Magic City [Starz, Fridays, 10/9C] is about a specific time in the history of Miami, Florida. New Year’s Eve of 1958 found the city about to hit a period of ferocious growth – what with Castro’s Cuban revolution forcing thousands of Cubans to flee for lives, most winding up in Miami. Soon, and for largely the same reason, the city would be taking over from Havana as the party town of the region.
The series is based, in part, on Glazer’s memories of life in Miami at the time, and centered on the Miramar Plaza Hotel, owned and operated by Ike Evans [Morgan] – a fictional version of the famous Fontainbleau Hotel – and the deal he makes with mob boss Ben ‘The Butcher’ Diamond [Danny Huston] to achieve his dream.
Recently, Glazer and Morgan took some time to talk with a group of bloggers/journalists about the series – and maybe a little football…
How’s it going? Thanks for taking the time here. I wanted to say that I’m enjoying the show. I’ve seen the first three episodes.
Mitch Glazer: Thank you. Terrific.
Jeffrey Dean Morgan: Awesome.
And I’m really liking, you know, the time period and the whole situation there. I was wondering if you could sort of talk about why this year, 1959, and in Miami?
Glazer: For me? Mitch?
Yes, for Mitch.
Glazer: Yes. It was always my intention. I mean I realize obviously that with the fall of Havana in ’58, that New Year’s Eve, which is obviously cinematic to the extent that it’s been in The Godfather, it was such a defining moment for Miami and for the country. But in Miami you went from a city that had 30,000 Cuban immigrants in 1959 to I believe 250,000, 18 months later or 2 years later.
And so, you know, that night changed everything for the city and it also felt like kind of that pivotal – being on the prefaces before the Kennedy years and kind of one of the most – I mean there actually is a book called 1959 because there was massive cultural and political shift in the country and in the world that year and a lot of it happening as I found out in the lobbies of these hotels. So it was just the perfect period.
And having been born and raised in Miami Beach and been alive at that point, although only 7 years old I want to make a point of…
Morgan: But you had an awesome memory.
Glazer: I have a great memory. It seemed like a very incredibly glamorous and cool era to write about as well as obviously kind of important.
So are you drawing on any of your experiences or just – what’s sort of the overall what you, you know, when you were growing up there (unintelligible)?
Glazer: No. The real engine for me for the show, the thing that was pushing me was that, you know, like all writers you kind of write what you know and having a sense of place and time. This is – I was born and raised there and this is – in these lobbies of the hotels my dad was an electrical engineer who lit them, you know, the Fontainebleau, the Eden Roc, the Deauville. You know, the kind of the center of social life in Miami Beach when I was growing up were the hotels all of which I tried to sneak into and got thrown out of and – as all the local kids did.
But these are – you know, so many of them to the point of embarrassment are based on stories that happened that I saw or older brothers and sisters or my parents told me and it’s very specific. And for what I like as a fan, you know, whether – what I responded to with what David Chase in The Sopranos was the specificity of that Jersey/Italian American experience, you know, the guys in front of the meat market.
I mean, you know, there’s things that resonate because they feel so real. And true and there was perfume there blowing out of the nozzle in Saks Fifth Avenue on Lincoln Road when I was a kid, so, you know, this is all – a lot of it is from my childhood.
All right. And then would you like to address the inevitable comparisons that will be made to Mad Men?
Glazer: Only in that, you know, I didn’t watch — because I was working — much but the first year I thought was spectacular. And, you know, I know Matt a little and he’s been incredibly gracious since this show happened. And Jon Hamm my wife and I have known for a long time and I’m crazy about him and I love his work.
You know, as far as the shows being comparable they’re really not other than I guess the year. I mean, you know, Magic City is set in an ethnic, you know, Jewish/Cuban world, a tourist town, and again I worked as a cabana boy at the Deauville Hotel. I mean there’s no – it’s not like I looked around and thought, “What’s a cool era to write about?” This is my home and this was the time for me.
So it feels earned and I actually wrote the first episode of it in 2007, early 2007, summer of 2007, and so there was no influence other than hopefully if we get compared to the storytelling and writing as far as quality, I’d be thrilled.
All right. Great. And then for Jeffrey I was just wondering if you could talk about Ike. I find him pretty fascinating in that he seems like a really good guy but he finds himself having to sort of do these things that he maybe would not really want to do.
Morgan: Well I think you’re dealing with a guy who is a good guy, who kind of raised through the ranks and built his dream mostly by hard work. And, you know, he’s a family man in his heart. I think that was sort of the thing that I identified with the character, that I loved that Mitch had written was this guy who loves his family and he’s thrown into an incredible, oh God, incredible pressures I guess and he’s forced to make decisions. And like all of us he has trouble making decisions and he makes the wrong ones at times and there are repercussions.
But, you know, the great thing about being able to do this in long form and doing an actual series on STARZ is that I get to, through Mitch or Mitch through me, kind of tell the story of this man and not only the great things that happen in his life but the mistakes and the horrific kind of repercussions of those mistakes and how this guy deals with them.
All right. And does Danny scare you as much as he does me?
Morgan: Yes. I know Ben Diamond scares me. I think Danny is an incredibly awesome individual and I feel real lucky to be able to go work with him every day. But… (unintelligible) a little bit creepy.
I had a question for Jeffrey. Our readers are huge fans of yours from both Grey’s Anatomy and Supernatural, so I was wondering if you could tell me a little bit about how working on a show from Starz which is obviously a cable network and, you know, is different in a lot of ways than working on a mainstream network, what the difference is in working on this kind of show (unintelligible).
Morgan: Well for one thing I think we – we’re not trying to do – we’re not doing a 23-, 26-episode season. We have in the first year eight episodes and next year we’re going to do ten which allows us more time. We are less rushed than most of what we see on television which kind of allows us to be much more cinematic.
I never felt when I was doing this show that it was a television show. It didn’t feel like it when we were making it. I never felt that kind of – I mean the pace is still incredible but, you know, as you’ve seen, it doesn’t look like anything I think that’s been on television. Everybody in this comes from the world of film both in front and in back of the camera.
