When HBO turned author Charlaine Harris’s Sookie Stackhouse novels into True Blood, it became the most outrageous vampire show on television. Now Harris’s Midnight, Texas novels are next, and while NBC can’t match the graphic content of HBO, they’ll find other ways to shock you.
There are vampires in Midnight, Texas too, but also psychics, ghosts, witches, were-creatures, assassins, and much more. Manfred Bernardo (Francois Arnaud) plays a psychic who’s a tad worn out from allowing hostile spirits use his body. He flees to Midnight, TX, where he meets all sorts of other creatures and the town’s human inhabitants.
Arnaud and cast members Arielle Kebbel, Sarah Ramos, Dylan Bruce, Parisa Fitz-Henley, and Peter Mensah spoke with Rotten Tomatoes about Midnight, Texas, offering 10 things to know before you visit Charlaine Harris’s macabre town.
Kebbel plays Olivia, a hit woman who partners with a 200-year-old vampire. More on him later.
“I’m human but I’m more dangerous than many supernaturals,” Kebbel said. “Olivia had a traumatic childhood and it’s part of what’s made her the woman that she is today. I trained almost every day because for me, it was a mental space. I felt like if Olivia’s an assassin, to be an assassin, I have to know what it feels like to eat, breathe, and sleep always watching. ”
There are some visual effects for the spirits, but when they take over Manfred, that’s Francois Arnaud playing the ghost wreaking havoc inside Manfred.
“I was adamant about wanting it to be physically difficult for him, during and after,” Arnaud said. “I came up with this scary voice, but I get possessed later on in the show by kinder, gentler spirits as well. It’s always a little painful but it’s not always as grueling psychologically.”
A lot of the citizens of Midnight, Texas have a past they don’t talk about, which makes it the perfect community for outcasts. Bobo (Dylan Bruce), for example, arrived after 16 years on the run.
“No one asks questions about your past, but everybody seems to have demons in their past that they’re running from,” Bruce said. “It terrifies him, the fact that this secret that he’s been holding for so long can come to life with these bad dudes that are after him and pretty close to catching him.”
Creek (Ramos) didn’t have a choice in moving to Midnight.
“Her family moved there when she was probably 10 or so,” Ramos said. “As is hinted at, nobody really goes to Midnight, TX unless you’re hiding something or unless you have secrets. So the family definitely had a secret that brought them there. Creek doesn’t exactly know what it is.”
Lemuel Bridger (Mensah), or Lem to his friends, is Olivia’s vampire partner. Harris came up with a whole new set of vampire rules for Midnight, Texas, including the ability to leech energy instead of blood.
“He actually has the ability to take someone’s pain away, which is part of his relationship with Olivia, his love interest in this,” Mensah said. “Or in protecting Midnight, he’s actually able to extract enough to kill.”
That rough past Kebbel described makes Lem a necessity.
“There are times where that pain is too much for her,” Kebbel said. “The anger, the rage, is just too much. Lem is able to actually leech it out of her. So she gets a release from his leech, and in turn, he uses that energy as food so that he doesn’t have to suck on blood.”
So how often does Lem have to leech so he doesn’t get, er, thirsty?
“He’s been known to take off into the wilds and go find some blood if he needs it,” Mensah said. “If not, he can survive an awful long time just taking energy.”
The magic shop in Midnight, Texas has more powerful goods than Neeful Things. Fitz-Henley plays Fiji Cavanagh, the witch who runs the store.
“I own a little shop called Inquiring Mind where I sell crystals and herbs and things,” Fitz-Henley said. “I also do some spells. I’m in love with Bobo but he doesn’t know it, for very, very, very good reason.”
Midnight welcomes outsiders as residents, but they find that most of the forces just passing through are a threat to them.
“When we have outsiders coming to town, more and more they’re demonic entities,” Kebbel said. “We don’t really know what is attracting them to our town because this is more than we’ve ever had before. It’s the first time that Olivia hasn’t been able to fight them the way that she knows how.”
This is true of every adaptation, even Game of Thrones. The cast plays the characters faithfully, with some physical compromises. In some cases, even the actor fought for more authenticity.
“I have a few piercings on the show,” Arnaud said. “I wanted to have a few tattoos as well. In the books, he’s definitely more of a punk and I think on television they want the lead character to remain appealing to the broadest spectrum of people. I would’ve gone a little bit further, but I understand. It’s fine. People may be surprised by that, some readers of the book.”
Fitz-Henley may not look like a woman struggling with her weight, as Harris describes Fiji, but she can embody the universal struggle with self-image.
“For so many of us, our perception of ourselves and our reality of ourselves is different,” Fitz-Henley said. “She feels like she’s not the right size. I’m a different size than her. I know some people have been concerned about that. I know I’m very familiar with some of those struggles, just making sure to be true to her experience.”
Kebbel extrapolated Olivia’s descriptions to create her own backstory. “What I really heard in the books immediately was anger,” Kebbel said. “Someone’s only that angry if they’re that hurt. If they’re that hurt, it means they’ve loved, and if they’ve loved, they’ve lost. The books gave me kind of like a blueprint to discovering what lies beneath the assassin.”
Ramos gave Creek a different characterization than Harris. Described as timid in the books, Ramos says she gave her more of a sardonic sense of humor. That will also make her a longer-lasting character, as Ramos intends to stay on Midnight, Texas as long as she can.
“Creek’s character is probably the most changed from the books because she leaves in the first book,” Ramos said. “She’s gone at the end of it and never comes back. It doesn’t seem like that’s going to happen here.”
Creek has a reason to stay in Midnight, for now.
“She’s really staying there because she doesn’t want her little brother to be alone with her borderline abusive father who’s an alcoholic,” Ramos said. “She’s kind of put her dreams on hold.”
The first season of Midnight, Texas is 10 episodes. Kebbel promises the last three are massive, beginning in episode eight.
“Basically from episode 8-10, we all looked like we had gone through a tornado, a hurricane, a sandstorm, a flood, any other natural disaster,” Kebbel said. “Every day we were cleaning out our eyes, we were cleaning out our ears. I just want people to know that when they see that dirt, it’s not makeup. It’s really us.”
When Manfred comes to Midnight, he and Creek have a healthy flirtation. She has no powers, but a medium may be the closest thing to a human she’s got in a town like this.
“She doesn’t really have any friends in town,” Ramos said. “There’s nobody her age, so when Manfred comes to town, it’s like a breath of fresh air. He’s cute, and sparks fly immediately. It’s something entertaining for this small town girl in her small town life.”
Manfred may sense a bit more in Creek. “I also think at first he’s just very lonely, and everyone antagonizes him from the start except her,” Arnaud said. “I think because she’s been surrounded by so many strange people her whole life, she doesn’t judge so quickly, and I think he’s always felt judged.”
In Speed they said relationships based on intense circumstances never work out. That doesn’t stop lovers from trying.
“I do think Midnight is a really romantic place,” Ramos said. “People are always fighting for life or death, fighting to protect their loved ones and fighting to stay alive for their loved ones. It’s not somewhere where you can be if you don’t have strong feelings about the people that you’re with because otherwise, it wouldn’t be worth it.”
Midnight, Texas premieres July 24 on NBC.