Miami has fallen hard for television’s sultry new drama Magic City, and we’re having a full-on love affair with the show’s ruthless maid.
A Miami native of Cuban descent, Dominik Garcia- Lorido ventures from Los Angeles back to the familiar streets of South Beach to play Cuban maid Mercedes Lazaro. She might be perfect on paper for this role, but she’s used to striking out on type-casted auditions. “They don’t think I look Latin enough,” she laughed. “Anytime that I’ve been called in for the stereotypical Latina, they tell me to leave.”
The irony is that the qualities that play against her when auditioning for Latin characters are actually what landed her the role in Magic City. “I’m 5’9.” I’m fair skinned. I have no accent. I have a low voice. All these things are what Mitch [Glazer] liked. I am who I am,” she said. The brunette beauty was an instant favorite, and the rest came with ease.
But it hasn’t always been so simple. At 20 years old Garcia-Lorido took to her own devices and dropped out of UCLA to pursue her acting career. The years that followed led her to the silver screen in films The Lost City, La Linea and City Island alongside her father, award-winning actor Andy Garcia. “We separate the father-daughter thing when we’re working together,” she said. “He’s great to work with; he’s a really good director and a great acting partner.”
And she immediately dismisses all preconceived notions of special treatment or entitlement, proving that she’s paved her own path. “If that really affected my career then I would [have been] doing major movies ten years ago,” she said. “I’m 28. This is my ninth pilot television season. For me it makes no difference, no difference at all.”
Yes, eight pilot seasons later, Garcia-Lorido struck gold with Magic City. To think, she initially approached the role of Mercy with trepidation. “I just heard Cuban maid and it didn’t really attract me. I don’t want to play a stereotype,” she said. “But then I read the script and it was not like that at all.”
Set in the late 1950s following the turbulent times of the Cuban Revolution, the story unfolds in the enchanting city of Miami Beach. Garcia-Lorido plays a strong-willed 21-year old maid working at the ritzy Miramar Playa Hotel, which her father manages. With big dreams and even bigger plans for her future, Mercy is thrown off track when she falls for Danny Evans (Christian Cooke).
Playing the role of an ambitious 21-year old took Garcia-Lorido back to an esoteric place where she herself had already been out of school for one year. While everyone her age was focusing on one thing, her mind and her ambitions were elsewhere, lending Garcia-Lorido insight into her character. “That’s a hard place to be in, when you feel like you can’t really relate to other people around you and you’re marching to the beat of your own drum,” she said. “Especially in 1959 when it was rare for a girl to venture out of her comfort zone and be independent and travel the world instead of focusing on settling down.”
So in preparation for the role of Mercy, Garcia- Lorido needn’t go further than back to her roots. “I have definitely gained some perspective on this time in someone’s life; I remember and relate to her. I didn’t really feel like I had to look outside myself—I just had to tap into my young Dominik to connect things.”
The dynamic link between Garcia-Lorido and her character set the tone for a season full of mutual evolution. Mercy’s sheltered upbringing resonates with the starlet, making it easy to draw parallels, referencing cultural background and traditions instilled since childhood that, while not always visible to the naked eye, make up much of who she is. “Jewelry is a big thing to me, so that was something that the costume designer and I collaborated on,” she said. “I wore the gold bangles, a watch, a ring and the little gold earrings. Even when Mercy was working I wanted her to keep her jewelry on.”
“My dad’s very old fashioned,” she continued. “That father-daughter dynamic on the show is pretty relatable for a young, Cuban-Catholic girl too.”
So the world did a double take when Mercy stripped down for a racy scene in the season finale of Magic City. The episode closed the season with a new experience for Mercy, and, subsequently, for Garcia-Lorido. Though she had originally included a no-nudity clause in her contract, the actress had a take-no-prisoners approach when it was time for this game-changing shower scene. “We had a lot of meetings about the way we were going to shoot it. That was something that I made an exception for, something I thought was really necessary for the story line,” she said. “It was very tastefully done. I didn’t use a body double. I feel weird with someone else representing my body, so it’s all me.”
The sexy scene pushed the limits of Garcia-Lorido’s character and career past the quintessential conservative Cuban and into a new realm of risks and possibilities. And just as her character’s behavior challenged her father’s conventional views, the actress broke barriers of her own. “Ironically, that was the only episode that I watched with [my parents],” she laughed. “Actually their reaction was good, they thought it was tastefully done. They loved the scene and they totally supported it.”
Through all the intricate details that demand authenticity from the series, there’s one aspect in particular that Garcia-Lorido credits as the most important for Magic City’s success: the location. “The fact that we actually film in Miami [is what] brings even more authenticity to the show because I think that’s really the central character of the show,” she said. “It’s the city.”
“You really breathe differently in that type of air,” she continued. “It’s just that kind of atmosphere. I think if we shot it somewhere else, it would just take us out of it.”
The actress has deep ties to the city she was born in, and even though her life is rooted on the West Coast, Garcia- Lorido’s visits south will always hit close to home. “I have a lot of friends and cousins in Miami,” she said. “You know what I miss in LA that we don’t have? Boat days. I think the water life is really unique to Miami; you don’t really have that in any other place.”
With the second season of Magic City already secured, Garcia-Lorido is returning to the city she so loves with an appetite to push her boundaries even further. “I just hope to continue to work and challenge myself, and never get into a comfort zone,” she said. “I hope I am always taking risks.”
And she’s not looking back.