Jeffrey Dean Morgan in ‘Magic City’

Road to the Emmys 2012: The Actor

When Jeffrey Dean Morgan read Mitch Glazer’s script for Starz’s “Magic City,” about a mob-connected Jewish hotelier in the center of the cultural-political-criminal hotbed that was 1959 Miami, what attracted Morgan to the character of Ike was what grounded him, not what threatened him.

“He has to play the part of the cool customer at all times and a lot of his position is about image, what he puts out there for people to see,” says Morgan. “I think at heart, though, he’s a family man, which I love. All the crazy shit that goes on around him needs to take a backseat most of the time to his family, which he would protect from anything. That’s what made the character for me.”

His first meeting with creator Glazer, who based the series on his experiences growing up at that time, was the clincher for Morgan.

“We were like twins separated at birth,” says the actor, whose last big TV roles were on “Grey’s Anatomy” and “Supernatural.” “I trust him implicitly. It’s one of the first times in my career where I feel I have a real partner on the set in him.”

Over the eight episodes of the first season, which was filmed primarily in a warehouse near Miami Intl. Airport, Morgan had the most fun acting opposite Danny Huston’s oily gangster Ben Diamond.

“I feel every time Ike walks away from a conversation with Ben, he’s getting away with his life, and it adds a tension to everything,” Morgan says. “My favorite stuff is with Danny because I don’t know what to expect. It’s nice knowing you’re playing tennis with someone like that, who just ups your game.”

It also helps getting into character when you’re surrounded by exquisite period sets and sporting sleek menswear of the era.

“I put my suit and tie clip on, walk on to the most beautiful sets I’ve ever seen, and I’m thrown into 1959 Miami,” he says. “It’s my hotel, and I feel like that.”