So, you know, when I first got the scripts it didn’t read as a television show. I was very leery of getting into a television show, not that my experiences on Grey’s and Supernatural weren’t great, they were. I mean they gave me a career. They put me in the opportunity to be Ike Evans in Magic City. But that being said, I think going to especially what STARZ is doing now, it’s just – it’s not TV. It’s (unintelligible).
Does that change the way you approach acting and like digging into the characters any?
Morgan: Well I think the great thing about doing this is I got eight episodes as opposed to trying to cram a whole story and a whole character into an hour and a half, two hours, which is what I’ve been doing really since I did Grey’s and Supernatural and even those shows I was only on, you know, I think was on like 12 episodes of Supernatural and I did like 20 of Grey’s throughout a three-year period. So I was never a regular.
Morgan: Doing this felt like I was going away and doing a film and the beauty of it is I get to continue this movie. This journey that Ike is on that Mitch is taking me on I get to keep doing, which is great. I think my biggest fear about doing television is getting bored with the character and I don’t have that feeling doing Magic City. I don’t think I’m ever going to get bored of playing Ike and I think there are many stories yet to unfold and, you know, coming from the brain of Mitch Glazer there and I’m thrilled and happy and I can hardly wait to get back for Season 2.
That’s awesome. And, Mitch, do you have thoughts about how you’re going to continue to develop this character for Jeffrey?
Glazer: He is so not going to be bored. This guy is going to be so not bored I can’t even tell you. We’re laying out the second season as we speak and, no, it’s a rocket sled and – no, for me, this is going to sound like the gush-fest that should, you know, to be able to – anything that I can think of, any kind of piece of Ike or move for him not only can Jeff do but he brings to places that I hadn’t anticipated.
And people always ask me like, you know, ‘So like you’re on set all the time,’ and half of it is as a fan I just want to watch these people work. And so, you know, Ike Evans is charismatic but also has secrets and, you know, you see the weight that he’s under at the same time how loving he can be and, you know, where he’ll go to keep his family and his vision of this hotel together all on Jeff’s face. I mean it’s a – I think it’s an astounding performance and as a writer it’s the most liberating, inspiring work I’ve done.
You know, so I can, you know, second season he’ll – he better rest up on the off season, that’s all I gotta tell him. Take a nap.
Morgan: I feel like you guys have seen – everybody’s seen like three episodes is that right of (unintelligible) kind of on the phone right now have seen three. So what’s been happening here in the first three episodes is we’re setting the story.
Mitch wrote these first three. I think it lays a really great groundwork for what is yet to come and where Ike has to go in this first year where we end up. Look, I’m hoping I’m alive for Season 2. You know, I’ve got a tendency to die in things so – and where we end this first season, you know, it’s anybody’s guess, although not Mitch’s. He’s the only one that knows what the hell is going on here.
Glazer: No. You’ll be back.
My first question is for Jeffrey, kind of a little bit of a segue, but I was going to ask you, how does it feel to play a character on TV that actually isn’t dead or in a flashback?
Morgan: Well, again, I don’t know what’s going to happen. I made it through the first year which is a first for me on any television show, which was thrilling. But, again, as this season goes, you know, the journey that Ike’s on is (proceeding) to some dangerous spots, so we’ll see where we go. But as far as being in the show and knowing that I’m not dead yet it’s been great. It’s kind of liberating as an actor to know you’re not going to die in two episodes.
From what I’ve seen so far, Ike seems really laid back for the high position that he’s in. Is there a dark – does Ike have a dark side to him?
Morgan: You think Ike’s laid back? Is that what you said?
Morgan: See, I don’t take it that way. I think he puts on a front in front of everyone of this charming guy that’s a little laid back. But I think what you see behind closed doors is not a guy that’s laid back, it’s a guy that’s making hard decisions that people’s lives depend on including his own. And so this sort of air that he gives out of everything being okay and he does, he gives that to everyone, his wife, his shady business partners, everybody. He has to.
But then behind closed doors you see the cracks, you see the burden that he’s carrying and I don’t think he’s very laid back in those situations. And again, you’ve seen three episodes. I think as this goes on it’ll be very telling about Ike’s personality and I think this laid back charm he has is going to be put to the test.
And now that STARZ has renewed Magic City for a second season before they even aired one episode, does this put any more or less pressure on you as a lead actor and Mitch as the series creator?
Morgan: You want to take the first part of that, Mitch, go.
Glazer: Yes, absolutely. No, no, I – it might be misguided confidence but, you know, I always assumed – there is a special joy in seeing the Chris Albrecht smile and the congratulation thing which was great, but I always had a feeling that we were going to be going forward and I’d already started kind of mapping out or planning in my head a second season.
And I don’t know – I’ve never done television before so I don’t know the politics of announcing or what any of that means. What I do know is STARZ and Chris Albrecht in particular have a passion for the show and he hasn’t been shy about that. So his support and kind of excitement about it is great fuel for all of us.
And, you know, I don’t feel any more pressure than I would’ve if we were waiting to hear or – it’s a relief truthfully. I mean I can just kind of proceed and I have writers this time as opposed to writing all of them as I did last year and, you know, I think I’ll look better at the end of the year, things like that now since (they tripped the) help.
Morgan: I on the other hand, feel shitloads of pressure. You know, for me this is my baby. It’s Mitch’s baby and it’s my baby and…
Morgan: …(unintelligible) pressure today because I know this show is going to be seen tonight, so we’re letting our baby out of its crib for the first time. And there’s something really nice about having that to ourselves and to let it be out there and, you know, for people to judge something that you love so much, you always feel the pressure and I’d be crazy if I said, “Oh, it’s just great.” I feel pressure every single day.
That being said, I wouldn’t want to operate on any other axis. I like the pressure and I think that brings out the best in me and I think it brings out the best in Mitch regardless of what he’ll tell you how cool he is.
Glazer: No, no, no. I think I misunderstood the question only in whether it was pressure going forward into a second year. The expectations – the pressure that we put on ourselves, I mean truthfully when I would walk into a read-through and the cast was reading the new episode for the first time, the expectation level and the ambition level and the pressure was self-imposed, meaning, you know, Jeff and I were feeling that we were operating at a certain level and you just wanted to continue it and so I feel that. When I’m in with writers and kind of the storytelling and I just want it to get better and bigger and more powerful.
But as far as the world thing, Jeff’s absolutely right. This is a – you know, it’s a vulnerable feeling because we’ve just been hugging each other saying how much we’re enjoying it through the whole process and now it’s in the world, you know, which is what we’re doing it for. But, yes, there’s definitely pressure attached. I’m not that cool.
Morgan: Well, you know, also having announced the second season, it’s great. It is a huge sense of relief because we just started telling the story, you know. I just am getting to live with Ike. I had six months living in his shoes and I really like this guy and I like telling the story. I like telling Mitch’s story.
And so that part of going into season two is a huge relief and knowing that this network and Chris Albrecht has this confidence in us before we even air an episode, there is a certain amount of confidence that certainly gives us as artists moving forward, I’ll say that.
Great. And I just had one last question for Jeffrey. I just want to know how you feel about the Seahawks singing Matt Flynn?
Morgan: Look, I think it’s a good move. Mitch on the other hand is a Miami Dolphin fan so he was kind of hoping that he was going to get Flynn.
Glazer: I’m horrified.
Morgan: So I’m still (taking) special pleasure in the fact that we got him. We needed a quarterback. I’m not gonna lie. We needed a quarterback. Jackson wasn’t cutting it. I still think we probably should have kept Hasselbeck for a year or two. I think he had some gas left in the tank as proven this last year. But I’m not gonna lie, I had a little dream about Peyton Manning. It died rather quickly. But I think Matt Flynn, you know, let’s see him prove it for a season, not just a game.
Glazer: We could end up – the Dolphins could end up with Jeff playing quarterback next season.
Morgan: I’ll be down there. I’ll give it a go.
Glazer: That’s what I’m saying. We’ll work you out.
Jeff, you’re going to have to change your allegiance, man, if you want folks in Florida to watch your show.
Glazer: Please. Talk to him.
Morgan: Well, you know, when I’m in town I’m a Heat fan.
Well I wanted to ask though, seriously, like why shooting in Florida was so important to you guys because, you know…
Glazer: Well I can speak to the first part and then it really does kind of dovetail in for Jeff. But, you know, for me, it’s called Magic City. The city was always going to be a character. I knew that there was nothing – I mean, you know, I’m such a Miami guy that the only time I ever saw Miami accurately portrayed was when Michael Corleone goes to visit Hyman Roth in Godfather II and you pull up to that little middle class Jewish home. That – I remember turning to someone and saying, ‘That is what Miami Beach looks like.’
And so it was a mission of mine to get down there and use the city, you know, the largest kind of existing pre-1959 architecture in the world is that deco area and the light and the smells. But I also had a feeling – I had a dream that the actors would be inspired and be able to kind of become a part of the experience deeper from shooting it there which is what Jeff can speak to.
Morgan: Nice dovetail. I like that a lot. Well absolutely. I think shooting in Miami was maybe the single most important thing that we did as a production. I mean, you know, the sets are beautiful, the most beautiful sets I’ve ever seen in my life as a matter of fact. But being in Miami and being able to use the city and for me it’s just being a character as any one of us in the show is hugely important.
I mean we’ve all seen the shows that, you know, Dexter and CSI: Miami (unintelligible) Miami and it’s painfully obviously to those of us who are watching them that it’s not shot in Miami and I think that brings a certain amount of realism to not only us as actors but the viewers are keenly aware of that kind of thing. And showing Miami in the light that we show it I think is a great thing not only for us but also the city of Miami.
Glazer: Also you know, because I grew up there when questions came up or more than questions I could actually take – I mean when we were shooting – we shot the pool area at the Deauville Hotel on Collins Avenue which was built in like ’58. My father did the lighting for it as I said and I worked there as a cabana boy in ’73.
But I could take Jeff into – we shot a scene in Episode 6 in the ballroom that The Beatles played in in ’64 and I was there. I mean I was there watching the Ed Sullivan Show and I could take Jeff in and a couple of the actors and the same chandeliers. And so literally, you know, you can kind of immerse yourself as Jeff said in the reality of the moment and I could speak to it.
So to do it in Burbank or North Carolina, the storytelling and the performances would’ve held up but there’s a depth to it from being in the place that you can’t compete with.
And there’s one thing I wanted to ask Jeff about Ike. In the first three episodes he does seem rather sort of put upon. You know, we don’t see him sort of as active a participant as dynamic a participant as maybe, you know, he’s coping with all these things that he’s got to sort of juggle and deal with, will we see him become a little bit more of a hero, a little bit more active and a little less the guy who’s trying to deal with folks, trying to screw them over all the time?
Morgan: Yes, you will. Like I said I think the first three episodes are a lot of kind of setting up for what is yet to come. And, you know, as described by Mitch and I, this show is a train and it’s picking up speed. I mean it is very much (so fun) and what we’re seeing now are Ike’s wheels turning. He’s going to have to get involved. He may have to get his hands dirty. Oh, hell, I’ll say it, he’s going to get his hands pretty dirty.
Morgan: He’s unable to sit back much longer. Everything is sort of coming to a head and I think the first three episodes are providing that pressure and something is going to burst.
It’s great to hear that The Godfather, the second Godfather movie was sort of an inspiration because I was thinking of that the whole time I was watching these scenes. It feels very much like that, like you’ve captured sort of what’s happening in Miami while Michael is sort of in Havana. So I can’t wait to hear that – to see the more active stuff going on.
