[The interview that follows contains spoilers for Winning Time: The Rise of the Lakers Dynasty up to episode six.]
Even though Hadley Robinson has just recently started acting professionally, she has already collaborated with notable actors like Sally Field, Christian Bale, and Greta Gerwig. The Juilliard alum enjoys how intricately her character is written, particularly in regards to Jeanie’s perspective on her father’s love life. She currently portrays Jerry Buss’ (John C. Reilly) daughter and aspiring executive Jeanie Buss on the Adam McKay-produced Winning Time: The Rise of the Lakers Dynasty.
“I believe that Jeanie will nearly resemble Cordelia from King Lear in the way that she confronts her father and firmly states, “This isn’t right. But instead, she adds, “I’m going to utilise this to my advantage,” according to Robinson, speaking to The Hollywood Reporter. She asks, “OK, how can we utilise this?” holding up the book listing all of his young mistresses. She acknowledges that this is what men desire because she has observed her father, at least that is what she believes. She doesn’t consent, which, in my opinion, allows for her character to be more nuanced.
Robinson intends to follow in Jeanie’s footsteps for a little while longer as the contentious HBO series has already been renewed for a second season.
“I believe it to be extremely feasible, and it is all really interesting material. So perhaps I’ll be able to attack that stuff until I’m 35. That is undoubtedly the hope, according to Robinson. Although Jeanie has only been shown in one form, I find her change to be the most fascinating aspect. Furthermore, that hasn’t even been mentioned. There is a physical change, but it also affects who she is as a person, both at work and in her personal life. She has a long way to go, therefore.
In addition, Robinson is remembering her recent encounter with Christian Bale while working on the set of Scott Cooper’s The Pale Blue Eye. (The movie is anticipated to debut on Netflix in late 2022.)
One of the most courteous, kind actors I’ve ever worked with was Christian. In terms of knowing how to arrive and act on set, Robinson says, “We spoke the same language. “I’ve had a million wonderful scene mates, but I’ve honestly never had a better scene partner. But at the conclusion of the session, I actually thought he resembled my father.
Robinson also addresses her own physical transition into Jeanie Buss in a recent interview with THR, as well as one of her favourite sequences with Magic Johnson actor Quincy Isaiah.
Let’s begin by casting, then. Was anything peculiar about the procedure?
No, not always. When I was travelling to Los Angeles for a couple meetings and callbacks, I read the script. It was a terrific vacation since, I believe, I was offered every part for which I had scheduled an audition while I was there. However, Adam McKay and I got along incredibly well when we went in for the final callback; Francine Maisler is a fantastic casting director. Therefore, it has felt naturally right from the start, and I believe I have an innate, visceral understanding of Jeanie. I therefore felt a connection to her as soon as I read the screenplay.
And how tuned into the Lakers scene were you prior to beginning your preparation?
Since I enjoy learning about new things, the fact that I had no prior knowledge of basketball made it all the more exciting. Therefore, learning about basketball, business, and the ’70s was kind of an adventure for me. There was much to explore.
In Winning Time: The Rise of the Lakers Dynasty, John C. Reilly, Gaby Hoffmann, and Hadley Robinson star. WARRICK PAGE/HBO CREDIT
Did you rely on any other sources for information on her than the scripts?
Yes, she wrote Laker Girl, a fantastic book that is formatted like a journal. It was quite helpful because it included a tonne of journal entries in which the author discusses her childhood, her relationships with her family, and basketball. There are also a tonne of podcasts available in which she lets loose a little and divulges information about her upbringing, her ownership of the Lakers, and her experiences as a member of this team. Therefore, that was also a tremendous help. Of course, the writing in [Jeff Pearlman’s] book, Showtime, is superb.
Actors occasionally confide in me that they dislike portraying contemporary individuals because of the parallels that result from people having a frame of reference for them. Were you able to quickly let go of being a carbon copy because the goal is to capture the essence of the person rather than a precise replica?
The word essence is a good choice. To avoid falling into the trap of mimicry, you must capture the essence of the individual. You shouldn’t consider how she will react to your portrayal of her given that she is still alive. Therefore, you must learn to let go of details like that and how others would perceive you. Additionally, she has a sizable following in the sports world. Therefore, you must disregard the fact that everyone will have their own thoughts and assessments of how you depict a certain individual who is so well-known. She truly is a legend.
Real life can occasionally interfere with the artistic liberties that a fiction needs to take. When your research and your scripts conflicted, how did you manage those situations?
