Russian export Elena Satine sizzles on the small screen in Magic City.
Elena Satine's kindergarten classmates had an early inkling there was an actress in their midst. "If I watched The Little Mermaid the night before, I wouldn't answer to anybody the next day if they didn't refer to me as Ariel," she laughs. "I would never break character." Born in the country of Georgia, which borders Russia, the radiant redhead's early excursions into schoolgirl method acting ultimately led her across the globe from her home in the former Soviet Union (at age five she starred in her own weekly Russian variety show) to New York City, where at the age of 11, while accompanying her mother on a business trip, she snuck away to audition for a performing-arts school and earned admission on the spot. "I told my mom it would be really good for me to study in New York," says Satine. "She knew it was what I wanted to do, so she convinced my dad and the rest of the family." After four years at a university in Moscow studying drama (because she "thought it would be a shame to know the Russian language and not read Chekhov the way it was intended"), she eventually made her way to Hollywood.
Now Satine's traveling to the glamorous Miramar Playa hotel in Miami Beach, the setting of the new 1950s-based Starz series Magic City, premiering April 6. She plays Judi Silver, a high-class call girl who plies her trade amongst a dangerous backdrop of political power, mob money, showbiz glitz, and Cuban revolutionaries. "I'm obsessed with anything having to do with that time period, so it was literally a dream come true to be a part of that world," says Satine. "I really loved the movies of that period and found myself becoming fixated with not only the Humphrey Bogarts and Audrey Hepburns, but with the time. It was so glamorous and sexy—everything from the cars and the clothes to the way women and men carried themselves. I've always felt like I was born in the wrong era and should've been around in the '50s."
While her character's silver-centric style—from shiny metallic nails to platinum-blonde hair—and brassy-on-the-outside, broken-on-the-inside attitude evokes Marilyn Monroe, Satine theorized the real-world wellspring for Judi and posed the question to series creator, writer, and executive producer Mitch Glazer. "I asked him if any of the inspiration for Judi came from Judith Campbell Exner," she says, having discovered the story of the notorious party girl—who reportedly bedded JFK, Sinatra, and mob boss Sam Giancana—during her research on the era. "I got a very coy sort of answer, but to me, [Exner is] somebody who reminds me of Judi very much.
"There was never a point in my life where I considered doing anything else, or even considered a backup plan," says Satine of her lifelong pursuit of performing. "Failure was just not an option. It was like, I'm either going to do this, or I'm going to be a crazy lady on the street performing one-woman plays. That's just what's going to happen."