The new Starz drama series Magic City, created by writer/executive producer Mitch Glazer and premiering on April 6th, takes place in 1959 at the luxurious Miramar Playa Hotel, during the tumultuous time when Havana fell to Castro’s rebels. Ike Evans (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) is the star of his Miami hotel, but to finance his dream, he sold his soul to mob boss Ben “The Butcher” Diamond (Danny Huston). Ike’s wife Vera (Olga Kurylenko), a former showgirl, and his three kids, which include sons Stevie (Steven Strait) and Danny (Christian Cooke), think he’s an honorable man, but nothing at the Miramar Playa is what it seems.
During this exclusive interview with Collider, actress Olga Kurylenko talked about how she got her role on Magic City before even doing the chemistry test with co-star Jeffrey Dean Morgan, portraying a real and loving marriage on the show, the incredible wardrobe for the time period, how she generally prefers taking more time with her work than the quick pace of television, and how she’s even more excited to do Season 2 because she knows what to expect. She also talked about working with director Terrence Malick, for his as-yet-untitled feature with Ben Affleck and Rachel McAdams, how you never know what you’re going to be doing because he likes to be spontaneous, and how he took each of the actors in the film out for drive to talk about their characters. Check out what she had to say after the jump:
Collider: How did Magic City come about for you? Did you audition for the role?
OLGA KURYLENKO: Yeah, I auditioned for it. I flew to L.A. and did a couple of scenes, and then they called me and said, “You’ve got it.” That was it.
Did you have to do a chemistry read with Jeffrey Dean Morgan?
KURYLENKO: The first one was the audition just for me to get the part. And then, I got the part and I was in L.A., and (show creator) Mitch [Glazer] did the test [for our chemistry]. But, I had already gotten the part. I don’t know if I hadn’t had that chemistry, if he would have thrown me away and said, “Sorry, honey, I take the part back.” I did test with Jeffrey and with Steven [Strait] because he’s playing his son, who is somewhat attracted to me. It’s very ambiguous. So, I tested with them because I have more of a relationship with them, and it worked.
What can you say about Vera Evans and how she fits into the world of this show?
KURYLENKO: Vera has a Dutch mother and a gypsy father, so she’s half gypsy. She lived in Holland and, during the war, she lost all her family. She trained as a ballerina, as a little girl. After the war, she took one of those ships that went to America and, because of the over-quota in America, the ship was re-routed to Cuba, and that’s how she would up in Cuba where she became a dancer at the Tropicana there. So, she was dancing there for a couple of years, and then she met Ike when he went there on a trip and saw the show and fell in love with her. He married her and took her to Miami, and there she is, the wife of this big, successful businessman who’s very rich.
Her life completely changed. She was pretty poor, as a girl, living in Holland. She comes from a very normal, simple family. It’s a very big change in her life. What’s difficult is that she suddenly has to become a step-mother to three kids, two of which are adults now – Stevie (Steven Strait) and Danny (Christian Cooke) – and there’s a little girl who’s 13. It’s very difficult because all of the kids are suspicious of Vera. They don’t know if she’s there for his money. Suddenly, daddy brings home this young wife and they wonder what she wants from him. The thing that’s beautiful is that Vera and Ike really do love each other. Mitch really wanted to portray this real love within marriage, and not people cheating on each other and having all kinds of troubles and problems. These two just have a relationship that works.
Vera’s main focus is to basically be a good wife and prove that she deserves that place. She doesn’t want to be looked at suspiciously. High society looks down at her a little because she’s not born into it. She’s just some dancer who married this guy. Of course, she wants to really prove her place. She’s trying to be a step-mother to this little girl who’s really very difficult.
How involved is she in the business?
KURYLENKO: Vera is pretty much a wife, and she takes care of the little girl, but she does help Ike a little bit. She doesn’t work in the office, especially in those times. It wasn’t possible. But, I think she would love it. I think Vera would love to take things into her hands because she’s very pro-active. She was always a working girl. She wasn’t born rich, so she had to earn her own life. Suddenly, being Ike’s wife and not having to do anything makes her a little empty and gives her some kind of void. She really would like to mean something, in this life. Vera is looking for the opportunity to do something more then just be a wife and a mother. Although, she does dream about having her own kids. She really wants to have her own children and family with Ike. She wants to do both.
Is that something that he wants, too?
KURYLENKO: I think he does, yeah. I think they both want it. It’s just a question of time. They’re figuring out when is the best time. The thing is that Ike is having lots of problems. He’s very successful and everything goes well, but when you look behind it, he’s having lots of problems because he’s in this deal with this big gangster guy who’s called The Butcher and he’s very dangerous. He owns half of his business and nobody knows about it. Sometimes it gets quite dirty. But, Vera is unaware of all that. She thinks her husband is the perfect man, which he is, but he did make a deal with the devil. So, maybe it’s not exactly the right moment to start a family. Although, I think they both would love it.
Do you just have the best wardrobe on this show?
KURYLENKO: I do. We do, yeah. All the girls are just so thrilled about all the costumes. It’s amazing! I really enjoy it. It’s incredible. I could just dress head-to-toe in that style, every day. It still looks hot. It’s so glamorous.
