'Magic City' star Jeffrey Dean Morgan on show's 'depressing' cancellation, 'fitting' series ender

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Image Credit: Kurt Iswarienko/Starz

Magic City star Jeffrey Dean Morgan is still reeling from news of his show’s cancellation. After all, word of the drama’s demise came just days ago, when Starz announced the second season finale, airing tonight, would also act as a series finale.

“It’s a big open wound. It’s a little bit depressing,” admits the actor, who played morally torn hotel owner Ike Evans. “But that being said, to be part of such a great show is pretty great, and I met some really fantastic people.”

Below, Morgan, who is as well-known for his roles in big-budget films as his TV work, opens up about his show’s unfortunate — but not entirely unexpected — axing (it aired on Friday nights, people … ) and the chances of Magic City finding a home on another network.

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: So how soon did you know about the show’s cancellation?
JEFFREY DEAN MORGAN: We literally found out five seconds before that press release went out. [Starz president] Chris Albrect, [executive producer] Mitch Glazer, and [Starz exec] Carmi Zlotnik all called me simultaneously, and the press release went out about five minutes later. That was the first we heard.

We knew we were on the fence, as every show is on Starz. There’s no such thing as a solid foundation there right now. So without them saying we were going to get picked up for another year, when that didn’t come immediately, we sort of knew. I had my red flags flying the minute Boss was canceled, really, and they cut our initial season order from 10 to eight [episodes]. I think there were red flags popping up all over the place at a very early stage. But you’re always holding out hope that the network is going to back a great show, which is what we had. Sadly, they see it another way. But you know, we were fighting such an uphill battle. … But I don’t run a network and I don’t want to come off as some bitter f—ing actor, because I’m not. I’m really so thankful for the opportunity they gave me and they gave Mitch to tell his story. So, you know, in the end, it is what it is. And because of that, we got 16 hours of fantastic television.

We will see in tonight’s finale exactly how Ike’s story wraps up, but how do you feel about how he ended up? Anything you can tease?
It comes to an abrupt ending, but that said, tonight, it is sort of satisfactory. But there were places to go. We weren’t done telling the story, and it was written and acted as such. If we had known at the beginning of season 2 that this would be our last year, I think we would have buttoned it up a little bit cleaner, but a lot of the stories that have lingered for 16 episodes will be sewn up shut here on this episode. So in a way, it will be a fitting ending as a series, but not as satisfactory as it could have been.¬† It’s always nice to go out on terms you at least know about, if not your own. We were not afforded that luxury here. It is what it is.

We have a great audience. It turns out we have a vocal audience, and I think they will be happy with how it ends as much as they can. We anticipated more. There were more stories to tell. But they will be happy to know that a lot of the stories do wrap up — in an ugly way, but they do wrap up. And by “ugly way” I mean the season finale is pretty great. I’m very proud of the work that was done, not only by the cast, but the entire crew. It’s so awkward to be talking about this show in the past tense.

And sad.
It is. It’s sad. And who knows what can happen? This day and age, with all the shows out there and all the networks who are taking chances on shows from other networks, I think we’re a prime candidate to move somewhere else. And with the kind of rabid fan reaction we do have [to the cancellation], we have a chance. I don’t know how all that stuff works, but I never say “give up.” Never have, never will. Why start now?

Do you see it finding a home on something like Netflix?
I think that’s a viable option. I don’t know the legalities of that, but my feeling is if the audience wants more, give them more. The biggest hurdle we were always dealing with was our sets, which were humungous and beautiful and expensive. But one thing I do know we did, is we did get a couple of more years on the lease. Our sets were paid for, and we absorbed those costs in the early seasons. Those sets were paid for. So it would be nice, but I know it’s a long shot. I’ve had a lot of conversations with Mitch [in the last few days], and he had places to go and these characters were nowhere near done. So that’s always in the back of my head no matter what happens, and that’s a heavy cross to bear.

What did you find most enjoyable about playing Ike as a character?
Well, that he wasn’t one-dimensional. The great thing about television is sort of the long-story format. You have more than an hour and a half or two hours to form a character, and so each episode, I think you see growth in Ike and growth in Ben Diamond [played by Danny Huston]. As actors, for one, you’re given an opportunity to live in these guys’ shoes for a while, and then our creator and writer Mitch also finds nuances in who we are as people and pushes those boundaries. You use that to your strength. So a lot of that is a pure collaboration. The stories were so great and fleshed out from the beginning, I kind of knew the ride I had to take the audience on from episode 1 to episode, as it turns out, 16. I knew where I wanted to go and how I wanted to get there, and then it became about nuances and what I could bring to him as a character.

So where does Ike’s story end? Find out tonight on the series finale of Magic City, and come back Saturday morning for a postmortem interview with Morgan.

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