I like to work as much as I can as an actor, but I’ve learned to just throw away anything you don’t need. But when it’s a live person, it’s incredibly entertaining. More work needs to be done as well. There are therefore more resources to draw from, and you may decide what to include. But ultimately, you want to remain focused on the script at hand and avoid becoming engrossed in the specifics of the character’s real life because doing so could cause you to lose focus on delivering the story. Whether or not the character is real and living, the story is what matters.
I’ve never asked about a plastic nose on an actor before, but did it limit you in any way? Do you ultimately adjust, or what?
(Laughs.) I’m really sorry. However, it wasn’t just the nose that made it humorous. Additionally, there were brown eye contacts, a wig, and artificial nails. Therefore, it was a variety of things. They were difficulties, but I rapidly adapted to them. You do get used to it because I went in once a week to place this nose on my face when we were filming for seven months. Although it takes a while in the chair, I quickly used to it. At one point, I was unable to feel my nose on my face, yet I found it impossible to use eye contacts since, in various situations, my eyes would simply cease functioning. The area would start to blur, making it impossible for me to see. It was particularly challenging when I had an emotional sequence where I was crying, wearing brown contacts, and everything was tinted. However, the nose was more simpler.
Hadley Robinson in Winning Time: The Lakers Dynasty’s Ascension. WARRICK PAGE/HBO CREDIT
In episode eight, there is a situation where I can see some challenges.
(Laughs.) Yes, that would be the scene, and I believe I understand what you’re saying.
Since both men and women were quick to write Jeanie down as the boss’ daughter, I’ve always admired what she’s been able to accomplish. What do you think of the life she’s built for herself after all that?
I believe she recognises her luxury in inheriting the team and having been exposed to so much when she was little. In a sense, her father prepared her for this role. But you might also look at the challenges, prejudices, sexism, and tense family dynamics she has had to deal with. She wasn’t simply the boss’ daughter; she was also a very young girl, which added to the problem. She was 19. She was only a little girl at the time, and being a lady had distinct consequences. And because of who her father was, there was much more pressure. He wasn’t only a real estate magnate who owned the Lakers; he was also a mathematical genius who rose from nothing, which contributes to the inferiority problem. I can’t even begin to conceive the strain I’d feel attempting to fill the shoes of someone with the stature and accomplishment of my father.
When she was a little child, she experienced a life-changing encounter when she saw her father dining out with another woman. She appeared to recognise her father for who he truly is at that precise moment, and she is now making use of this insight to support her father’s faltering business. She is still obviously bothered by the way he handles women, though, at the same time. How did you interpret all of this, then?
I adore that story aspect because I believe we anticipate Jeanie to nearly have a King Lear-style confrontation with her father in which she is forthright, puts her foot down, and declares, “This isn’t right.” But instead, she replies, “I’m going to utilise this to my advantage,” and does the opposite. She asks, “OK, how can we utilise this?” holding up the book listing all of his young mistresses. She acknowledges that this is what men desire because she has observed her father, at least that is what she believes. “How can we sell it when this is what men want? How can we make it more lucrative? She resists, which, in my opinion, provides for additional complexity in her character.
It’s amusing when Magic mistakenly believes Jeanie to be Jerry’s girlfriend.
(Laughs.) Because I enjoy acting with Quincy [Isaiah], I adore that sequence. He is such a fantastic time and exudes such tremendous energy. I therefore anticipated it for that reason. It was enjoyable to create their bond because in the future, they will resemble brothers and sisters. However, Magic’s presumption that Jeanie is one of Jerry’s girlfriends is humorous because at the time, he was dating ladies Jeanie’s age. Thus, it would be simple to make the error.
You have a lot of sequences with Sally Field, including a recent one when the wind is flinging papers all around and Jessie Buss (Field) is having an episode. Was having her as a scene partner really weird, to state the obvious?
absolutely unbelievable The experience is still surreal. Truthfully, the entire shoot does. But she taught me so much. She’s just so prepared, but she also seems to be living in the now. You can’t help but become engrossed in the moment with her as a result. The best actors can suddenly simply pull you in and have this seriousness about them. So all you have to do is be there with her right now. Before we started filming, I greatly admired her, thus it was a true pleasure and master class.
The programme received a second season’s renewal. Did they have a backup plan in place for you? Or did you too find it unexpected?
Simply because there is still so much more to the narrative to be told, I wasn’t surprised. I know where Jeanie is heading, only speaking from the viewpoint of the actor who plays her, and there is still so much to learn. Although Jeanie has only been shown in one form, I find her change to be the most fascinating aspect. Furthermore, that hasn’t even been mentioned. There is a physical change, but it also affects who she is as a person, both at work and in her personal life. She has a long way to go, which I wasn’t too surprised about given that each character has a significant story arc to finish.