How has it been to work with Jeffrey Dean Morgan and develop the relationship between your characters?
KURYLENKO: Oh, it was great. I’m so lucky with my partner. He’s a wonderful actor, and he’s a great guy. He’s so cool and laid-back, and he’s so down-to-earth. There’s no attitude. He’s a very hard worker. I’ve never seen anyone so hard working. He was on set, every day. We would have breaks for a couple of days and we could sleep, but I don’t know when he slept. He always came prepared and always knew his text. I’ve seen other actors came in for just one day out of a month, not knowing their text, and you think, “What were you doing?” This guy has pages per day. In a series, you shoot about eight pages a day, while on a movie you shoot half a page the whole day because they take their time. Here, that’s not the case. He had a tremendous amount of text to learn, and he always knew it. On set, it was just pleasure. I was like, “Perfect, I’ve got to make out with the guy! He’s not that bad looking, so I’m all good.” I don’t have to struggle with it too hard.
Do you enjoy the pace of television?
KURYLENKO: Honestly, no. I’d rather take my time, but there’s nothing I can do. This is too fast for me. It’s a crazy pace, but what can you do? That’s how it is. I have to adjust. At the same time, I’m thinking that maybe it’s good. It’s good training because there’s nothing you can do. You’ve got to go and you’ve got to do it, and that’s it. It’s good training, but I’m not here to train, I’m here to work. Maybe feature actors are more lazy. I’ve only done big features before. I like to come to the set, hang out, look around, get settled, take everything in, and get into the mood.
In television, there’s no time. You can’t walk around and get into the mood. Nobody is going to wait for you. They’re like, “Let’s go!,” and I’m like, “Wait, I haven’t gotten in the mood!” No one can wait. What we get in movies is a luxury. You can do another take and you can change and go for something totally different and start searching. There’s no way to search here. You’ve got to know what you’re doing. From one side, that’s good. From another side, it’s a pity. Maybe if you search a little more, you can come up with other things, but there’s no time. You can give a couple of options, and no more because they have to go. It’s a different style, and it’s hard.
Do you feel better prepared now for Season 2?
KURYLENKO: I’m looking forward to it. I’m just dying to do it. I’m more excited now because I know what it is and I did get training for it. Now, I’ve taken a break and it’s settled in and I’ve had time to digest it. I’ve seen the result, and that helps. We didn’t have any playback on set. We didn’t have any images and they didn’t show us anything. They didn’t want us to see any dailies because they didn’t want us to get self-conscious, but I like to see what I’m doing. So, now that I’ve seen the first three episodes, I know what I’m doing and what it gives on screen. For the second season, I feel like I know better how to do it and what to do. It was my first time doing a TV show. It was like going to school.
When you made the decision to sign on for a TV show, was it important to you that it was a cable show for a shorter amount of episodes, so that you could still do movies in between seasons?
KURYLENKO: Yeah, it’s great that I can fit something in, and I’m trying to see what I’ll be able to do. A lot of things will start now, but they might still go on when the show starts, and then overlap. So, I hope I can fit something in. I have really wonderful options, and I hope I can do them. But, it’s great to have a little time to do some features and combine both. That’s perfect.
What was it like to work with a filmmaker like Terrence Malick, for his film with Ben Affleck and Rachel McAdams?
KURYLENKO: It was wonderful. He is the most wonderful creature in this world. I love him. I’m passionate about him. He’s extremely smart, extremely deep, and profoundly kind and real. It’s not a mask. He doesn’t pretend. He is real. He’s a wonderful filmmaker, and very shy. If he were to read this, he would say, “Why would you say this? It’s not true!” He’s so sweet. He thinks I’m exaggerating, but I’m not. And, the way he works totally fit me. You never know what you’re doing. It’s at the last moment and very spontaneous, and I like that. As much as the fast pace can be difficult, not knowing what I’m doing is actually totally fine. It scares a lot of actors. I’ve heard that others were terrified and were like, “What do you mean, I’ve got no script? I’ve gotta know what I’m doing!” And I’m like, “I trust you, Terrence. Tell me whatever you want. I’m here.” I like that. I like to play as I go.
When you do a project like that, do you even know what character you’re playing?
KURYLENKO: Yeah. He spoke to me and told me what it was. He tells you. You don’t read it. You listen to the story for a couple of hours, you take it in, and then you meet him again and listen again and talk. He likes to go for a drive and talk. I think he took every actor for a drive and would talk, and you just take it in and become that character. It gets into you. And then, I just know who I am and it’s not the character, it’s me, suddenly. And then, from there, something very real comes out that’s spontaneous. That’s awesome. That means you don’t need to know what you’re doing. As that person, you can go and move that chair or pour yourself a coffee, and you’ll be that person and it will be real. There’s no acting. You just are. That’s wonderful. I wish everybody worked that way. I only want to work with him now. Not to offend others, but you just think, “Wow, I would love to work with him again.”
Magic City airs on Friday nights on Starz, starting on April 6th.