He’s played a tender heart transplant patient-turned-possible specter (or cancer-induced hallucination) and a mysterious paternal figure on the small screen before – now Jeffrey Dean Morgan is poised to travel back in time and handle the Miami crime scene circa the 1960s in Starz’ upcoming period drama, Magic City.

Morgan is on the verge of signing on for Starz’ new series, which the cable channel’s execs seem to be hoping will be their answer to HBO’s early 20th century show about illegal deeds and government corruption, Boardwalk Empire.

Magic City will revolve around Jewish-American hotel boss Ike Evans (the role Deadline says Morgan is in final negotiations to play), a man who aims to just make a living and raise his family in the world of mid-20th century Miami. That’s easier said than done as Evans has to handle an onslaught of scheming politicians, dangerous mobsters, and other less-than-respectable types who flock to the glitzy Florida town in the wake of Fidel Castro’s rise to power in Cuba – and his subsequent shutdown of Havana as a gambling haven.

Morgan is well known for his turn on Grey’s Anatomy as Denny Duquette – a patient who left an indelible mark on Izzie’s (Katherine Heigl) life – and his part as the father to Sam (Jared Padalecki) and Dean (Jensen Ackles) on Supernatural. Movie fans might also recall that Morgan (flirtatiously) sparred with Zoe Saldana in last year’s The Losers, but are more likely to recognize him from his part as the sadistic Comedian in Zack Snyder’s adaptation of Watchmen.

Morgan as The Comedian.

Scarface immediately jumps to mind when the words “drugs, mobsters, and Miami” are dropped in a conversation, but Magic City reads like something more akin to The Sopranos than that iconic Al Pacino vehicle. Between this show, the 300-inspired Spartacus: Blood and Sand, and Starz’ new take on the Arthur legend, Camelot, it’s clear that the cable channel is fashioning itself as a rival to HBO by offering a diverse, often gritty lineup of TV series and entertainment.

It will also be interesting to see how Magic City‘s portrayal of 1960s-era America differs from the glistening world of suave ad specialists in Mad Men and NBC’s upcoming period drama about Hugh Hefner’s infamous Chicago-based clubs, Playboy. The 60s are quite alive and well on TV, it seems.

Magic City will shoot on location in Miami and is scheduled to premiere in 2012.

Source: Deadline