John C. Reilly: Honey becomes 'really deep relationship' on 'Winning Time'

John C. Reilly stars in "Winning Time" on HBO. File Photo by Rune Hellestad/ UPI
1 of 5 | John C. Reilly stars in "Winning Time" on HBO. File Photo by Rune Hellestad/ UPI | License Photo

LOS ANGELES, Aug. 14 (UPI) -- Winning Time: The Rise of the Lakers Dynasty Season 2 introduced Honey Kaplan (Ari Graynor), a new romance in Lakers owner Jerry Buss' (John C. Reilly) life. Reilly said Honey is a more significant love interest than the girls Buss dated in Season 1.

"That ends up being a really deep relationship in the story," Reilly told UPI in a Zoom interview before the SAG-AFTRA strike. "He wasn't just this party boy. He was trying to have a deeper, meaningful relationship with somebody."


Honey is an amalgam of different women in Buss' life in the early '80s. A brief flashback in the season premiere showed Honey as a memory in Buss' past, but he reconnected with her after 15 years in Sunday's episode.

Reilly said press photos of Buss in the era showed a cavalcade of different young women on Buss' arm, but Honey represents those with whom he connected more.


"It was deeper than just the hot new girlfriend," Reilly said. "It was trying to replace his mother, trying to rebuild his family, trying to make up to his kids for his lack of fathering when they were younger."

Honey becomes a threat to Jerry's daughter, Jeanie (Hadley Robinson). Jeanie Buss is still the Lakers' owner today, so sports fans know it worked out for her.

In 1981 to 1984, the period Season 2 covers, Jeanie was on less sure footing in her family and the team.

"When this woman waltzes in and takes her place, as she sees it so easily, I think she's very threatened," Robinson said. "You see her go through the emotional roller coaster of what that means."

Reilly said the onus falls on Jerry for letting Jeanie feel pushed aside.

"It's not like Honey wants to displace her," Reilly said. "Jerry let Honey displace her. Jerry displaced Jeanie with Honey in our story."

Jerry gives Jeanie's brothers, Jimmy (McCabe Sly) and Johnny (Thomas Mann), more business opportunities to lead other athletic teams within the franchise while he keeps Jeanie as his assistant.

Reilly said he understood how Jerry saw Jeanie differently than his boys. He had four sons in real life.


"Men back then still thought my heir is my son, not my daughter," Reilly said. "My daughter will go off and marry somebody and have her life with her husband. My sons are going to carry on my name."

However, Reilly said he suspects Jerry did have faith that Jeanie could prove herself, given that history bears this out.

"I know how much he really believed in Jeanie and I know who ends up running that organization to this day," Reilly said. "So he must have seen things in Jeanie that he didn't see in his other kids."

Robinson said she has to forget about where Jeanie ends up to portray her path to get there.

"On podcasts and in interviews, she said she was a shy kid and she kept to herself," Robinson said. "You do see her confidence more in Season 2 and her rise into that position."

New episodes of Winning Time air Sundays at 9 p.m. EDT on HBO and stream on Max.

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