John C Reilly hails LA Lakers owner as one of greatest characters he has played

He stars as Jerry Buss in HBO's Winning Time: The Rise Of The Lakers Dynasty.

John C Reilly has said he was “in awe” playing Jerry Buss, the famous owner of the LA Lakers basketball team, who “literally changed the world”.

The American-Irish actor, 56, stepped into the role a week before the pilot for Winning Time: The Rise Of The Lakers Dynasty was shot, following last-minute casting changes.

The HBO series, directed by Adam McKay, is a comedy-drama following the professional and personal lives of the 1980s basketball team – Los Angeles Lakers.

Los Angeles Lakers head coach Phil Jackson, Kobe Bryant and Lakers owner Dr Jerry Buss (Kevork Djansezian/PA)

Reilly told the PA news agency: “The first thing that drew me to the project was Adam McKay.

“Then I read the script and I was like, ‘Oh, my God, this is one of the greatest characters I’ve ever been offered’.

“The positivity of him, the way he looked at adversity as just something to be pushed aside. I just love the story.

“The more I got to know Dr Jerry Buss, the more I was just in awe of what he could do and what he did.

“The guy had a PhD in physical chemistry, I don’t think there’s a single sports owner in the world right now, who has a PhD in physical chemistry.

Winning Time: The Rise Of The Lakers Dynasty (Sky UK/HBO)

“But it took everything he had, financially, emotionally and intellectually to pull this off.”

Buss realised that basketball needed to be “popular” and introduced music, which is now “central to the game”, as well as The Laker Girls, Reilly said.

He added: “He (Buss) changed entertainment, and by extension, he literally changed the world.

“I’ve got high hopes for myself before I pass away, but I’m not sure I’ll change the entire world.

“And that’s a really impressive thing. He’s an impressive guy to play.”

Kong: Skull Island European Premiere – London
John C Reilly (Chris Ratcliffe/PA)

Reilly added the “trickiest” thing about portraying a real person is that “their family is still alive”.

“Even though Jerry passed away, Jerry’s family is still alive, they still own the Lakers and there were many times where I thought, wow this would be difficult for me to watch someone portray my father, and in his high moments and his low moments I had a real sensitivity to that.

“No matter what happened with the character, I tried to present him with dignity, compassion and truth as opposed to just trying to tell some sensational, kind of scandalous story.

“This guy lived through some intense things, and I think the best way to honour him and to honour his family was to tell the truth because the truth is magnificent.

“The truth is a miracle,” he said.

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