In Season 2 of the Starz drama series Magic City, Ike Evans (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) will risk everything in a life-and-death battle to rid his Miramar Playa Hotel of the mob and Ben “The Butcher” Diamond (Danny Huston). But, Ike’s dangerous plan to defeat Ben will have him pitting Ben’s boss, Sy Berman (James Caan), against him, sending Ike down a path that will begin to tear the Evans family apart.
During this exclusive interview with Collider, actor Jeffrey Dean Morgan talked about how excited he was to return for Season 2, how exhausting it is to shoot almost a full hour in nine days, that the intensity will be even great this season, what sort of relationship his character will have with both Danny Huston’s and James Caan’s characters, how the chemistry with the cast has evolved, what the Evans’ family dynamic will be like, and that he’s hoping for a Season 3. Check out what he had to say after the jump, and be aware that there are some spoilers.
JEFFREY DEAN MORGAN: Yeah, after a little break, it was nice to come back. And after seeing the first couple scripts, I got fired up and ready to get into it. I really like this role a lot. I took a nice little break, for the first time in awhile, and I found that I started really missing, not only working, but being Ike Evans, in particular. I missed the family that is Magic City, so I was ready to get back to it. We jumped off where we left off last year. I loved the show last year. In watching it all, back-to-back, I thought we did a good job of creating this world, but I was like, “Let’s move faster.” I thought Episodes 4 through 8, last year, were exceptional. And then, to jump off where we did in Episode 8, and keep that momentum going and keep that for the whole year, this year, I think is spectacular. It really is.
I’m super proud of this show, but it still remains completely exhausting, especially this year. We had this crazy deadline to finish by Christmas. We’re doing a full 57 to 60 minutes an episode, and we were shooting it in nine days, which is ridiculous. That’s what we shot Grey’s Anatomy in, and that’s a contained set where you’re shooting 41 or 42 minutes. So, to do a complete hour with the scope and grandeur of this show, it was so much. By the time it ended, I slept for three days. I missed Christmas. I just slept through Christmas. But, I love the show so much and I’m so proud of what we did this year. I’m excited for people to see it.
Audiences have come to expect a certain level of sexiness and daring from the shows on Starz. How do you live up to that with Season 2?
MORGAN: Because we’re keeping up the intensity and the momentum that we had, at the end of last year, the storyline is much more intense, and it only builds. There was a lot of nudity last year. I think we’ve gone away from the nudity, this year. It’s much more story content. Not that it wasn’t last year, but I like the story, myself. There is still ample nudity, but I think there’s more story and more violence. I think the mob element picks up. And Starz is changing over. Spartacus is gone now, and Boss is gone now. With cable, you get the opportunity to go places that you can’t go anywhere else, in this medium, so we’re going to push boundaries, all over the place. I think the nudity is less this year, but we’re pushing it far more, in other areas.
The great thing about Starz is that there’s not a lot of restrictions. They don’t really give us any restrictions, and that’s a rare air to live in, as a television show. I’ve never felt like this was a TV show, other than our brutal schedule. There’s nothing television about it. We only do eight episodes a year, which is a lifetime in the movie world, but that’s still eight hours of complete storytelling that you get to feel your way through, and let the audience find their way with the story and the characters, which is such a luxury. That’s one reason why you’re getting these phenomenal actors, writers and directors, in this world. It’s awesome. Since Chris Albrecht took over the network, I think more and more people are finding Starz. He made HBO what HBO became, and now he’s doing the same thing at Starz. To be in on the ground floor of what is happening there is a really nice place to be. They’re very hands-on in their approach, and yet let us do our thing. It’s the best of all worlds.
You had some great moments with Danny Huston in Season 1. What can you say about the relationship you have this season with James Caan?
MORGAN: Ike and Ben (Danny Huston) have such a weird relationship. They can’t survive without each other, and yet they both want to kill each other. That goes tenfold in Season 2. Ike starts playing Sy (James Caan) and Ben against each other without them knowing it. Last year, Ike didn’t let a lot of people in on what was going on, so the audience was left wondering about what Ike was up to. The great thing the audiences are going to get to see this year is that you’ll know more of what’s going on. You’ll see how smart Ike is in this crazy life-or-death game of chess that he is playing with Ben and Sy. You’re talking about two amazing actors that I get to play with. That, on its own, is enough for me to be a happy guy.
Me and Danny have a great relationship. I know when I work with him that it’s going to be good. Working with Jimmy, who I’d never worked with before, was an unknown thing, going in. I know him as Sonny Corleone, for God’s sake. There was an intimidating factor, immediately going into that. I’m not going to lie, my first scene with him, I was nervous. I didn’t want to fuck it up. He’s a super giving, funny guy, but man, is he intense. There is an intensity that he brings to any role he does, but with Sy Berman, in particular. And it was great, going toe-to-toe with him.
Once I got over my initial butterflies, being in the same room and doing a scene with Jimmy Caan was great. I never backed down, for one second, against him. I loved it. I love those moments. Working with people like that is the greatest joy you can get, as an actor. On films, you don’t often have the opportunity to get to know someone that well and revisit the scenes and do new scenes, as much as you do when you were doing this four-and-a-half month run. As the season goes, our characters go through so many different changes. For Ike, it’s a tremendous cat-and-mouse game that’s being played. In every scene, the tension and the shit that goes along with these characters builds to such a fevered pitch by Episode 8.
Now that you had a season behind you, what’s the chemistry like with the cast?
MORGAN: We have a lot of chemistry. It’s a good group, and it’s a great crew. When you’re working 16-hour days, six days a week, and trying to bring this show home, I don’t think we could have done it without a certain amount of love for each other. But, it all starts with Mitch Glazer and his writing. As good as I think the show was last year, I think the show is even better this year. It was great.
What’s the family dynamic like, this season?
MORGAN: The problem that happens this year, for Ike, is that he becomes so singularly focused on getting rid of Ben Diamond and the mob element in his life that his family starts falling apart. Last year was about this family dynamic, and how Ike loves his family and that he will do anything to keep that together. This year, he loses track of that. By the end of the year, you’re looking at a man who could be very much left alone. He’s pushed everyone away, or fucked up in some way, because of his pure hatred of Ben Diamond. In his determination to get rid of him, he pushes everyone else away. It was very fun to play, as an actor. You see all these relationships deteriorate. You always look ahead with a show like this, and I hope we get a Season 3 because there are so many unanswered questions, by the end of Season 2. But, I do a pretty good job of fucking with my family and fucking up those relationships. A lot of damage is done, rather quickly, in Season 2. We’ll see if I can recover, by the end of it.
Magic City airs on Friday nights on Starz.