Would you like to take a crack at playing an older Jeanie?
Yes, absolutely. It is all extremely juicy stuff, and I believe it would be very possible. So perhaps I’ll be able to attack that stuff until I’m 35. Undoubtedly, such is the hope.
Featured in Winning Time: The Rise of the Lakers Dynasty are Hadley Robinson and Gaby Hoffmann. WARRICK PAGE/HBO CREDIT
I believe Adam McKay can transform you into a 35-year-old Jeanie Buss if he can transform Christian Bale into Dick Cheney.
Yeah, why not, right?
Did you recently collaborate with Christian on Scott Cooper’s The Pale Blue Eye?
Yes, I did! Christian and I collaborated on that.
So you got to watch him act like Christian Bale?
(Laughs.) One of the most courteous, kind actors I’ve ever worked with was Christian. In terms of understanding how to arrive and act on set, we communicated in the same language. Even though I’ve had a tonne of fantastic scene partners, I’ve honestly never had a better one. So I’m quite fortunate. But at the conclusion of the session, I actually thought he resembled my father in some way. He was an outstanding actor in every way. Although he is quite competent, he is also a good guy who is fun to be around.
I’m Thinking of Ending Things by Charlie Kaufman is a fictional film that is set inside the thoughts of Jesse Plemons’ character. Was the intention to forego character development in favour of focusing solely on your character’s role in the man’s memory?
Jessie Buckley in I’m Thinking of Ending Things as a Young Woman. MARY CYBULSKI/NETFLIX, WITH RESPECT
I adore Charlie Kaufman’s writing because everything happens within his head. Every project you work on requires you to look at the writer and the director and acknowledge that they are the work’s filters. I understood my role with I’m Thinking of Ending Things, so. In this formula, I acted as a kind of tool. I stand for a particular thing. I am a figurative representation of this cruel, shallow, popular, young girl that stands in for a specific idea in Jesse Plemons’ or Kaufman’s nightmares. I like portraying a character in this kind of dreamscape movie who was more elevated and meaningful. I want to do that more often.
You always bring something to the next job, whether you work on a set for a day or a hundred. What, then, did you learn while working on Greta Gerwig’s Little Women?
I was incredibly fortunate to work at Little Women and be surrounded by some of the greatest performers of all time. Sincerely, with that one, I discovered how crucial letting go, simply showing up, and trusting your intuition are. Things won’t work if you let your mind wander too much. I believe that once you’ve done the [preparation] work, all you need to do is show up and be there. With these outstanding actors, I consistently notice that. Everything that happens today will also happen tomorrow, so all you can do is accept it and go on.
You’ve got quite the accomplishment under your belt considering how little pride most performers take in their first job or credit.
It still defies belief. After I received my Juilliard diploma, I was hired that summer. My favourite film as a child was the 1994 remake. It was a story I felt particularly connected to because I was raised on it and I have two sisters. When I first received the call, I recall screaming nonstop for five hours. (Laughs.) I still find it hard to believe it. I just couldn’t. But once you get off to that high, pressure sets in. “All right, how can we keep progressing, moving forward, evolving, and moving in that direction?” I ask myself now.
What was your takeaway from Amy Poehler’s Moxie?
That was also my very first lead. In that movie, it was all about being present every day and developing self-care skills so I could be present for everyone else. It involved knowing how to lead while still carrying out your duties. It dealt with what it meant to be a member of a group that you genuinely admire. Yes, I developed self-care skills so that I could be there for others.
You took off simultaneously with The Linda Lindas, who performed “Rebel Girl” in the movie.
(Laughs.) Aren’t they wonderful? They have great music. I continue to hear it.
What did you pocket from Fosse/Verdon?
Oh my goodness, it was one of those one-day shootings where you just show up, do your scene, and you’re done. But Tommy Kail, the director/executive producer, was among the friendliest people I’ve ever encountered. His friendliness dispelled all of my anxieties. I believe I had a concept or fear of what people in TV and movies would be like. He simply exuded charisma and seemed delighted to be there. Everyone was just affected by his magnetism. A breath was then let out. After doing the task, I felt somewhat relieved because I realised that everyone was there to express their creativity, tell a narrative, and create something lovely. That’s how easy it can be.
Can you talk about what you’re shooting now in London?
Yes, I’m now filming The Boys in the Boat in London. The director, George Clooney, is among the friendliest, silliest, and sharpest individuals I’ve encountered in a very long time. The entire cast is made up of excellent individuals who genuinely want to be there. So far, we’ve been having a great time, and I hope it comes through in the finished product. People right now, in my opinion, need to feel joyful and hopeful.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
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