Welcome to Midnight! This Texas town boasts vampires, witches and assassins as citizens and the recent addition of a psychic with a shady past only increases the drama between the humans and their supernatural neighbors. Based on the trilogy by Charlaine Harris, author of the Sookie Stackhouse series (the inspiration behind HBO’s True Blood), Midnight, Texas promises to take viewers on an exciting, dangerous adventure beginning next year.
During last weekend’s New York Comic Con, Blast Magazine had the opportunity to speak with main cast members Francois Arnaud, Dylan Bruce, Parisa Fitz-Henley, Arielle Kebbel, Sarah Ramos and Peter Mensah, as well as show creator, Monica Owusu-Breen, about the show’s divergence from the books, the relationships between characters in the town, and the influence of Harris’ writings on the actors.
Blast Magazine: Every character in Midnight has a complicated backstory which explains how they ended up residing in the town. Could each of you talk about who your character is and what their storyline will be this season?
Peter Mensah (Lemuel Bridger): I play Lemuel Bridger who is a vampire. I’m not sure how else to describe what he does.
Arielle Kebbel (Olivia Charity): I play Olivia Charity. She’s an assassin and she’s incredibly dangerous. She has a really dark past, like most people in Midnight. Throughout the series, we will learn her backstory, how she came to be a hitwoman and why it’s important to her to protect the town of Midnight. There is also a really odd and sweet relationship between her and Lemuel and they feed off each other in more ways than one. As the series goes on, I think that’s going to be a sweet relationship to explore.
Dylan Bruce (Bobo Winthrop): I play Bobo Winthrop who is the proprietor of the local pawnshop, which has been in Midnight for many years and sells a lot of very odd items full of history. Olivia lives upstairs and Lemuel lives beneath the store. Also, Bobo’s best friend is Fiji.
Parisa Fitz-Henley (Fiji Cavanaugh): I play Fiji Cavanaugh who is a witch. She runs a little shop in the town with articles relating to witchcraft and Wicca with crystals and other beautiful things. I like to think of Fiji as a unifier and a protector of her friends who have become her adopted family. A big challenge for her is coming to terms with how powerful she is as a witch. She can do some cool stuff now, but coming into her own power is going to be pretty explosive. Bobo and Fiji are best friends and I wish more. Well, Fiji wishes more but Parisa also thinks that would be cool. She’s got some reasons for not pursuing Bobo though, which we will find out during the season.
Sarah Ramos (Creek Lovell): I play Creek Lovell who is just a girl in town that’s about to find out a lot of her secrets that her overprotective dad and brother have kept from her. She and Manfred hit it off right from the start and have a mutual crush, but they keep getting interrupted and there’s no time to connect because there’s too much danger in the town that they have to fight.
Francois Arnaud (Manfred Bernardo): I play Manfred, the newcomer in Midnight. He is a psychic and a medium and a little bit of a crook. He’s on the run from someone who wants to kill him and decides to hide in Midnight after his dead grandma’s ghost advises him to.
Blast Magazine: Monica, did you feel that it was beneficial or detrimental to have so much source material [the book trilogy] to work off of when creating the show? Was there any added pressure due to readers’ pre-set expectations?
Monica Owusu-Breen (creator): The books have a different pace than a television show. It’s sort of a small-town pace with a lot of talking about the neighborhood. It was lovely and I loved being in Midnight. I was hooked on the books after the first two chapters. Charlaine wrote these amazing characters who have these great backstories and are really complicated. I immediately thought about how I could take the human stories I loved in Midnight and give them a TV pacing. With a vampire, a hitwoman, a psychic and a hellmouth, there are endless amounts of stories we can tell. I’m really lucky to have three books of backstory and characters to draw from because I think that these characters are richer and better formed because of it. It wasn’t so much a challenge as an opportunity for me.
Blast Magazine: Can viewers expect conflicts between the residents and the outside world or will the show focus more on the issues within the supernatural community?
Monica Owusu-Breen (creator): We set up in the pilot with a clear distinction between the residents of Midnight, who are considered the weirdos to watch out for by the county, and the more normal residents of the county who judge. These characters are a group of people who have been judged and hunted and are hiding for specific reasons. They find this unlikely community where they all support each other and it’s the outside world coming in that is the real conflict. These are very complicated characters and we will see their backstories starting to emerge as well as the conflicts between them.
Blast Magazine: Had you been exposed to the book series before accepting the role? If not, did you read the trilogy at all to prepare for your scenes?
