This summer we are putting together a collection of high-caliber television shows that have alumni appear throughout the course of their run, called "Alumni Summer Binge Series." We are starting with the recently HBO released Winning Time: The Rise of the Lakers Dynasty.
Adam McKay’s Winning Time: The Rise of the Lakers Dynasty showcases the spectacle of the 80’s era Lakers with many Academy Alumni starring alongside other incredible actors such as John C. Reilly, Quincy Isaiah, and Gabby Hoffman. Following Earvin “Magic” Johnson after he joins The Lakers, the show goes deep into the story behind the team and how they captivated audiences throughout the 80s and early 90s, following the professional and personal lives of everyone on the team. The series is based on Jeff Pearlman’s non-fiction book Showtime: Magic, Kareem, Riley, and the Los Angeles Lakers Dynasty of the 1980s.
Several academy members star in the show now streaming on HBO Max, including Adrien Brody (Specialized Training in 1993) as Pat Riley, Eric Nenninger (Class of 1999) as Keith Erickson, Micheal O’Keefe (Class of 1974) as Jack Kent Cooke, and recent graduate Tyler Stoner (Class of 2022) who got to work on set for several days as a background extra.
From a career that includes the classic Oscar-nominated film The Pianist to starring as Julien Cadazio in Wes Anderson’s most recent work, The French Dispatch, Adrien Brody is no stranger to success. He stars as former Lakers player and legendary coach, Pat Riley. In an interview with Forbes Magazine, he talks about how he “scoured everything” when researching the iconic coach, reading Pat’s books, and watching whatever footage he could find to capture the character. He explained further what it’s like to play a person that exists in the real world, not just a fictional character:
“...I definitely do feel a greater responsibility to honor that person,” Adrien noted. “I think there are advantages because there's material and other wisdom that person can impart on you… there's a degree of imagination and then there's a degree of adhering to a screenplay that's an interpretation of their life and then there's incorporating elements of them that speak to you that you feel need to be honored.”
The series finds Riley at an important crossroads in his life, often glossed over when the now-President of the Miami Heat’s legendary NBA career is most highlighted. He stars in eight of out the ten episodes and brings incredible life to the legendary coach.
Eric Nenninger has had a longstanding career in shows like Generation Kill, Malcom in the Middle, and One Day at a Time, as well as many commercials for Geico, Dish Network, and AT&T. He plays former Lakers player Keith Erickson who played for the team from 1968 to 1973. Erickson retired in 1977 with 7,251 points and 3,449 rebounds and later served as a color commentator for the Los Angeles Lakers, working alongside the play-by-play broadcaster.
Eric Nenninger stars in three of the ten episodes, commentating on the Laker’s games as they captivate the crowd.
Michael O'Keefe is known for his roles as Danny Noonan in Caddyshack, Ben Meechum in The Great Santini, for which he received a nomination for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor, and Darryl Palmer in the Neil Simon movie The Slugger's Wife. In Winning Time, he plays Jack Kent Cooke, a business executive who sold the Lakers in 1979. When he was the owner of the team, he changed the Laker’s jersey colors to gold and purple as they’re known today, and also moved the team to the Forum. Michael O’Keefe appears in two out of the ten episodes.
Tyler Stoner is a recent graduate who has already worked on several projects in the industry, including Brad Pitt’s newest film Bullet Train as well as Winning Time. In an interview, she talked about what it was like on set as a background extra and what she learned from the experience:
“I learned how important it is to take an acting class so you know how to be a professional on set,” she explained. “But getting into 70s hair and costumes every day was definitely the best part of it all.”
She went on to explain a standout moment she experienced while on set.
“I was going to crafty for a snack and I saw Jack Nicholson playing basketball on the court. And getting to talk to John C. Reilly was cool. It’s so weird to see celebrities on set because it doesn’t hit me that they’re real people until I see them with my own eyes in person.”
The days working as background for Winning Time usually started at 4 AM and would go on for 14 hours. While the days were long, she appreciated all that she learned and the friends she made while working.
All season one episodes are available to stream on HBO Max. You can watch the trailer here.
Duke Pierce contributed to this piece.