Karen-Eileen Gordon returns to Miami for new TV series

Karen-Eileen Gordon is seen during filming of the movie, A Free Bird, in Panama City.

Actress Karen-Eileen Gordon, who grew up in South Florida and lived and worked here for awhile before heading out to Los Angeles, has traveled back to the area for work in a new TV series titled Magic City.

The series, which debuts on the Starz network in the spring, has the talented screen and voice-over actress feeling as if she also traveled back in time. Written entirely by Mitch Glazer, executive producer, the show is set on Miami Beach in 1959 in the fictional Miramar Playa Hotel.

“Working in this story setting, on those sets designed to transport you right back to 1959 Miami Beach, was mind-bending,” Gordon said. “A wormhole whisked me 50 years into the past. My acting teachers and coaches really drilled into me that as an actor, I’m responsible for seeing the setting internally. Having an authentic drop-dead gorgeous set to back up the inner vision is like performance rocket fuel.”

The first episode opens on New Years Eve 1958-59, amid the glitter and glamour of a beach hotel like the Fontainebleau or Eden Roc, run by hotel king Ike Evans, played by Jeffrey Dean Morgan.

“My character is Florence, Ike’s longtime executive secretary,” Gordon said. “Bringing her to life was a fabulous adventure. To fund his expensive hotel vision, Ike involves himself with a mob boss. His three kids and former-showgirl wife, Vera, believe he’s an above-board guy. None of them has any idea how hard he’s struggling to break his pact with the devil.”

Gordon, who attended public schools in Broward, got a degree in economics at Harvard and did her post-grad work at the University of Bristol in England, lived in South Miami, Coral Gables and Miami Lakes for about nine years, working at Tinsley Advertising, the Miami Herald, Miami Dade College, and Venture Productions where she was a radio writer/producer for the Armed Forces Radio Network.

She recently made a movie in the panhandle, called A Free Bird, a comedy feature now in the final stages of post-production.

“I’d never been to Panama City,” Gordon said. “I had the honor of filming the female lead, Tammy. She’s a Southern whirlwind with a heart the size of an ocean, scheming to get her common-law husband to step up to the ‘relationship plate.’”

Gordon thinks that local viewers especially will enjoy the new Magic City series, although she admits to being completely biased because she loves both the show and South Florida.

“It’s astoundingly faithful to the history of the time period, both in the authenticity of the visuals and in the storylines,” Gordon said. “Mr. Glazer grew up on Miami Beach in those years, so he knows the people and surroundings from the inside, and it’s a delicious view. The New Years Eve that launches the first episode was the evening that Havana fell to Castro’s rebels. The Kennedys, the mob, the CIA, Frank Sinatra and the rest of the Rat Pack all held court. All of the celebrities of that day wanted to perform and stay here.”

As someone who grew up, lived and worked in South Florida before, to be here working on a series set in Miami’s past is, in Gordon’s words, “like hitting the actor lottery.”

“To be able to return to the place that I consider my true hometown, the place where I grew up and where I got my creative start, is heaven,” Gordon said. “And for an added helping of amazingness, to be here working on a series set in Miami’s past is an extraordinary gift. To explore the seismic shift of Florida’s social and psychic landscape at the 1958/1959 junction, and to time travel and feel what that era was like for everyone living there. Delicious.”

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