The new series Winning Time: The Rise of the Lakers Dynasty will premiere on HBO and HBO Max Sunday and will tell the story of the Los Angeles Lakers dynasty in the 1980s. The show will feature notable actors playing roles of legendary NBA players such as Lakers legends Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Boston Celtics legend Larry Bird, who is played by Sean Patrick Small. PopCulture.com recently caught up with Small who revealed how he landed the role of Bird.
"Yeah, so that's an interesting way of getting it," Small exclusively told PopCulture. "I'll take it back even to 2014. So I had actually started writing my own mini-series about Bird and Magic when they were seniors in high school, all the way to the 1979 National Championship game. So I'd been doing all this research and writing and pitching for that show for the past seven to eight years. And I saw Bo Burnham was initially cast, so I was like, okay, well I'm excited to watch that show, but got to keep pitching my thing. And then I was with my wife. We were about to fly to Denver and her sister texted me and it was just like screenshots of her friend texting her saying, 'There's this casting out for this Larry Bird role. Sean should audition for it. It's for an HBO show that Adam McKay's producing.' And I was like, 'Yeah, I should, because I know all the research and all the backstory and stuff.'"
Small went on to say that he contacted his manager and shot a self-tape audition. "I shot the self-tape on a Tuesday, we sent it in Wednesday morning, was told Wednesday night we had a Zoom callback for that Friday, did that with the casting director on Friday. The following Monday was told I had a producer's room Zoom callback for Tuesday, did that. So it was just a week of auditioning and callbacks. And then it was a week of the limbo of wondering if you got the role and then [I] got the role that following Tuesday."
Two weeks later, Small was on set with the rest of the cast, including John C. Reilly, who plays late Lakers Owner Jerry Buss; Jason Clarke, who plays Lakers legend and former Lakers executive Jerry West; and Sally Field, who plays Jerry Buss' mother, Jessie Buss. Small replaced Burnham who exited the role of Bird in August due to scheduling conflicts.
There has been some controversy surrounding Winning Time as Johnson has issues with the nature of the show. But Small said fans are going to be in for a treat. "The series is the epitome of the Showtime Lakers," he said. "I mean, it's just entertainment on and off the court because the NBA back then was not what we know of it today. It became what we know of it today because of Magic and the Lakers and Bird and the Celtics with their rivalry and what they brought forth to the NBA. And then Michael Jordan obviously took it to another level and then it was the building blocks of getting to where we are today. So I think people are going to look forward to seeing the entertainment value and just also seeing these players like that we know of just the basketball identities, but actually see the humanity of them and the different complexities that they all had behind the scenes."