It’s been a sizzling spring season at Michael’s with plenty of celebs (Isabella Rossellini, Naomi Campbell and Tony Goldwyn to name a few) breaking bread with us over lunch, but today’s dine and dish session was one for the books. Joining me for an exclusive chat were screenwriter/director Mitch Glazer and actress (Drugstore Cowboy, The L Word) Kelly Lynch, in town from Los Angeles to promote the second season of Magic City, the STARZ hit series which Mitch created and Kelly co-stars in as the cool, aristocratic Meg Bannock. Fresh off ringing the NASDAQ bell and an earlier red carpet appearance at a swanky fashion show in Times Square featuring looks curated by Magic City costume designer Carol Ramsey, the Hollywood power couple arrived shortly before noon (extra points for being early!) and were game for talking about pretty much anything.
Together 23 years and married for 20 which, in Tinseltown time is the equivalent of forever (“I was getting cranky waiting for him to ask me,” says Kelly), Mitch and Kelly have seemingly found the perfect project in which to work together in Magic City. Born and raised in Miami Beach, Mitch, who once toiled as a writer for Rolling Stone and Vanity Fair, tells me that the series is the most personal of projects as it allows him to recreate the Miami of his childhood by shooting on location and constructing a massive sound stage populated with full scale models of the iconic hotels (not to mention all those great cars) of this bygone era. ”Sometimes I look around and think, ‘This is like a Twlight Zone episode,’” he told me.
Before he began shooting the very first episode and after the final touches were put in place on Miramar Playa Hotel, the property owned by the show’s brooding, sexy Ike Evans (Jeffrey Dean Morgan), Mitch brought his 91-year-old father, Leonard Glazer, who worked as an electrical engineer on the strip during the fifties, to the set. Mitch found the very same chandelier his father had installed all those years ago at The Eden Roc in a box at a Miami salvage store and gave it its rightful place of honor in the lobby of the fictional Miramar Playa. “My father took one look and said, ‘You built a hotel!” recalled Mitch, smiling at the memory. “There are so few things in life that you know better than anyone else,” he told me. “This world happens to be that for me, so I was very fortunate and it gave me a lot of confidence.”
In depicting the “glamorous, adult” world that was Miami Beach, 1959 Mitch works painstakingly with his production designer and set decorator to recreate every detail down to the newspapers the characters read. “(STARZ CEO) Chris Albrecht likes to joke that this is the most expensive home movie ever made,” said Mitch, who explained that the powers that be did their due diligence in searching for the best (read: most financially sound) location to shoot the series and, in the end, agreed to shoot in Miami. “Many of the actors had never been to Miami before shooting the show, and that first night when you’re there, and you smell the ocean and the jasmine, it just puts you in that place, the very sexy, glamorous state of mind.” Which, we’re guessing, went a long way during the five-month shooting schedule.
For her part as an actress, Kelly told me it’s the gorgeous vintage costumes that also go a long way in helping to create the show’s characters. “It’s like a fabulous game of ‘let’s pretend,’ and, at the same time, it makes it more real.” Kelly describes Meg’s style as a tasteful, luxurious mix of looks inspired by socialite Millicent Rogers and heiress Doris Duke, as well as those of iconic blondes Grace Kelly and Babe Paley, whose styles remain indelible to fashionistas of today. And Kelly knows her fashion — trust me. Unlike most actresses willing to parade around in whatever their stylist tells them to wear, Kelly comes to her fashion cred authentically. When I complimented her on her stunning white knitted sheath and inquired if it was a Azzedine Alaia, she said, “That’s funny because I modeled in his first fashion show.” Her dress, incidentally, was by the more affordable designer collection, Theory. Kelly admits she’s taken plenty of her fashion cues from her 27-year-old daughter, Shane Lynch, who introduced her to the Zaras and H&M’s of the world. “Anyone can look great in a $10,000 dress but that seems like you’re cheating,” she told me. “I think looking great doesn’t have to cost a lot of money.” Lynch, a former dancer who once dreamed of being an architect, admits it’s “a lot of work” keeping up appearances as an actress over the age of 18. Not that she has to, but Lynch hedges her bets by eating well (she’s a vegetarian and had the burrata with a side of spinach today). “Fashion is not for sissies,” she said. For the record, Mitch is no slouch in the style department, either, as evidenced by his impeccably tailored Paul Stuart suit.)
