Welcome to the Miramar Playa Hotel, a retreat for luxury, glamour and decadence.
In Starz's Magic City premiere on Friday (10/9c), we meet the charismatic Ike Evans (Jeffrey Dean Morgan), who has worked his way up from cabana boy to owner of the Miramar Playa in 1959's Miami Beach. The drama has that 1960s vibe, but sets itself apart from Mad Men's ad-peddling anti-heroes and Pan Am's glitzy international adventures.
"The Miramar Playa is essentially our version of the real-life Fountainbleu Hotel," Morgan tells TVGuide.com. "It was a magical time in Miami with all the stuff that was happening in Miami Beach and the Fountainebleau Hotel. The glamour, the sexiness of it all. You had Sinatra and The Rat Pack there, the who's who of Hollywood lived at the Fountainebleau pretty much. There's a lot of historical significance to what was happening at that time too."
But behind the allure lies uncertainty and danger brought on by Ike's shady dealings. "He is driven, but a lot of his strengths can also lead to his downfall," observes Morgan. "Because of trying to make his dreams a reality, he's put himself in a position where his business partners are at best questionable and finds himself in precarious situations."
Here's what else you can expect when you check-in to the Miramar Playa:
1. A handsome owner - To transform into the Miramar Playa's debonair proprietor, Morgan had to adjust his usually laid-back appearance. Not only did he have to suit up, but he also had to get rid of his signature stubble. "That was a huge thing," he confesses. "I was like, 'Really? I've got to shave?' [laughs] Every day."
2. Deluxe accommodations, pools and lounges - Beyond the lavish suites, the Miramar Playa also boasts plenty of outdoor pools and cabanas in addition to the famed Atlantic Lounge, an underground hideaway where booze flows freely, singers croon and patrons get an eyeful of bathing beauties through oversized portholes behind the bar. "There's bound to be some kind of magic happening in this place," says Morgan. "This bar is insane. I would live here and I don't even drink."
3. A family environment - The Playa Miramar welcomes all, and on any given day one might find activities ranging from illicit gambling and romance to beauty pageants and bat mitzvahs. After all, Ike may be a businessman but he's also a married father with three good-looking children. "He's first and foremost a family man. I love the opportunity to portray that," Morgan says. "This is a man who's truly in love with his wife, he loves his kids. Everything he does is to provide for his family, protect his family."
4. Dashing hosts - Ike's two oldest sons are grown adults and therefore able to help out with the family business. Although younger son Danny (Christian Cooke) is more focused on entering law school, older son Stevie (Steven Strait) takes a more active role. "Stevie is kind of the mirror image of Ike when Ike was that age," says Morgan. "He's sort of my right-hand man at the hotel. The young son is going to law school and doing everything right. I'm grooming him ultimately to run the show on all fronts at some point. But our story takes some twists and turns and all is not what it seems."
5. Friendly and helpful staff - "Victor Lozaro (Yul Vazquez), the general manager of the hotel, has probably helped Ike run the hotel since it began," he says. "I think we were cabana boys together or something. He's Cuban. His daughter Mercedes (Dominik Garcia-Lorido) is a part-time maid. Although she works as a housekeeper, she obviously has other aspirations. She becomes a bit of a love interest for my young son Danny. They grew up together. They shared a crib together essentially."
6. Ladies of the night for hire - The Miramar Playa also provides quality companionship for lonely, affluent men. In particular, Judi Silver (Elaine Satine) takes on the hotel's most prestigious clients when special attention is needed. "She's our resident lovely hooker," Morgan says. "Sometimes Ike finds himself under pressure from outside sources and he uses Judy as almost a bribe to get his way. There's kind of an odd partnership between Judy and Ike. It gets very complicated as the series goes. But again, Ike loves his wife, so it's not that kind of complicated. I like to call her the hooker with heart."
7. Business-minded patrons - The hotel's lavish surroundings not only promote relaxation but also provide a hospitable environment in which one may conduct business — even the illicit kind. "Our story jumps starts New Year's Eve of 1958. That is the night that Fidel Castro basically overthrew [Cuban President Fulgencio] Batista," Morgan explains. "At that time in Cuba, there was a lot of American money in Havana; all the casinos there were mob-owned. Castro had thrown everybody out, so the mob ended up in Miami Beach. They were like, 'We're going to make this where are gambling operations are going to take place.' Also, Ike's silent partner is Ben Diamond (Danny Huston), who decides he's not going to be so silent anymore. He puts Ike in a hell of a position because no one knows about this partnership. Ben starts to put the pressure on Ike and wants more, as most bad men do. Can't satisfy them."
8. Extra security - Where there are mobsters, there are men who want to monitor their activities. Following the political coup in Havana, even more citizens interested in national security also began to frequent these Collins Avenue hotels. "Because of the whole Castro situation, another huge presence ended up doing business in the lobby of these hotels was the CIA," says Morgan. "They were trying to figure out how to kill Castro. We have recorded conversations — [creator] Mitch Glazer has heard them — of CIA trying to hire the mob to kill Castro. And that happened in the lobby of the Fountainbleu Hotel."
9. Musical entertainment - "All of these different worlds collided, and in the midst of it, there were the likes of Frank Sinatra," says Morgan. Ol' Blue Eyes isn't the only one gracing the Miramar Playa stage. The hotel also boasts performances by Ella Fitzgerald (Patti Austin), Nat King Cole, Lena Horne and James Brown.
Magic City airs Fridays at 10/9c on Starz. Check out this exclusive first look of the premiere: