Warning: This post contains spoilers for Season 2 of Winning Time: The Rise of the Lakers Dynasty.
TWO EPISODES INTO the second season of HBO’s Winning Time: The Rise of the Lakers Dynasty, Jerry Buss’s (John C. Reilly) concern about his and his team’s legacy is starting to manifest in erratic ways. In the season premiere, he tries to buy players’ loyalty with exorbitant contracts to maintain the championship legacy he began at the end of Season 1 and had a Logan Roy-esque blowout at a family Monopoly game night, berating his children for not having the killer instinct necessary to survive in the business world. In the latest episode, he celebrates his mother on the anniversary of her death with a soberingly endearing speech about her importance in their family’s success before rekindling a romance with an old flame that could play a huge part in his legacy—Honey Kaplan.
Buss, the flagrantly promiscuous playboy, peruses his scrapbook of romantic conquests at the end of the season premiere before he is frozen in nostalgia at a photo of Honey. Decadent nights out flood his thoughts as he reminisces with his daughter, Jeanie (Hadley Robinson), about how Honey is the only one of his numerous romantic partners who saw him as more than a degenerate millionaire party addict. Even Jeanie vaguely remembers how nice she was through the haze of women Buss shuffled through throughout the years. So, it’s no wonder Buss tracked her down and convinced her to attend an intimate fireside dinner date at his palatial estate. As much as he’s trying to reconnect with Honey, Buss also tries to rebuild the family structure he bulldozed over in his relentless pursuit of fame and fortune.
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By now, we all know Winning Time is the furthest thing from a documentary, so the truth is more of a starting point than a barrier. In an interview, Reilly stressed the importance of Honey’s inclusion in Buss’s life on the show, stating that Buss was “trying to replace his mother, trying to rebuild his family, trying to make up to his kids for his lack of fathering when they were younger.” It looks like she’ll be staying around for a bit, so it’s best to get to the bottom of who she really is.
Who Is Honey Kaplan?
When Buss rolls back into her life in Winning Time, Honey is somewhat of a childcare provider who reformed from a past life that once included being thrown into a pool to put out a fire. Even though she initially reduces Buss’s memory of her as “the girl who used to blow you in your Mustang,” they share fond memories of his late mother and trust in one another to share their flaws, suggesting a deeper connection. In real life, there’s one woman who Buss had too many marital disputes, lawsuits, and sordid tales from past relationships for Honey to be the representation of only one woman.
Based on the relationship timeline and some key personal details, Honey would be based on Marsha Lee Osborne, who claimed to have met Buss in an elevator hotel in 1969 when she was 19, and Buss was 36. Her storied relationship with Buss fits Winning Time‘s brand of dysfunctional drama perfectly. From her recollection, she and Buss lived together on and off for 15 years and promised to take care of her for the rest of her life. And she took that promise seriously, legally changing her name to Puppi Buss. Osborne did manage daycare centers as it appears Honey does in Winning Time, but it’s only after she and Buss’s time together ended that she sued him for $25 million in palimony.
Another potential inspiration for Honey is Veronica Buss, a woman who sued Buss for allegedly marrying her while he was still married to another woman. Karen Demel, the only other woman he had children with other than his ex-wife JoAnn Mueller, would be the only other logical choice as an inspiration for Honey. We’ll have to wait for the rest of the season to see if Honey ends up giving birth, taking Buss to court for extramarital deception, or both.
Who Plays Honey Kaplan in Winning Time?
What we know for sure is that Ari Graynor portrays the charismatic Honey. The 40-year-old actress has a knack for playing characters with the sort of witty discernment that is formidable for a slick talker like Jerry Buss. Her role as ambitious stand-up comedian Cassie Feder in Showtime’s I’m Dying Up Here, strong-willed Eva Destruction from Whip It, and the hilarious misfit Caroline from Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist is what she’s known for. That last TV show you likely saw her in was as duplicitous best friend Caroline in Apple TV’s disappointing drama Surface. But, for the foreseeable future, she’s Jerry Buss’s Honey.
Keith Nelson is a writer by fate and journalist by passion, who has connected dots to form the bigger picture for Men’s Health, Vibe Magazine, LEVEL MAG, REVOLT TV, Complex, Grammys.com, Red Bull, Okayplayer, and Mic, to name a few.