Mitch Glazer Talks Magic City

Mitch Glazer Talks Magic City Season 2 and the Season 1 Blu-ray, in stores now

When it first premiered in March of this year, critics were quick to call Magic City, which follows the life of a Miami City hotel owner in 1959, a Mad Men knock-off. But the series turned the other cheek and proved itself to be a wholly original drama that quickly garnered a solid fanbase throughout its limited 8 episode run.

The show arrived on Blu-ray and DVD last week amidst the news that it had also been renewed for a second season. We recently caught up with series creator Mitch Glazer to find out what we can expect from the series in 2013 (it hasn't been given an official premiere date yet), as well as what fans can expect to find on this excellent Blu-ray release. We even learned a little more about the recent casting of James Caan and Sherilyn Fenn.

Here is our conversation.

How are you?

Mitch Glazer: I am in Miami, shooting a scene. What could be better? It's good!

Can you describe to us which scene you are shooting?

Mitch Glazer: I'm shooting a scene in what is based on a club called The Night Beat club from 1959. Back in the day, in Miami, there was an area called Overtown. It was basically an African-American middle class neighborhood that is now gone. Back in 1959, artists like Nat King Cole and Ella Fitzgerald, and Sammy Davis Jr. would all play the big hotels, but they couldn't stay there. They were literally by law forced to come over the causeway to where we are now, in Miami, and they stayed in this part of the city, and they would perform in this nightclub. The greatest music on earth was happening in this tiny little place, and we have recreated it. I got my childhood idol, a woman named Betty Wright, a local Miami R&B singer, who was a clean-up woman back in the 70s, to come and sing an Ike and Tina Turner song from 1959. So I am in heaven. I have an R&B band, and Betty Wright performing. This has been a great morning.

How often are you able to bring someone in, like Betty Wright, whom you have always admired?

Mitch Glazer: Its one of the joys of doing this. Hopefully others will enjoy it. For me, I get to sit and hear Betty Wright sing. Yeah. I could be wrong, but my feeling is that the more specific the show is with the details, and storytelling...I believe that it connects to people in a more powerful way. So bringing in these people is not a generic thing. This is my memory of Miami Beach in 1959, in the details, from one end to the other. It is as perfect and as accurate as I can make them. It is a complete reality that the audience can step into.

Is it easy to find places where the architecture hasn't changed there, in Miami, from 1959?

Mitch Glazer: Yeah. It's easy and hard. It's easy in the sense that they still exist. It's hard in a sense, because these locations do require an amount of CGI removal. Signage, and whatever modern things have cropped up. For instance, we shoot the pool where I was a cabana boy in 1973, and on either side of it are new hotels, and we have to CGI those out. Then we build graphics onto the first two floors of our hotel. There is this stuff that you can do, which is really fantastic. 10 to 20 years ago, you were really locked into what was there. No it's a combination. Why I wanted to shoot here is because there is a different architecture, and feel, and smell, and vibe in Miami than there is anywhere else in the world.

You bring up being a Cabana Boy. Why aren't you doing the Flamingo Kid remake?

Mitch Glazer: By the way...Brett Ratner went to my high school after me. But, I bet a year's salary that he relocates that movie to Miami. I'm going to strangling him. But, yeah, I should...I was the same type of Cabana Boy that Matt Dillon was on that show. I did it for a summer. I was known for putting out the towels. There was a moment when we were shooting, where my assistant brought me into this one room, where I could write while we were shooting...And it was the exact same room I used to hide in, in 1973, so I didn't have to work. That's the room I was writing in. I thought it was perfect. I wasn't the best Cabana Boy. But the The Flamingo Kid hit home, for sure. I have no connection to the remake, but I love the original to death. But if Brett Ratner is involved with it? My two guesses would be that it will be his decade, in the 80s, and it will be in Miami...You put that away and we'll see if that comes true or not.

Looking at the first season, it seems to me, as the creator of the show, you wrote more scripts that first year than most creators do over the span of an entire series run...