Morgan: Yes. I mean, look, one of the joys of – and I’ve said this but I think doing this long form and having eight hours to kind of let this play out is that it can be a slow burn. And I know everyone is used to it’s a fast-food nation, everyone’s like the immediate payback, “What’s going to happen and I want to see it happen now.” And I think we get to really sort of explore human nature in having more time.
And so I love being able to portray Ike and let the audience kind of walk in his shoes and it kind of (is) funny to me that people think he’s so laid back because I’ve watched those episodes and I know what was going on in my head during them and I know also where the story is going and when the payback happens, it’s going to be big, it’s going to be huge and it’s going to make people sit up in their seats. So just hang on. The ride is – it’s a ride.
I just have a question for Mitch. I think you said earlier that you wrote the first episode back in 2007 and I wondered what had happened in between time. Is it something you’d been working on and off or is it something that you have been trying to pitch or trying to make for years? And also how did you end up at STARZ?
Glazer: I wrote it initially as a network show and it was one of those deals where I’d never done – I had never written TV ever and I walked in and did the pitch and the woman that was running one-hour drama midway through the pitch said – I said, ‘It’s Miami Beach, it’s 1959,’ and she said, ‘Where did you go to high school?’ And I said, ‘Beach High.’ And she said, ‘I went to Gables,’ which is our arch-enemy and she said, ‘Let’s just do this.’ And so it was kind of effortless and I wrote kind of a version of what it became.
But it was apparent to me once I started realizing that world, because I’d never dealt with it before, the kind of parameters of network TV, you know, in censorship editorially but also just the kind of demands of, you know, what it required. And then I really always saw it as being cinematic it just wasn’t a natural fit.
And so it was one of those things that because it’s a passion project and because it’s about my hometown and family in a kind of extended way, I held onto in my head. But, you know, to set up elsewhere required incredible generosity from the original – from the people I had written it for.
And it ended up at STARZ in a kind of strange way. I went to Havana to do research for a movie I was writing and Chris Albrecht was on the trip with us and we got to know each other socially. He had already left HBO but had not started at STARZ yet. And we got to know each other, we walked into the lobby of the Riviera Hotel which is the Morris Lapidus designed 1959 building and he just – you know, I saw his eyes go up and it was this beautiful, swank hotel and it registered with me.
And so when he started at STARZ very shortly after, I sent him the copy of the script and from that moment until now it’s like nothing, two years or something. It happened super-fast and which is how he operates. Maybe the last one who kind of operates from his gut and pulls the trigger like that and he just went, “This is great. I love it. Let’s do it.” And thank God he did.
Jeffrey, I had the opportunity to talk to both of your TV sons this morning.
Morgan: Oh, good.
In talking to Steven I brought up the beach scene between Stevie and Ike where you tell him that his mother was not sort of love at first sight and how important that was – we were talking about how important that was for his character to hear. But he also talked about how it was a great day of filming for him because working with you and the situation and I was wondering if you could talk a little bit about that too.
Morgan: I just remember that day being really, really hot. No, I think that was our first scene together and it was a scene that was sort of pivotal we thought during the rehearsal process for both our characters. It kind of established the relationship between father and son as well as what happens moving forward in the story.
So here’s what I’ll say about both my sons and everybody in the cast actually, but he’s so good. You know, he’s a young actor that – and this is really what I got out of that day because it was the first time working with him, he knows how to listen as an actor. And so when you see that happening (unintelligible) be surprised how few actors know how to listen in the course of the scene, they really (unintelligible). And I remember being so proud of him like a fatherly pride for Steve as Stevie and he’s going to be a handful as the show goes on and I think that’s (sort of) an indication of our relationship.
But I agree that that was a pivotal moment I think that we were filming that day and being that it was the first scene that we shot as these characters, I think it lays the groundwork for our relationship moving forward as well as what’s happened in the past that the audience hasn’t been privy to.
Okay. And then, Mitch, I just – I love that scene and I was wondering if you could talk to it as being the writer of it what, you know, I guess what was your inspiration for it and…
Glazer: I love it too and thank you. I mean I – even in read-through and we read through the script a lot before we started the first one and every time we got to that scene all the actors in the room would watch these two because it was really an appropriately deep moment and coming out of character and the writing of it, you know, I find that the most magic happens sometimes when the characters — and this sounds insanely pretentious and psychotic even — but start talking apart from me.
In other words, you know, I set them in motion and that moment when Stevie says, you know, ‘Was it like that with Mom,’ you know, Ike’s answer was Ike’s answer. It was just kind of like, ‘No, it wasn’t that way.’ And it just came out and as I wrote it I went, ‘Wow, this is a heavy thing to say to your son.’ I mean, you know, shattering even but speaks to the kind of respect that Ike has for Stevie at that point and trust but it’s an honest moment.
The other thing being, as constructed, you know, Stevie is kind of junior partner and Ike has created him as such and kind of designed him to be that – not a peer maybe but someone who’s an employee and a partner. So those kind of father-son moments are rare. And when we talked about it, the three of us, it’s so important, you know, Stevie is so hungry I think for, the character, for that time with his father and for Ike to give it up to him and kind of – I mean, you know, my father and I love each other and we’re really close and I can count those moments on both hands, you know, and they’re precious to me, you know.
And so it was a really important – and it led, it built to – at the end of the first episode when Ike and Stevie are in the Atlantis lounge and Ike puts his hand next to Stevie’s head and holds it there and Steven, the actor, just leans against it, you know, tilts his head against it, not scripted. These two guys having played the scene that you like, they were so in it that that kind of affection and tenderness – I mean, you know, when you ask the – I’ve been asked about the comparisons to other shows of the period but that kind of father-son affection and relationship is something that’s really precious to me as a person and as a writer and these a guys are just killing it I think.
Yes. Well not to blow sunshine but it’s terrific. It’s one of my favorite scenes from the three episodes.
Glazer: Oh, God, blow. Thank you.
