‘Showtime’ for a Terp’s Transformation
Computer Science Grad Channels ’80s Lakers Star on Hit HBO Series
By Dylan Manfre M.Jour. ’23
Photo by Warrick Page/HBO
Delante Desouza ’16 was scrolling through a website that helps actors connect with jobs when he had a life-changing realization: He looks a lot like a star player from the “Showtime” Lakers of the 1980s.
Nope, not that one. Or that one, either.
Since then, he’s gone from working as a digital marketing specialist in Baltimore and a guy who couldn’t explain a pick-and-roll to portraying standout shooting guard Michael Cooper, sinking 3-pointers alongside Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, in the hit HBO series “Winning Time: The Rise of the Lakers Dynasty.”
“This career change has shown me, more than anything, you can have whatever you want as long as you’re willing to work for it,” says Desouza (above).
A Baltimore native, he was a gamer and tech buff and community-theater performer who majored in computer science at UMD. He was part of the Kreativity Diversity Troupe then but had settled into his unsatisfying but stable job when he discovered the casting call in 2019.
To win the role, he cut his hair, grew a mustache and sent in a video of himself pretending to shoot jump shots. Then he got his basketball brain up to speed by immersing himself in NBA and Lakers lore and began transforming his body to look more like Cooper. While he couldn’t grow five inches to reach Cooper’s height of 6 feet, 5 inches, he did drop 30 pounds and learned to be a righty.
“By the time we got to filming, it was second nature for all of us just to say, ‘All right, we’re doing this,’” Desouza says of all the training during the COVID-19 shutdown. “If Magic Johnson started a no-look pass, it has to look like Magic Johnson. The hardest part of it all is just emulating the players and getting their movement down and becoming silhouettes of them, essentially.”
Earnest and anxious, Cooper first appears in Episode 4, returning from an injury and unsure about his place on the changing team, intently studying last season’s games—not so different from Desouza in preparing for his role.
The cast, featuring newcomer Quincy Isaiah as Johnson, also featured big names including John C. Reilly, Sally Field and Adrien Brody. The show, with its disco vibe, cigarette haze, bawdiness and celebration of excess, took viewers on an over-the-top early ’80s ride, drawing more than 1.6 million to its May finale. The season 2 premiere is scheduled for spring.
Each of the show’s seasons covers one NBA year, and Cooper won five NBA championships in his 12 years with the Lakers. Desouza might not have to return to that desk job anytime soon.
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