In HBO’s, Winning Time: The Rise of the Lakers Dynasty, the makers of the sports drama have gone to great lengths to add authenticity to the story of the Los Angeles Lakers Showtime era that was led by Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. This desire for authenticity is never more apparent than with the casting of DeVaughn Nixon, who proudly plays his own father and iconic player, Norm Nixon in the show. If your memories of the now 38-year-old DeVaughn go no further than the sweet kid who played young Danny Dyson in Terminator 2: Judgment Day, or Fletcher in The Bodyguard, you are in for a treat because this boy is now all man, and committed to depicting his father in a way that will do Norm proud.
M&F sat down with DeVaughn Nixon in LA to find out how the childhood star has developed into a fitness enthusiast that is capable of playing his athletic father on screen. We quickly found out that his grit and determination, plus his passion for staying in shape allows him to turn every physical session into “Winning Time.”
DeVaughn Nixon Strong Work Ethic For Stardom
As a child star, DeVaughn Nixon was in demand, but working on The Bodyguard took him out of school for four months and meant that he missed a significant chunk of his third-grade year. The young actor’s success meant that he was able to secure a condo in Encino but as time went on, he began to realize that hard work would be required in order to continue his acting career as an adult. To broaden his horizon, Nixon continued to take roles while studying television production and business finance at Loyola Mount University, and says that his family has always given him the drive and self-belief that is needed to succeed.
“My dad always told me that there is no elevator to success — you have to take the stairs,” says Nixon. “At a very young age, it instilled in me the concept of hard work and to never give up. I’ve been in this industry for quite some time now, and I’ve seen people that if they don’t make it, they just tap out. I just knew that I was always kind of destined to do this. I’ve definitely worked some odd jobs, from retail to being an investment banker, to being a venture capitalist, to teaching gymnastics classes, but all of these things were to fund my end goal, and dream of acting, and doing this for the rest of my life.”
Life is a Series of Acts
Following his graduation, Nixon’s acting career soon came back full time, and he starred in a number of shows including Sonny with a Chance, The Hard Times of RJ Berger, and Marvel’s Runaways. “I believe the real acting class comes from ‘people watching’,” shares Nixon. “And watching old films, and studying yourself, your face, your movements, and knowing every single part of you.”
When DeVaughn Nixon saw that O’Shea Jackson Jr. had taken on the role of his father, Ice Cube in the iconic movie Straight Outta Compton, Nixon began to consider the possibility that he might one day play his own famous father, a member of the legendary Showtime Lakers of the ’80s which featured Earvin “Magic” Johnson, James Worthy and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. “I was like, wow, that would be really cool to play my dad,” he recalls. “But I never thought in a million years that I would have this opportunity.”
Still, as Nixon’s dream became a reality, being cast as his famous father in Winning Time, Getting the part would come with massive challenges, because he wanted to make his father proud.
Getting into ‘Norm Nixon’ Shape
Growing up, DeVaughn Nixon had enjoyed playing basketball with his father, and brother (Norman Ellar Nixon Jr.) so he had great memories to draw upon when the cameras were rolling. “He showed me his jump shot, and that definitely translated to the show,” he shares. But in order to play Norm authentically, the loving son would have to get into the best shape of his life.
Nixon worked out almost every day and kept to a strict meal plan that was uniquely assigned to him by nutritionists. “I weighed 188-pounds going into this, and I now weigh around 160 pounds,” he says. “My secret was intermittent fasting. I found out that this works for me. I didn’t eat after 7pm or before 7am. I started with a 12-hour fast and then I pushed it to 16 hours.” Nixon says that his meals consisted of lean proteins with salad. He enjoyed Greek yoghurt and learned that by working out as well as cutting calories, he was able to lose bodyfat more quickly. Passionate about being active, Nixon runs three miles each day, running a mile in four minutes and 40 seconds, and says that as a big fan of cardio, he tries to make sure that he completes at least 20,000 steps, each day.
DeVaughn Nixon is Abs-olutely Passionate About Fitness
When DeVaughn Nixon is not running, he’s walking the dog around Toluca lake, or hiking in Fryman Canyon. One aspect of Norm that Devaughn was keen to replicate was the huge legs of his basketball playing dad, so he made sure to add lungs and calf raises to his workout sessions. These were complimented by squats and during the pandemic, Nixon also found a great training partner in his wife Lara, who made sure he worked his glutes to a succession of fitness videos. And, when it comes to his own preferences, Nixon says that abs are his thing. He does at least 3 abdominal based exercises each day, carried out either at home or in the gym.
During the production of Winning Time, a gym was built on set and masseuses were on hand to make sure that muscles were kept warm between takes. Prepping for the action sequences began three months before cameras rolled and often involved 16-hour days. Nixon’s training and basketball rehearsals were so intense that two weeks before shooting started, Nixon re-injured an old issue with his knee and tore his meniscus, requiring knee scope surgery before filming began. Fortunately, he was able to get back on his feet, and back on the court in order to fulfill his dream of making Norm proud.
Nixon says that he had an incredible experience on the show and is excited about future projects that also promise to take him out of his comfort zone, including a role in Season 5 of FX’s hit show, Snowfall. In order to play a “really scary character,” Nixon will push himself to the limits once again for the love of this craft. It seems that no matter the challenge ahead, Nixon is a chip off the old block when it comes to working well under pressure; turning every moment into a Winning Time.