Hadley Robinson had a lot of studying to do when she landed the role of “legend” Jeanie Buss, the daughter of Lakers owner Jerry Buss, in HBO’s hit series, “Winning Time: The Rise of the Lakers Dynasty.”
“I knew nothing about basketball going in, which actually made it that much more interesting because I like learning about new things,” Robinson told The Hollywood Reporter in an interview published Wednesday.
“So it was sort of an adventure for me to learn about basketball, business, and the ’70s. There was a lot to delve into.”
To emulate the current Lakers owner, Robinson, 27, said she read Buss’ “great” book, “Laker Girl,” which was released in 2010.
“It’s filled with a lot of journal entries, and she talks about her childhood, her relationship to her family members, and basketball, so that was a huge help. There are also so many podcasts out there where she lets loose a little and opens up about her childhood and also owning the Lakers and her experience being a part of this team. So that was a huge help as well. And of course, the [Jeff Pearlman] book, ‘Showtime,’ is so well written,” she explained.
In order to look the part, Robinson wore a prosthetic nose, colored (brown) contacts, a dark wig, and fake nails, which she said were a “challenge” at first before she became used to her new manicure.
“We were shooting for seven months, and I went in once a week to put this nose on my face, so you do get used to it,” she said. “It does take a long time in the chair, but I got used to it pretty quickly. I couldn’t even feel the nose on my face at a certain point, but the eye contacts became difficult for me because, in some scenes, my eyes would just stop working. Everything around me would become blurry and I couldn’t see. And especially when I had an emotional scene where I’m crying and wearing brown eye contacts and everything is tinted, it became difficult. But the nose was a lot easier.”
“Winning Time” depicts Buss in her younger years, going through the trials and tribulations of being the boss’s daughter, with John C. Reilly in the driver’s seat as the elder Buss, who passed away in 2013. Early on in the show’s first season , she’s often dismissed by her peers and Lakers brass.
When asked about Buss’ real-life success after dealing with critics from a young age, Robinson said, “Well, I think she acknowledges her own privilege, being bequeathed the team and being exposed to so much when she was young. Her father practically groomed her for this position. But you could also examine the obstacles she’s faced and the stigmas and the sexism and the tumultuous familial relationships. And it wasn’t just the fact that she was the boss’ daughter; she was also very young. She was 19. She was just a girl, and being a woman at that time had different implications. And her father, being who he was, added even more pressure.
“There’s more of an inferiority complex because he wasn’t just a real estate tycoon who owned the Lakers, but he was also a mathematical genius who built himself up from nothing. So having a father of that state, who’s that accomplished, I can’t imagine the pressure I’d feel while trying to fill those shoes.”
“Winning Time” was recently renewed by HBO for a second season, and Robinson said she would “absolutely” love the opportunity to play an older buss.
“I think it’d be very doable, and it is all juicy stuff. So hopefully I can take a whack at that stuff up until [age] 35. That is definitely the hope,” she said.
“Just speaking from the perspective of the actor playing Jeanie, I know where she’s going, and there’s just so much more to uncover. We’ve seen one version of Jeanie, but her transformation is the most interesting part for me. And we haven’t even touched on that yet. There’s a physical transformation, but it’s also who she is as a person, both in the workplace and in her life. So she’s got a long way to go, and I wasn’t really surprised because all of the characters have huge arcs to complete.”
Robinson had only been acting professionally for a few years before landing the role of Buss in “Winning Time,” alongside two-time Academy Award-winner Sally Field, who plays Jessie Buss, Jerry’s mother.
“But I learned so much from her. She’s just so well prepared, but then she’s also completely in the moment,” Robinson said about working with Fields. “So you can’t help but get swept up into the moment with her… I looked up to her so much before we started shooting, so it was just a real pleasure and a master class.”