Arielle Kebbel (Olivia Charity): I wasn’t aware of the book series before but as soon as I was cast, I bought them. We all did but Dylan beat us to it. We showed up and he had already read all three. Also, Charlaine came to visit which was amazing. We were all so excited to meet her.
Dylan Bruce (Bobo Winthrop): Coming from a show like Orphan Black where they don’t tell you anything, finding out that I had source material here was amazing. I really liked the books and read all three of them as soon as they came out. The last one was released after we finished filming.
Peter Mensah (Lemuel Bridger): I didn’t know too much about the books until I got the call and then I did the research. As I read through the books and the description of the vampire, I realized that it was nothing like me and figured out that wouldn’t be my role. It worked out and the books really helped, but they are just the basis for what Monica and the writers are going to do so expect a lot more.
Sarah Ramos (Creek Lovell): I had not been exposed to the books but as soon as I found out who Charlaine Harris was, I was obsessed with her and knew I needed to be a part of this.
Parisa Fitz-Henley (Fiji Cavanaugh): They give the spirit of each character. I came into the process at the eleventh hour and I started reading the book before the audition because I read the little character description and was obsessed. I felt like Fiji was me and then I read the book and thought it really was me. I felt like the character was living in my head.
Arielle Kebbel (Olivia Charity): I also feel like for Monica and David [Janollari, executive producer], it was so important for them to really cast the heart of each character. When we all showed up and met each other, we all had a connection and realization that each of us really matched the character. There was a synergy to it and that was really exciting to see. It was amazing to see how they wanted to bring the essence of these characters through casting and then the rest through their own creation. That’s exciting for me and for my character as there are some things added in the show that are not in the books that are fierce but there also are little things that I really appreciated about the book and pieces of Olivia that I didn’t want to go away. I feel like it’s special to have that as our own little Bible to check back on.
Blast Magazine: Peter, you played the vampire Kibwe on True Blood. Did that inspire you to take this role and play a vampire again?
Peter Mensah (Lemuel Bridger): To be honest, I didn’t even think about that role at the time. It was more Monica and Niels [Arden Oplev, series director] who let me know in our first conversation that they wanted to do a different kind of vampire. That’s what made it really interesting for me because it was breaking new ground and I knew that he was nothing like the original character in the books. That made it exciting so I was happy to sign on.
Blast Magazine: As an assassin, does Olivia have superpowers or is she only a human?
Peter Mensah (Lemuel Bridger): Oh, she’s got superpowers.
Dylan Bruce (Bobo Winthrop): She is the most feared person in Midnight. She’s part of Midnight and a part of our family, but you almost want to walk the other way when you see her. You don’t want to catch Olivia on a bad day.
Arielle Kebbel (Olivia Charity): Even when she’s on a hit, she’s doing it for a very specific reason. What you’ll learn about her is that she has very good intentions and her heart is in the right place. She’s found her comfort in protecting herself and protecting others and that’s fierce. When it’s life and death at any minute, she won’t let anything stop her or stand in her way of protecting her family in Midnight. It’s been exciting. We’re doing a lot of weapons and martial arts training. There is a whole lot of stuff coming from Olivia.
Blast Magazine: Francois, what attracted you to the role of Manfred, the new guy in town?
Francois Arnaud (Manfred Bernardo): I was very pleased from the start that Manfred has real issues like a painkiller addiction. Also the fact that Niels was directing the pilot. I was a big fan of the original Girl with The Dragon Tattoo film and I thought he did tremendous work with the Mr. Robot pilot as well.
Monica Owusu-Breen (creator): When we got Niels, I thought I died and went to heaven. I never thought he would do it.
Blast Magazine: Are there any spoilers you can give us before the show premieres?
Monica Owusu-Breen (creator): It will surprise you at every turn. In a world where you have vampires and assassins and a hellmouth and a were-tiger, it will never be boring. All of these people ended up in Midnight for very different reasons and every episode, you will learn something new about why they ended up there. We will start unpeeling the onion of who these crazy characters are.
Francois Arnaud (Manfred Bernardo): Every episode, every chapter of the first season invites you in to discover more about one specific character, whether through flashbacks or visitors to Midnight. There’s ongoing storylines and threats, but every chapter teaches you something new.
Monica Owusu-Breen (creator): Midnight is a character itself so you will learn about the town and why so many supernatural people are drawn to this place.