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Winning Time's Michael Chiklis Recalls The Connection Between The Fantastic Four And Magic Johnson - Exclusive

Before it was "Winning Time," it was "Clobberin' Time" for the esteemed actor Michael Chiklis as he entered the world of Marvel superheroes. The actor, of course, has made plenty of indelible marks in showbiz over the years, including lead roles in TV series such as "The Commish" and "The Shield" — the latter of which earned him a Best Dramatic Actor Emmy in 2002 — and more recently, for starring in "Coyote." On top of that, Chiklis has made several appearances in feature films, including Marvel's "Fantastic Four" in 2005, and its sequel, "Rise of the Silver Surfer" in 2007, as well as writer-director Adam McKay's 2021 Best Picture Oscar nominee "Don't Look Up."

Chiklis is now re-teaming with McKay in the new HBO/HBO Max series "Winning Time: The Rise of the Lakers Dynasty," which chronicles the dominance of the "Showtime Lakers" in the 1980s. The series begins when new owner Jerry Buss (John C. Reilly) selects Earvin "Magic" Johnson (Quincy Isaiah) as the first overall pick in the 1979 draft. The move sets up a showdown between Johnson and his college rival, Larry Bird (Sean Patrick Small) who was the top draft choice of Boston Celtics legendary coach-turned-general manager Red Auerbach (Chiklis) — and what ensues are some tense encounters between Auerbach and Buss.

Ironically, "Winning Time" isn't the first time Chiklis has been involved in a project where Magic Johnson was a key figure. In fact, he got the rare opportunity to be in the basketball star's presence more than 15 years ago.

Chiklis and his 'Fantastic Four' castmates did a spot promoting the NBA finals

During an exclusive interview with Looper to discuss "Winning Time," actor Michael Chiklis recalled a remarkable encounter he had with Magic Johnson that tied together the "Fantastic Four" movie with the 2005 NBA Finals. Chiklis, who played Ben Grimm, aka The Thing, in the movie, appeared in character along with Ioan Gruffudd (Dr. Reed Richards, aka Mr. Fantastic), Jessica Alba (Sue Storm, aka The Invisible Woman), and Chris Evans (Johnny Storm, aka The Human Torch) opposite Johnson on the basketball court for a televised promo.

"I met Magic Johnson as a result of the first 'Fantastic Four' movie," Chiklis recalled gleefully. "They did an NBA tie-in, and we did an ad with him, where the Fantastic Four had to play against Magic Johnson, and [the spot] played during the games as a promotion for the 'Fantastic Four' movie, interestingly ... [It was] a little foreshadowing [for 'Winning Time']."

In the spot, Mr. Fantastic and Sue Storm use their stretching and invisibility powers, respectively, to block Johnson's shots. Johnson eventually scores with a pass to The Human Torch, who takes flight to stuff the ball — and sets the hoop and netting on fire in the process. The Thing ends the spot by saying in a low grumble, "I love this game."

Chiklis' turn in the "Fantastic Four" movies isn't the only time he's been involved in a superhero project, either. The actor also played the recurring role of former Gotham Police Department Capt. Nathaniel Barnes-slash-The Executioner in the DC series "Gotham," and said he'd be open for more comic book-inspired projects if he had the opportunity. "I never say never. It would depend on, first and foremost, the script and the circumstances, but I'd never say never to anything like that," Chiklis said. "In a word, 'Sure.'"

"Winning Time: The Rise of the Lakers Dynasty" is now on HBO and HBO Max, with a new episode dropping every Sunday through May 8.