’s a hard part to cast and he does a terrific job. And then, of course, you know, Solomon, what a challenging role to take on Kareem. There’s so many layers of of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and who he is and what he’s meant to society. And, you know, and to to capture him in this part of his life... I think he does a terrific job as well.”
According to IMDB, prior to “Winning Time,” Isiah only had some small roles in less than a handful of projects while Hughes is only credited with appearing as Kareem. With that context, it’s truly impressive to see how good the pair have been in portraying very notable, complex people in Magic and Kareem.
In the second season specifically, all the actors seemed to hit their stride with their characters even more, which isn’t a surprise. With the future of the series up in the air, here’s to getting more opportunities to see Reilly, Isiah and Hughes continue portraying the Lakers.
You can follow Jacob on Twitter at @JacobRude.