John C. Reilly Reflects on the 15th Anniversary of 'Step Brothers,' Hopes There's a Sequel (Exclusive)

John C. Reilly looked back on his iconic film while chatting with ET about 'Winning Time' ahead of season 2's August premiere.

Season 1 of HBO's Winning Time: The Rise of the Lakers Dynasty gave basketball fans a look back at the legendary franchise's incredible, star-studded run in the 1980s. 

The Adam McKay-directed show, based on the Jeff Pearlman book, Showtime: Magic, Kareem, Riley, and the Los Angeles Lakers Dynasty of the 1980s, tips off when Jerry Buss purchases the team in 1979. The iconic owner would spend the next decade revitalizing not just the Lakers roster and coaching staff -- with stars who would go on to become NBA legends like Abdul-Jabbar, Magic Johnson, Pat Riley and more -- but the experience of attending a basketball game as well.

Season 2 of the series takes viewers deeper into the infamous Showtime Era, spanning the 1981-'84 NBA seasons. The Lakers are coming off a winning streak they hope to continue in the new installment, but this time they have to defeat their biggest rivals, the Boston Celtics. The rivalry between Larry Bird and Magic Johnson heats up during this time, and the team and staff face major difficulties on and off the court, including injuries and new stages in many players' lives.

Ahead of season 2's Aug. 6 premiere, ET spoke with stars John C. Reilly, Quincy Isaiah, Adrien Brody, Jason Segel, Solomon Hughes, Hadley Robinson, Michael Chiklis and Sean Patrick Small about where their characters are going in the new season.

The series is the second time Reilly, who portrays legendary Lakers owner Jerry Buss, has worked with executive producer McKay. The first was the beloved comedy film Step Brothers, which celebrates its 15th anniversary mere days before Winning Time premieres in August.

 Reilly reveals that McKay is the reason he signed on to play the man who revolutionized the NBA franchise during the Showtime era by making the team's games not just competitive, but spectacles of entertainment thanks to music, advertising deals, and, of course, the Laker Girls.

"He's the reason that I felt like I'd be able to do this because [it] was short notice [when] I came into this role," the Golden Globe nominee tells ET. "We always try to tell the truth in his films and Step Brothers, I think, tells the truth about what it feels like to be someone's stepbrother. Or to be worried about your parents or whatever it is, obviously gives me something to do and I finally made that movie. They're based in reality, and a lot of the things that are in that movie are stories from our own lives, you know, rather than have to justify that's real. So there's something about the reality of the moments that make people hold on to it."

When asked if they will ever make a sequel to the film, Reilly calls it the "perennial question." adding that he "sure hope[s] so."

Meanwhile, Reilly's role in Winning Time is less comedic but still digs into the heart of family -- however, people find their way into one. 

"Fatherhood is a big theme this season, you know, you see [it with] Kareem and Magic and Jerry and Larry Bird," Robinson shares. "Most characters actually deal with fathers or fatherhood or they are the father. But I think [the] relationship [between Jerry and Jeanie Buss] is explored deeper in this season. I think Jerry and Jeanne have a really close, beautiful, father-daughter relationship in life and you see how much Jeanie talks about her father and how much she respects him and how much she's learned from the game. And I think you see that, and there are small moments where Jeanie might have some jealousy and she really seeks validation from her father in the show. But I think there's just a lot of respect and love."

For Hughes, who plays Lakers icon Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in the series, things felt more comfortable stepping into the second season. "I was certainly more confident for sure. There's no doubt about that repetition experience for sure," the former Harlem Globetrotters' player shares, adding that he feels "blessed" that his first acting job involves "generous" actors. 

He explains that despite being a basketball player, "it's very different" portraying someone who is well-known for their moves. "There are some ways that you obviously want to mimic, the way you want to bring like real authenticity. And so, when you're trying to capture these iconic moments that happened in the Celtics' legacy with you bringing the same level of intensity, you want to be in tune with the person you're playing. So there's a constant conversation that's going on... We're constantly dialoguing to make sure that we're in tune because you [got to] do this together."

Segel, who plays Paul Westhead in the series, admits he makes the effort to be generous with his co-stars, sharing his philosophy. "I've always felt like acting is what's going on between the people, in the space in between, it's not coming in with your plan," he explains. "I've acted against people who have a plan, they're not going to deviate from it no matter what you're doing, and I'm like, 'Oh, man, you're missing it.' I think the whole thing is paying attention to your partner."