The couple exude an accessible, intelligent glamour that was more than evident while discussing everything from the perils of attending Hollywood award shows (when they attended the Golden Globes the year Lost in Translation was a nominee — producer Mitch helped pen Bill Murray’s unforgettable acceptance speech — and they found themselves subsisting soley on champagne because their table was too close to the stage to allow the wait staff to serve dinner) to their mutual penchant for mid-century architecture (their Hollywood Hills home has been featured in the pages of Architectural Digest). When Michael’s GM, Steve Millington, came over to say hello, Mitch asked after proprietor Michael McCarty, who is in London this week. Mitch told me he’s known Michael “since the seventies” when he once spent a memorable weekend in Aspen with him and Don Henley. “Michael showed up with the giant salmon he prepared for us. I knew it was going to be an interesting weekend.” No doubt. They also shared that Sue Mengers, immortalized on Broadway this season by Bette Midler in I’ll Eat You Last, introduced them. As a defacto memorial to the late super agent, the couple attended the premiere (“We sat right behind Ali MacGraw” said Kelly) and were dazzled by Bette’s performance. “I said to Bette, ‘We got her back,’” recalled Kelly. “I’m still mad she wasn’t nominated (for a Tony),” said Mitch. I got the sense there was no end to fascinating tales of Hollywood then and now Mitch and Kelly could tell.
They were downright charming when they discussed the dynamics of working together. Mitch wrote the part of Meg for his wife. “Kelly is my favorite actress,” he said unabashedly. “When I pitched it to her, I said, ‘I have this idea for this character. She’s aristocratic like Grace Kelly. Luckily, she wanted to do it.” Kelly told me that, on the set, “Mitch is my boss. As a showrunner, Mitch has [the actors'] backs and gives us ideas to tweak something sometimes the tiniest bit to make it something more. At work, I talk to him as a showrunner. At home, I like to think I’m in charge, but on the set he’s the boss.” And that means no special treatment. “I’m not privy to the scripts or what happens before anyone else knows, because I want to be a part of that family of actors.”
I found it fascinating to talk about the process of writing the show with Mitch, who, between bites of his Cobb salad, told me he wrote every episode for the first season. However, this season he hired a handful of writers as part of a team. With the herculean task of churning out what is comparable to “eight films” and all that entails, Mitch said he welcomed the change. “I love ‘breaking story’ which is basically sitting around with four or five writers in a room and asking a series of ‘what ifs.’ I assign writers to a show based on their strengths, but, because the story is so personal to me, it comes back to me at some point.” This season, he wrote four of the episodes himself.
In Magic City’s second season which premieres on STARZ this Friday, June 14, the drama is ratcheted up when Ike, in jail for murder, risks everything to rid his hotel of the mob, and that means more scary scenes with Danny Houston, who plays Ben “The Butcher” Diamond, one of the wildest villains on television. After all, the man shot a dog who dared to bark during one of his phone conversations. Yikes! “It’s funny, but we can be walking down the street with Danny, and you see someone who realizes who is he and they’re excited for a minute, and then they realize who he is and this look comes over their faces,” Mitch said with a laugh. His canine crime has earned his character — and the show — a place in television infamy but, says Mitch, “We’re probably the only show on a premium cable channel that hasn’t done incest. We’re clearly behind the curve. People are more shocked about the dog, but it gave viewers a sense that this man was literally capable of anything.” I’ll say.
Having just wrapped post-production on the season, Mitch is looking forward to a short break while awaiting word on whether the show will be picked up for a third season. He’s says he’s in it for the long haul. “I love doing it and [STARZ executives] know it, so I have no leverage at all.” So if you want to see what becomes of Ike, Meg and dastardly Ben as the sixties take hold of Miami Beach (hey, there’s only one more season of Mad Men!), tune in Friday night and find out.
Here’s the rundown on today’s crowd:
1. Mitch Glazer, Kelly Lynch and yours truly
2. Penske Media vice chair Gerry Byrne
3. Producer Terry Allen Kramer, Alana Stewart (who, Kelly tells me, is a poker buddy of hers) and some other well-dressed blondes we didn’t get to meet
4. Diet diva Nikki Haskell and PR maven Catherine Saxton
5. Who was that man in black? Charles Grodin.
6. Pr whiz Katie Mead
8. New York Social Diary‘s David Patrick Columbia with an elegantly attired lady we didn’t get to meet
11. Agent Boaty Boatwright and Jay Cantor
14. Simon & Schuster’s Alice Mayhew
15. Dr. Mitch Rosenthal (Happy Birthday!)
18. Martin Bandier
19. The New York Post‘s real estate scribe Jennifer Keil and Simone Levinson (Nice meeting you! Thanks, Wednesday.)
20. Marketing man and political commentator Robert Zimmerman
82. Whistling Communications’ Robert Frye
21. Michael Kempner and Michael Neuman, chairman of All-Star Tasting
24. Lion Tree’s Areyeh Bourkoff
25. PR guru Tom Goodman with his office ‘neighbor’ Bettina Zilkha
27. Producer Chuck Pfeifer
Please send comments and corrections to LUNCH at MEDIABISTRO dot COM.
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