Mitch Glazer: I came at this from the world of film. I had no experience whatsoever of being in the writer's room, or dealing with writers. A lot of these other guys were coming off other shows, and they have worked in TV. It wasn't my orientation. My orientation, when I heard there would be 8 shows, was to come at it with a British model. That it would be more in line with Downton Abbey. Maybe I am wrong, but I think that all largely comes from one voice. I am not doing twenty-three of these things. In the first season, while they were bringing the deal together, and they were figuring out how much this show was going to cost, I just kept writing. I had the time to write, and its what I do best, apparently. So by the time we started to come down to Miami, I had written six of these shows before we even relocated. So there wasn't much left to write. Also, it is a wildly specific and personal story. I was born and raised here. The Evans family is a composite of the people I grew up with. Their voices are really known to me. And the location? My father worked here, and I grew up in the lobbies of these hotels. It's not like other shows, where you are doing a franchise, and it's a different crime every week. This is kind of a novelistic thing. The equivalent would be having six or seven different writers coming in to write a novel. This is the way it happened, but not through a specific plan. If you give me time, I will sit and write.

Is that the same plan heading into Season 2?

Mitch Glazer: I have writers this year, which is great. We have a writers' room. Which is terrific. They are wonderful writers, and this is a great story. Writing is a lonely business, so this was a joy. Its great to have other smart people giving their input on the characters, and this and that. There are some scripts that have writers on them, and then for the last couple, it will probably be me, by myself, again, like it was last season. Because I am down here, and I have a chance to write them. But I like having writers. It was an inspiring exchange to have that few months to work together.

Do you ever feel a sense of time travel when you step onto some of these sets? Or are you too far behind the camera to get swept up in this world at any time during the day's shoot?

Mitch Glazer: There are out of body moments. And it's powerful. It's really powerful, again, because of my connection with the material. We are in the apartment I rent with my wife for the second year, and I look out at the houses I grew up in, that my grandfather built fifty years ago, across the bay. I can see the island where I grew up. It's such a powerful connection. And the locations where we are setting these things are taken from my childhood. So there are moments that are so perfect. The cars, and the wardrobe, and the locations. We shot a scene last season on South Beach, and the hotels behind us were the same as they were back in 1959. The music was the same thing that my grandfather used to play. I had to step away from the tent, because it was like a Twilight Zone moment. It was so perfect, I had to regroup. I love it, and it's an odd one. I drive home from the set, and pass my old high school. Your point about me writing a lot of the episodes...Its such a part of my life, its sometimes overwhelming.

Now, on the DVD, we get to see some of this stuff you are talking about, right?

Mitch Glazer: It's cool. There is so much history still here. I live in Los Angeles, and there, its like, they can't wait to tear down Ben Franks and build a Johnny Rockets. It's literally another diner where the cool diner was. But, in Miami, the deco-district is so protected. As you see in those special features, we are shooting where a lot of these things occurred. Our hotel was build in 1958, so that is the exact period. I love that.

Are you a big Twin Peaks fan?

Mitch Glazer: I love Twin Peaks! I did. If you are talking about Sherilyn Fenn coming in for Season 2, I wrote a movie for her twenty years ago. It was called Three of Hearts. I was on set for the entire shoot, and I just fell in love with her then. It was right before she had finished Twin Peaks, and I thought she was the most beautiful, sexiest actress short of my wife, in Hollywood. When I was writing this new character, I wrote it for her. Because she is still beautiful. But she has that Elizabeth Taylor quality. She could play Elizabeth Taylor. She has done beautiful work. She came in her first day and shot with Danny Huston. I think people are going to really be excited to see her. She is great, she holds the screen. She is like an iconic movie star, which is obviously perfect for our show.

You also have James Caan coming in this year, and he fits that same template.

Mitch Glazer: Yeah, he actually came in last night. I worked with him. I know him in the world, which is an honor and a joy, and the character he is playing is controlled and less flashy than Ben Diamond. He came in, and I put him on set, and it was like Elvis had stepped in. people stopped shooting, and it was fairly disruptive. But he is James Caan. Four or five days ago, I came home in the middle of the night, turned on the tv, and hit the coffee shop scene with James Caan and Tuesday Weld from Thief. I still think that is one of the greatest ten minutes of acting on earth. So, I had to pinch myself. I couldn't believe I was working with the guy. He shoots on Friday, and I am counting the days. It's going to be really cool.

Magic City Season 1 is available now on Blu-ray and DVD. Magic City Season 2 debuts in the spring of 2013.