François Arnaud on ‘Midnight, Texas’ and Dealing with Supernatural Creatures

     July 24, 2017

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Based on the best-selling book series by Charlaine Harris (author of the novels that inspired True Blood), the NBC series Midnight, Texas is a supernatural tale that’s set in a remote town where nothing is what it seems. When Manfred (François Arnaud), a psychic who can communicate with spirits, finds himself in Midnight, he quickly realizes that it’s a mysterious safe haven for those who are different, and that while they are all dealing with their own secrets, they must also band together if they are going to fight off the evil that is threatening to take over.

During this 1-on-1 interview with Collider, actor François Arnaud talked about why Midnight, Texas appealed to him, whether he read the books that the show is based on, how the show is a big thrill ride, getting a filmmaker like Niels Arden Oplev to set the tone with the pilot, what Manfred sees in Creek (Sarah Ramos), all of the supernatural creatures in this town, where the threats and dangers are coming from this season, where things could go in the future, and what he looks for in a project.

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Image via NBC

Collider: This seems like it must be a really fun show to make.

FRANCOIS ARNAUD: It was a trip!

Could you tell, when you read it? Did you know just what you’d be signing up for?

ARNAUD: You only get sent the pilot when you first audition for something, and I didn’t imagine it would keep being that big. It keeps getting bigger and bigger, during the first season, and I thought it would be on a more intimate level. As the relationships develop, I’m not saying there’s a lack of intimacy, but it’s such a big thrill ride, and it keeps being a thrill ride with every episode. My character goes through so much. It was very fun, but it was also grueling because, it being a genre horror show with vampires, a lot of it was shot at night and we’d wrap at 7 or 8am, five times a week. That was difficult. I’m not a day-sleeper. By the end of it, they didn’t have to do much make-up on me to make me look tired. But, it was fun. New Mexico is beautiful, the sets are incredible, and the special effects team is great.

Since you only had the pilot to go on, what was the appeal of this show?

ARNAUD: Well, I thought there was room to explore the dark side of this character, beyond the tropes of genre. There was room there to explore something dramatically strong, all while keeping a sense of humor to rise above the situation. I liked the tone of it. It was a bit of a gamble because we’re surfing that fine line between comedy and drama, but you have to trust the team. The director attached to the pilot, Niels Arden Oplev, is a filmmaker who’d done The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo in Sweden and the Mr. Robot pilot, which was very strong, so you just take the plunge. You just hope that the other directors that come in are willing to make the most of that.

All of the residents of Midnight, Texas have secrets. Did you want to be filled in on any of that, or are you okay with not having all of the answers?

ARNAUD: I wanted to know as much as possible, for my character’s background, and then keep everything else a surprise. There’s a big shift after the pilot. Originally, they were going to drag out the murder mystery with Aubrey throughout the whole season, but then NBC decided that they didn’t want a murder mystery. They wanted a more supernatural show, so that got a little scary. I was like, “Oh, I don’t know what we were doing anymore.” But, what I liked that they did is that they didn’t make it a monster-of-the-week show either. There are new obstacles every week, but they’re always character-driven. Every episode of the first season, at least for the first half or two-thirds, before it all comes to a conclusion, all focus on one character’s past. Episode 2 is the were-tiger. Episode 3 explores Lem’s background more, as a vampire who’s been alive for hundreds of years, and it goes back to 18th century America. Also, you’ll see Manfred’s involvement in those characters’ lives, in the present. And then, later on in the season, you go back to Manfred’s childhood and see him as a little kid, and you’ll see his grandmother when she was alive. There’s a lot of strong drama there to feed the weekly thrills.

Television