Morgan: Blow away. And just adding to it I think, you know, I mentioned how important it is this relationship that I have with Vera but also with his sons. I think – people I think are sometimes not willing to show this – a loving family and portray that. And I think it is the greatest part of this show is this family and how they aren’t afraid to tell each other that they love each other and they’re not afraid to deal with conflict within the family and yet you know that there’s this undercurrent of love.
Beyond anything else that happens in this first season you’re going to know that Ike loves his family more than anything and that’s his foundation. It’s made him the man who he is. And certainly this relationship with Stevie is so important to who Ike is and, you know, Stevie kind of looking for this approval from his father who loves him and yet sometimes doesn’t give him the approval that he is so desperately searching for. And so it kind of makes this – it’s a windy kind of complicated road that these two are going to be on as well as all the characters but I love this relationship between Stevie and Ike because I think that Ike looks as Stevie as probably exactly how Ike was as a young man.
Morgan: And he knows the mistakes he’s made and he wants Stevie to be able to make those mistakes as he did but at the same time he wants to kind of save him from that. So it’s going to be an interesting dynamic moving forward and I know what we shot and it gets complicated this whole relationship. And I think that scene sort of sets the tone for what is yet to come.
I was going to ask what’s – great, great. I wanted to ask what’s the biggest challenge you face in terms of telling the story in Magic City?
Glazer: For me, Mitch? The greatest challenge in telling the story, I – you know, I don’t know. I mean the engine behind the show really is – for me in popular in entertainment or even in novels, you know, a family situation, a family-driven piece of work has always been the most compelling. And so really at the heart of – as Jeff has just been saying, at the heart of Magic City, even with all the period icing and other things that are going on is, you know, Ike’s effort to hold this family together and by extension the larger family of the hotel.
You know, as far as the challenge of storytelling I’ve got to say I wrote all these scripts for the first season and, you know, sometimes writing – I mean writing as you guys know, writing is hard but these were characters that once they were set in motion, you know, kind of making sparks against each other, the stories kind of came organically and I was really pleased with the storytelling.
I mean I’ve got to say, I don’t know how Jeff felt, but even for all the hard work and the ambition was to make a feature film every ten days or nine days or whatever, so everybody killed themselves but, you know, we all were kind of harnessed to the same purpose. I mean everyone was hopefully I think, I felt inspired by the work and trying to do something great. So even though there was the challenge of just getting these shows done at the level we were trying, there was a satisfaction that we felt we were doing something special.
Morgan: I agree.
Paz: Great. Thanks. And for Ike, how was your process to get – for Jeffrey, how was the process to get in the skin of Ike?
Morgan: Well, you know, I would love to say how difficult it was so that would make me sound like this great actor but to be honest with you, the scripts that Mitch wrote were so great and so detailed and I had this partner in him that I’ve never had before on a set. So with him at my side and, you know, putting on my white dinner jacket and walking onto these phenomenal sets, really, a lot of my work was done. It was easy for me to get into Ike mode.
When you have – first and foremost to do any show, any movie, it has to start with what is on the page and I think what Mitch put on the page is so incredibly inspiring to me as an actor and so much of it was there. He wrote beautiful characters that were pretty well fleshed out. I just came in and did what I did as an actor but there was a foundation there that I’ve never been able to work with before.
So it wasn’t as hard as I would love to say it was because I had a great script to work with and I think any great show or film it starts with what’s on the page. If you don’t have that, you have nothing. And so it was there for me and, you know, I just had to do my job and not screw up Mitch’s work.
Yes. And I guess it’s cool to be living in a tuxedo in the ‘50s, right?
Morgan: You know what? It’s not so bad. I’ve never been a shirt and tie guy as Mitch will attest to. You know, he would die every morning when I would show up in my pajamas mostly because I’d only, you know, slept like three hours the night before. But I’d show up and he’d be like, ‘Where’s Ike Evans,’ and give me a little half hour and I’ll be in my shirt and tuxedo and everything will be great.
Glazer: He looked gorgeous. It was disturbing. Yes. But it’s true. He would show up on his motorcycle and say to me, ‘You’re not going to believe this but I slept in these clothes last night.’ And I went, ‘You know, I believe it. I believe it.’ He absolutely did. And then literally half an hour later walk on set, you know, the skinny tie and the beautiful suit and it’s like, you know, my world. It was – I think it was the happiest his mother ever was.
Morgan: Yes. No, my mom is exceedingly happy to see me dressed up a little bit and looking good and, you know, much credit needs to go to our costume designer, Carol Ramsey, who dressed everybody including, you know, 150 extras on any given day. She did a phenomenal job. And so much of that – it helps so much as an actor having those pieces in place. So you have your sets and your wardrobe and it makes it so much easier for us as actors.
Mitch, first question for you. You know, you said that you had had this idea and you took it to TV, did you ever envision it as a film project or was it always a TV show?
Glazer: I did. You know, interesting. I mean because that was my orientation, I hadn’t really ever thought about TV. And, yes, initially it was always going to be a feature in my head and it really was function of doing research and starting to kind of look at all the stories laying them out that I realized it was absolutely impossible to tell the tale that I wanted to tell in, you know, 90 minutes or whatever and it was just bigger and it kept growing.
And one of the reasons I’d hesitated about doing television wasn’t a question of whatever TV versus movies, it was just – I was trying to think, as Jeff said, of something that would actually hold my interest. You know, so the last thing you want to do is commit to something and then kind of start looking around going, ‘You know, God, I should be writing this thing or whatever,’ and this one was a story engine. I mean as I started to look into it I realized, God, you know, these are subject matter and a world that I can keep writing about. And so, yes, it just kind of exploded on me.
And then also with the birth of premium cable, truthfully it happened around the same time. I started looking at – the first season of Sopranos was my favorite work of the year of anything. And I started going, you know, there’s a new sheriff in town and his name is Chris Albrecht. And you know, so the opportunity to do it with him in that form is the best of all worlds.
I mean I don’t think there’s an accident that Gus Van Sant and until recently Michael Mann and Scorsese and all the writers and directors that are being attracted to premium cable, it’s a great place to tell stories.
