The Press Release for the launch of MAGIC CITY, a new TV series produced for the Starz network, opens, “In 1959 Miami Beach, nothing is what it seems…” That pretty much says it about that time in America between the end of WW2 and the Civil Rights movement. I approve of the study of history in what ever form it takes. Dramatic fiction, set in a particular point in time and place, provides a reference to appreciate how far we’ve come, how much we’ve changed. History is the subtext of MAD MEN that gives that show it’s tension and it works the same magic here.
The fictional, dramatic story of MAGIC CITY revolves around Ike Evans, played by the fiendishly handsome, Jeffery Dean Morgan and the posh Miramar Playa Hotel he went to great lengths to build and is having to go to even greater lengths to hold on to. The setting focus’ on Miami’s proximity to Cuba which is about to be taken over by Castro’s rebels and how the Miramar Playa is the playground of everyone from the Kennedy’s to mobsters, the CIA and hookers. It is a perfect place and time to reflect on how far we’ve come in social and worker’s rights and how little we’ve changed in terms of power and corruption. Ike is a “man with the dream, but everything comes at a price.”
The comparison to MAD MEN will be inevitable and it could well be riding on MAD MEN’s popularity, but MAGIC CITY is a completely different creature. Both are character driven dramas set in the turbulent times of the late 50’s – early 60’s and they both feature glamorous, good-looking people with complicated, sketchy pasts, but the comparison ends there. Underneath the mid-century styling and the expositional necessities of setting up the time and place of the story, MAGIC CITY explores a seething core of real human emotion, of people living their lives under exceptional circumstances and dealing with the consequences of their actions.
The Red Carpet preview screening was held at The Directors Guild Association (DGA) on Sunset Blvd. There was a full-on Red Carpet arrival spectacle before the screening which was then introduced by the writer/producer Mitch Glazer. Glazer talked about how growing up as a kid in Miami was the inspiration for the story and how long and complicated the process was in getting the series produced.
The DGA was designed to be the ultimate screening experience and even though I had already watched the early release screener, it was a revelation to see the unique effects achieved by cinematographer Gabriel Beristain on the big screen. Beristain, among his many credits, has the exceptional distinction of having worked with Derek Jarman and Ken Russell, both visionary British filmmakers. Glazer described how Beristain’s experience and creativity contributed to capturing the feeling of being in this special moment in time.
The after-party was across the street at the fabled Chateau Marmot. The Latin-American period mood, set by the screening, was carried over to the historic venue with a live Cuban band, Mojito cocktails, Cohiba cigars and passed Latin-themed hors d’oeuvres that reminded me of ‘Nipples of Venus’. The stars mingled easily amongst the guests that included the likes of Andy Garcia and Bill Murray who had worked with Glazer on LOST IN TRANSLATION. Hollywood royalty like Danny Huston, who plays mob boss Ben Diamond ‘The Butcher’ in the series was there. As we were introduced, he laughed when I admitted that I was too intimidated to approach him ’cause he was so convincingly evil in the show. Christian Cooke, who plays Danny Evans, the ‘good son’ was the most fun, I was surprised to hear in his accent that he was British, you’d never guess it from his pitch-perfect performance. All the ladies were ravishing in their evening gowns especially Olga Kurylenko, who plays Ike’s wife, Vera Evans, stunning in her deep red Todd Lynn slashed sheath.
The atmosphere was especially high-spirited because, even though the first episode hasn’t even aired yet, the series had just been given the nod for a second season. It was surprising news since Starz has been facing a lot of heat from their regular subscribers over having canceled its popular series CAMALOT after only one season and is struggling to recover from having lost their leading man, Andy Whitfield, of SPARTICUS due to his untimely death last year from cancer.
I was happy for the announcement of the second season because I can easily see where this show has great potential. The story lines run deep and there is a lot yet to reveal about these characters and where they’re headed. Let’s wish them luck as they head into 1959!
23 March ’12