The How I Met Your Mother alum tells ET that he makes a point to be available for any questions that his co-stars may have for him, citing a Sports Illustrated interview where he learned a special piece of advice Michael Jackson passed on to Lakers icon Kobe Bryant. 

He recalls: "Michael Jackson [got in] touch with Kobe Bryant and invited him over to Neverland and gave him advice. One of the things he said to him was when you get around people you admire, do not be a fan, be an interviewer and ask them every question that you think might be helpful on your journey. This is going to be your ammo for becoming the best you can be. And it really stuck with me."

"So, I think asking questions is really important," he adds. "I've been doing this for 25 years and so one of the things that I've noticed along the way, is that generosity on set is contagious. And it makes us feel like a real team, as opposed to it, 'd be weird on set if somebody is like 'The Man' or whatever you want to call it." 

Isaiah, who plays Magic Johnson, shares that he feels like his confidence increased "tenfold" when going into the second season. "I felt that a lot of the first half of [season 1], I felt like I was trying to just gain my footing. Season 2, it was very much like I've gotten to that [stable place] a lot quicker," he says. 

Brody, who portrays Pat Riley, former assistant to Segel's Westhead who eventually succeeded him as the Lakers head coach in 1981, notes that as a frequent observer from the sidelines, he's seen how far Isaiah has come from the first season. 

"Quincy has a lot on his shoulders in carrying a show like this and he was baptized by fire," he pointed out. "And I just think it's wonderful. He thrived, and I rooted for him all the way, and I watched him come into his own. But he always brought this humanity and his own joy that's very much relatable, and that represents Magic quite well."

The Academy Award winner recalls how he found himself stepping into the role of mentor for Isaiah when they first began working together, musing on how he felt like he was following the footsteps of his former public school teacher father.

"I've become a bit more like [my father], I guess, as I've gotten older. And he's incredibly patient and thoughtful, but he is hopeful, and he listens, and he has pretty good advice; he has given me great advice over the years," Brody tells ET. "And I think it playing Pat Riley and doing all the research... There's so much about finding that voice within yourself and finding clarity and referencing other great inspirations. So you know, I have a lot of life experience at this point and so I'm happy to share that with people that I care about and appreciate. So when it's asked of me, I'm happy to share it. I'm happy to, you know, help lift up the team and I always have been like that, but I think now, as you get older in life and play coach long enough, you start to actually coach in real life."

Chiklis, who fans briefly glimpsed in the first season as Red Auerbach, shares that as someone "born raised and educated in the Boston area," he feels more than prepared to tackle the role.

"My father was a massive Red Auerbach fan, you know, that was his era when he was coaching. He was the man with the plan when I was coming up," he tells ET. "He was president of the club at the time. So he was the architect, and I have been hearing about Red my whole life. So the idea of getting to play this guy... [it's] kind of crazy. And also a little like, 'Gulp..., better get this right.' I want to be able to go back [to Boston], you know? That kind of thing. So there's a bit of pressure that comes along with it, but at the same time, just so much fun. I mean, what a great experience and what great people."

Small, who wrote a four-part miniseries based on Seth Davis' book detailing the legendary NCAA championship game that launched an epic rivalry between Larry Bird and Johnson, admits that actually playing the former player and eventual coach wasn't as unexpected as he imagined. 

"I don't think there was a difference in embodying him compared to what I thought it was gonna be like because...I don't know if I just subconsciously was slowly becoming more and more like him through the writing process, but the playing basketball part was definitely in part due to you the [series] basketball trainer, who was like, 'We're going to make you the silhouette of Bert on the court,'" Small explains.

"So we wanted to make sure I looked like I ran like him, which I did naturally but dribbling is different. If I dribble as I do now, it'd be called for carrying every single time back in the 80s. Learning how to shoot like him all that type of stuff. I wanted to get that down to a tee so that no Bostonian could be like, 'He didn't get that right. I'm gonna write him off his Bird,' you know?"

Fans can judge for themselves if Small got it right when Winning Time season 2 premieres on HBO Aug. 6.

This interview was conducted prior to the SAG-AFTRA strike, which began on July 13, 2023.