And compared to the last film you put out, Passion Play, how does working in TV compare to that last project?
Glazer: As far as the actual process it’s pretty much identical except my DT isn’t insane and, you know – I mean the actual – as Jeff said, you know, the – because it’s where we come…
Morgan: And I’m a lot like Mickey Rourke too so it’s like hand in hand.
Glazer: It was either Jeff or Mickey. It was a tossup. But, no, I did grow up with Mickey and went to high school with him in Miami and we were friends going in and still are but as far as the process I mean we are shooting – it feels like we are shooting feature films. Our DT (Gabriel Bearstein) who I think is brilliant comes out of features and for no other reason – there wasn’t any prejudice, it just turned out that way. So because it’s what I know, it kind of felt very similar. I’m trying to think of the differences. I mean it’s…
Morgan: Well the pace. I think the pace is a little different.
Glazer: Yes. I mean we…
Morgan: I think on this show we were shooting between seven and nine pages a day just depending on locations and we’d be – you know, we moved quite a bit so we could shoot two or three locations a day and that is not an easy day’s worth of work. Films you don’t do that. You shoot maybe two or three pages a day, you know, some independent films you shoot up to five to six pages but that’s rare.
TV that’s the thing is the pace and when you’re working with all these people behind the camera, you know, (Gabby) and his crew they all came from the world of film and so you’re putting a lot of pressure on your crew for one to make this look like a film every shot. And so it’s a learning process for all of us. You know, it’s just the pacing of it.
You want to shoot like Mitch said, a movie in nine days and, you know, we saw the first couple episodes on the big screen. This plays on the big screen better than it plays on the television. It’s shot like a movie. It looks like a film and the fact that our crew and our (tasks) well they got to keep up with this brutal kind of pace that we are putting is a testament to every single one of them and, you know, Mitch’s scripts were huge. They were huge in terms of what is done on television. And we were able to somehow miraculously pull that off.
And this is the first time that I can remember in a long time where in reading the script you have this vision of what it’s going to be. And when I read this script it read as cinema and you can see the scenes playing in your head and, you know, there’s visions of Casino and Godfather racing through there and, you know, the reality of that is that doesn’t normally happen. You know, the blowback is the results are never what you want to see and with this that’s not the case. This is exactly, maybe even better than, what my little brain was able to imagine in first reading these scripts. So it was awesome.
But that’s the only difference between this and a big movie was we had to (unintelligible) (be) really fast because…
Glazer: Yes, yes.
Morgan: The results (of this thing) are beautiful.
Okay. Jeffrey, one quick thing. You know, I really loved you in Watchmen and The Losers and so it’s cool to get to talk to you. I had one kind of odd kind of question. I really like when you appear with Craig Ferguson. How much fun is his show to do?
Morgan: Oh, I love it. I have kind of a really special relationship with him. You know, it’s impossible to actually talk about a project on that show for him and I because we just go off on crazy tangents and I adore him.
Whenever I am doing press for anything or even just on a Tuesday, you know, he’ll call and say, ‘Hey, you want to go do the show,’ and I’ll say, ‘Absolutely.’ As a matter of fact, I leave in like two days to go do a show so I’ll see him on the 5th and I’ll make sure that he knows that people are enjoying it other than just us.
Yes. No, it’s really you’re really – I mean he’s got a lot of great regulars but you’re among my favorites that appear on there regularly, so…
Morgan: Thank you. No, it’s – we have a little bit of a love affair not much different from my love affair from Mitch, maybe a little bit crazier. But I love going and talking to him and, you know, usually something embarrassing comes out of it for both of us but we seem to have a good time.
My question is for Mitch and also for Jeff as well. Magic City is about to join a few other successful American period dramas that are on right now and are big hits with viewers. Why is it that you think that TV viewers are embracing these more historically-driven series’ at this time?
Glazer: For me, you know, I can’t really speak to the others I mean I follow good storytelling personally. I mean I don’t care – you know, for me it was interesting when I saw Godfather I, I was in college and it was about two weeks later that I realized that it was period. I mean I went home and I was going, ‘Hey, wait a minute. Pacino was in the uniform. What was that? What war was that at the end,’ because I got so swept up by the storytelling and the performances and the family, you know, drama of it and action and all that that I just didn’t see it.
And I think that at the heart of all the shows probably that you’re referencing has to be, you know, the people get hooked to the characters and to the dilemma that they’re in and also, you know, the stories that are being told and the world is, you know, hopefully attractive and kind of has its own cool hook as well but it’s really secondary, you know, to the universal which is we all come from families, you know, fathers and sons and things like that or husbands and wives and that kind of storytelling I think is really powerful.
And, you know, for me also the specific is universal and as I think I might’ve said, you know, when I first saw Sopranos, which obviously isn’t period, the specificity of those guys sitting in front of that meat market in Jersey just felt so real and authentic that with Magic City hopefully because I grew up there we’ll have that same really gritty and authentic sense of place and time that will anchor the show.
And for us anyhow it was an incredibly explosive time. I mean, you know, you had – you know, we’re going to in the second season hopefully get to JFK’s announcement for his presidency of the United States in January of ’60. You know, it was one of the most important and defining times in the country and we get to explore it through the lobby of this great hotel.
Morgan: Yes, all that stuff and I think for me personally and I will only speak on my behalf on this one is I’ve always kind of romanticized the past. You know, I was always and I still am a believer in I was born in the wrong era. There’s just something about this time period, you know, Frank Sinatra and the Mob and I think I would’ve loved being a part of. And in my own special way thanks to Mitch I get to be a part of that now.
And maybe viewers out there are a little bit taken with that past too and (unintelligible) the opportunity to kind of throw in some history in there, it makes for really great stories and, you know, God forbid people will actually learn about what was going on in 1958 or 1959 by tuning into Magic City.
It’s a cool time. It was a cool period and it was a romantic, classy, glamorous time and I don’t think the world has that now, you know. So I embrace it and for a lot of those reasons and I think viewers do as well in watching the other period shows and certainly I think they will watching Magic City.
