Quincy Isaiah's first major TV role is playing a Michigan icon on the HBO series, 'Winning Time: The Rise of the Lakers Dynasty'. It's his smile that landed him the role.

Series Relives The Early Years Of What Would Be Known As 'Showtime'

The HBO series was created by Max Borenstein and Jim Hecht, based on the book Showtime: Magic, Kareem, Riley and the Rise of the Lakers by Jeff Pearlman.

When searching for an athletically built actor to play Michigan State legend Magic Johnson, who the Lakers built their team around back in 1979, they came across Isaiah (real name: Quincy Crosby) who had moved to Los Angeles in 2018 to pursue a career in acting.

Oddly, it was football that Isaiah was known for at Muskegon High School, starting at center for coach Shane Fairfield of the Big Reds. Isaiah then went on to play at Kalamazoo College, where the acting bug bit him.

He quit football to concentrate on theater his senior year at college, eventually earning raves for his starring role in the Lorraine Hansberry classic, 'A Raisin In The Sun', a role made famous in a 1961 movie that launched the career of the legendary Sidney Poitier.

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'It Was A Role He Was Born To Play'

“Quincy was an amazing, wonderful, spirited young kid,” says Fairfield, his football coach told the Detroit Free Press. Although a solid athlete, he began acting in earnest his senior year at Muskegon High, much to the delight of Theater Director Karli Baldus.

When Baldus found out he was cast as Johnson, it didn't surprise her. "I was like, 'That's the role he was meant to play.'"

“He showed up acting not like 'I’m the king of the world, I’m the popular kid,' but being willing to do whatever was asked," Baldus told the Freep. 
One look at Quincy and you automatically what probably won him the role, outside of his acting talents. Quincy has the same massive Magic smile that won over fans fromt he get go when he began his career in LA.

He Almost Quit Acting To Join The Military

But talent aside, Isaiah says he was real close to giving up on his career after failing hundreds of auditions in Hollywood. In an interview with GQ, Isaiah admitted his first few months in LA were tough:
The funny thing is that they don’t even say ‘no,’ you just don’t hear anything back [laughs]. Sometimes, you don’t know until you see somebody in the role on TV. But a lot of my family were in the military. It was something I never seriously thought about because my mom always pushed college. But after I got out of college and had been out here, I was like, ‘The military don’t seem like a bad idea, honestly.’ ...I was trying to go to MEPS [Military Entrance Processing Stations] in January 2019 and was talking to a recruiter. I took a test and did well on it, but they didn’t call me back because I have pins in my hips from a sports surgery. After I told them that, they kind of lost touch with me for a while. And then after I booked the role, I don’t think they knew anything about it, but they called me like, ‘Hey, just checking in to see if you’re still interested in the military.’ I was like, ‘ Eh, I’m good’ [laughs].

The Role Has Not Been Without Controversy

If you haven't seen the series yet, it is played up with a little bit of camp, thanks to producer Adam McKay, who exaggerated a lot of the team's giant personalities to extremes, leading most of the original Laker team members to call foul, including Magic.

Johnson has publicly stated he wasn't going to watch Winning Time. "It's hard. I won't watch it because it's hard to duplicate," Johnson told Entertainment Tonight in March. "You can't duplicate Showtime. "First, on the court, I mean, we just did our thing, it was up and down. And then off the court — because unless you were a Laker, or you're a Buss family [member] — because you can't duplicate Dr. Jerry Buss — and the Laker Girls and Paula Abdul and what that meant, I mean, it started on the court and it went all the way up."

But Isaiah is taking the criticism in stride, telling TMZ:

"There's no malice behind it."

A new episode in the series airs this Sunday night at 9pm on HBO.

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