I wanted to ask both of you how much – I guess the history of the Fontainebleau and also Ben Novack played in preparing for the character and sort of drawing the character.
Glazer: Yes. For me, I mean my father worked for Ben and I’ve heard stories my whole life of my father going to get $500 for payment for lighting and in the middle of an argument Ben would take out his hearing aid and pretend he couldn’t hear any more of the – so he’s not really Ike Evans but as far as – Ike is a composite truthfully, from my side of the creation, is a composite of several people and, you know, is a more kind of charismatic and oh, I don’t know, elevated version of, you know, these guys were kind of a really different kind of street-level guy who, you know, Ike operates at a different level in some way.
But so he’s a creation – the one thing that does draw in some of the great hotel guys in Miami Beach like, you know, Ben Novack being the most obvious is that they were running these mini-cities, I mean, you know, these empires. And I mean some of the history of how the Fontainebleau came to be assembled was – the history of it was inspired by it but it happened to several hotels on the beach it really wasn’t limited to one from my end.
Morgan: I mean, look, I was sort of blind to the whole thing going in until I went back and started doing research a little bit on the Miami owners and certainly Ben Novack is the first name that comes up from this era. And, you know, the thing that – he was larger than life and a bit of a celebrity in this world. And, you know, I think Ike is a little bit as well and so you can garner a little bit of information from that.
You know, Ben had his hands in all sorts of things in Miami Beach. Ike as we’re going to find out has his hands in a couple things as well. But there’s (unintelligible) with probably, you know, many more people than Ben Novack. Ben is just kind of the biggest and the name that people will recognize most from certainly the Fontainebleau and that time period. But, you know, a little bit. I certainly read up on them.
Another question I wanted to ask is it was working with Olga Kurylenko.
Morgan: For me?
Morgan: She’s great. She – you know, I think this is a really amazing opportunity for her to play a character that she hasn’t played before and she will be the first to tell you that’s one of the things that attracted her to this project. And as far as working with her, I mean, have you seen her? I’ll start with that.
I’m going to quote you on that.
Morgan: Okay. It might sound superficial but, God, she is gorgeous and it was easy for me to play a guy that was in love with this girl just by looking into her eyes. That being said, she’s a phenomenal actor. She is a really, really strong actor and it’s been really fun having the opportunity to work with her and see her kind of embrace this character and the trials and tribulations that kind of Vera goes through not only by herself but as well as the stuff that her and Ike go through.
I think the arc that she goes on as an actor is really, really strong. I mean she is – I can’t say enough about her. I just think she is such a great actor and it was just a privilege to go to work with her every day.
I guess that was my next question first more for Mitch than you. Vera’s character, is she going to become a little more active because in the first one we just sort of see her as a housewife, she’s supporting Ike but we also see the way Stevie looks at her. So I was wondering whether there’s…
Glazer: You know, it’s a combination of things. First of all, you know, the role of a woman in 1959, you know, which you’ve all kind of known various iterations of, was, you know, much more restricted in a way. And particularly married to a guy like Ike Evans, you know, as he said he’s the quick king of this world and she’s the queen and what I want to explore is really what that means.
I mean, you know, there were definitely avenues open to women, the approved ones like motherhood for example or to kind of be on Ike’s arm, but, you know, Vera is pushing for more and has been more. You know, she was kind of a star at the Tropicana in Havana on stage which was how they met and so she has – you know, she knows what it feels like to lead a creative life and all of which she’s kind of put aside at this point.
And then she’s an outsider. I mean she’s the ultimate outsider. She’s literally kind of gypsy from Eastern Europe, you know, pushed by the (quota) down to Havana and then Ike brings her in. And so there’s an element of nose-against-the-glass for her all of that trying to become more Jewish than the Evans family ever was.
Yes, I love that her reading – what was that…
Glazer: Yes. I mean so she’s got – I mean my mother was a high school English teacher and taught in the school system my whole life and she was maybe the only working mother of all my friends. I mean she, you know, in the ‘50s and so my experience was that, was a woman who’s a partner in the home. And, you know, so she – her journey through the season is kind of pushing against the kind of barriers that are put there for a woman in ’59, particularly one as beautiful and talented as Vera is. And Ike has to ride that because she’s a force that he’s never had to deal with before and, you know…
Morgan: And they’re going to butt heads too.
Glazer: Yes, oh, yes.
Morgan: I mean they love each other but they’re going to butt heads along the way because Ike is also probably more forward than 99% of the men of that era but there’s a little bit of old-fashioned guy in him too so he resists a lot of the changes that Vera is pushing for. So, you know, it makes for an interesting dynamic between the two of them. But, you know, at the end of the day they love each other and I think that was, you know, (unintelligible).
Glazer: One of the things that I wanted to do and one of the things that I told Albrecht – Chris at the very beginning was I wanted a functioning, sexual, romantic marriage and obviously pulled and kind of by the stresses around them and in the world and as you are in a marriage. But at the same time, you know, instead of both husband and wife kind of straying or whatever, they’re committed to it and are kind of fighting to keep it whole and real and that’s something that both Jeff and Olga bring to it is that there’s such fire there and kind of romance organically to them as a couple as actors that I think it’s a way to keep that relationship vital, it helps me in the writing of it.
I’ve got kind of a two-sided thing here I’d like, Jeffrey, if you could talk about how the role came to you and, Mitch, if you could talk about what Jeffrey brought the role that you didn’t see in anyone else.
Morgan: I can hardly wait to hear that part of it. It came to me last winter. I was up in my cabin. I had just finished something and was up here like not looking for anything and my agent sent me not one script but three for a project that they sold me on to read it by not saying it was a television series because I wasn’t looking to doing a television series but by saying it was a miniseries. So I want into reading them thinking, ‘Oh, it’s a miniseries. It’s not a series. We’ll tell the story and that will be it and that way if I don’t get along with the creator, I’ll be in and out of this thing.’ And I read them and I loved them.
Again, I can’t say more about how great these scripts are and as an actor and you read, I don’t know, millions of scripts it seems and having these three scripts that, you know, you have one and you get sort of an idea but having three you get a much better idea of where the story is going to go and who these characters are and for me in particular Ike and they were kind of so well fleshed out.
And then Mitch flew to New York and we met at the Mercer and, you know, within two minutes I found out it wasn’t a miniseries and at about the ten-minute mark I told him that I was absolutely in 100% and to look no further. And I think that’s how our love story started and now we’re here where we are at this point.
Glazer: Now we’re engaged.
Glazer: Yes. From my end it was – usually I write to kind of a voice in my head and in this case, you know, the miracle – the weird thing about how Jeff and I met or how I became aware of Jeff was we have a mutual friend, Griffin Dunne, who directed a film that Jeff was in. And at one point he came to me and said, you know, ‘Would you think about doing a rewrite of the ending? I’m thinking about doing a reshoot.’ So he gave me the film. It was called Accidental Husband and it was Colin Firth and Uma Thurman and Jeff and he gave me the film to watch in a really rough, rough stage of it. And, you know, ten minutes in, and particularly there’s some great scenes in the top of it with Jeff, I turned to Kelly and I went, because I hadn’t seen Grey’s Anatomy, I turned to him and I said, ‘Who is this guy?’
I mean this is like five years ago and it was such a miracle to see someone that compelling and fully realized and a man and, you know, that it just stayed in my head. And so, you know, Jeff was somebody that I thought of almost instantly when I was trying to imagine Ike Evans. And so, yes, the second I heard that he was interested, I jumped on a plane to the Mercer and, you know, it was one of those I’m married to an actor, I love actors, I’m in awe of them and I’ve had the good fortune to write for some amazing actors over the course of my life in movies but I sat across from Jeff and basically my lips were moving and I was talking (that stuff) but all I was thinking was, ‘Please, come on do this show,’ because I just knew that together we could create something, a memorable character.
And also Ike as I designed him even in the first three episodes was in virtually every scene and so, you know, poor Jeff, bless his heart, I mean the work was out of control. But from my end I needed somebody who could hold it together and be a force through the series and I think most great television has that guy. And the second I sat down with Jeff and we started talking, I knew it was him and then it was just, you know, close the deal. I mean like make it happen.
Morgan: Which is also a great testament to Mitch because I think I showed up with like a Grizzly Adams beard and I was looking not like Ike Evans. So for him to kind of (unintelligible) and still to think that was his guy, that was pretty good. Thank you, man.
Glazer: And it is a great partnership. You know, not to jinx us, which clearly we both have, but, you know, on set, off set, Jeff is the kind of leader of this group by design but also by temperament. And so it’s – you know, we went to his house for a July 4th party with the whole cast the weekend before we started shooting last year and, you know, he’s just the partner that you dream of creatively and as a best friend.
And at a certain point in life you don’t expect to really make best friends anymore. You know, you kind of have these people that you’ve met and this and that and so it’s been a joy. I mean we talk – except for when the Seahawks and Dolphins are going to be playing, other than that we talk constantly.
I hear you.
Morgan: It is. It’s the greatest partnership I’ve ever been a part of and probably the most gratifying thing I’ve gotten from this whole experience and which all of it has been very surreal in the best of ways. The greatest thing has been having Mitch Glazer in my life. And regardless of what happens with Magic City, you know, I’ve (got a) friend and collaborator for life and that is the single greatest thing that I can tell you that’s come from all of this and there’s many a great thing.
Great. Thanks very much, guys.
Glazer: Thank you.
Morgan: Thank you. God, we’re so gay.
Moderator: At this time I’m showing no further questions.
Glazer: Cool. Thank you all.
Morgan: Thanks everybody.
Moderator: I apologize. We do have one more. Are you able to take one more question?
Morgan: Nope. I’m outta here. Yes, of course.
I have a couple of questions for Mitch. I was wondering who was the first person you cast and how did you sort of decide upon the actors? Did you have anyone in mind in the beginning?
Glazer: I’m trying to think – I’m almost positive that Jeff was the first person cast.
Morgan: Yes. I was the first one and I think the Brothers Grimm fell quickly after that.
Glazer: Yes. And I saw, you know, with the exception of Jeff everybody else read and this was the only time in my entire life, and this is 30 years of being involved in movies particularly, where everybody in the show is exactly the person I wanted. I mean there was – you know, we saw 90 women for Vera, 9-0, and you know it was – there were no compromises. You know, it was a dream that way.
So when I see them all assembled in front of me it’s not – there’s none of that regret or what if. This is exactly the group that should’ve been. And by the way, I’m incredibly appreciative of it because there’s no way that you can do this kind of feature film every nine days without the cast showing up – you know, forget knowing their lines, but I mean in the pocket, I mean totally ready to do the performance because there’s just no time to kind of explore that. You know, they have to be committed to it and know and this group is, they really are these characters on the day.
And but, yes, it came together and I think subconsciously not ever having put together a TV show before you also kind of think and pray that in success these are going to be people that you’re going to be living with for years, you know, so it’s not just a month and then see you later or not, these are people that are in our lives now. Thank God.
Glazer: They are.
Morgan: Yes, they are. And also I think to our benefit I think Chris Albrecht and the rest of STARZ was really great in the casting process and in listening to Mitch because sometimes it’s been my experience that networks don’t tend to agree with what the show creator necessarily wants.
And so it was really nice having I think STARZ and Mitch being on the same page when it came to the whole casting process because as Mitch just pointed out, these not only have to be great actors but it’s a family now and spending six months on location with these people who you see every day it sure is nice if you don’t mind going out to dinner with them and have you over at your house which is what we did. We hung out all the time.
So it not only is a bunch of great actors that Mitch assembled but I think more importantly they’re all really spectacular people and we’re incredibly lucky.
Glazer: Really it’s a great group.
Photos courtesy Starz Entertainment