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SciFi Vision - Where Fiction and Reality Meet

Spotlight: Midnight, Texas Set Visit - Parisa Fitz-Henley on Making Magic

Parisa Fitz-HenleyThe series Midnight, Texas, which is based on the book series by Charlaine Harris, is centered on a town that serves as a safe haven for supernaturals. They feel a draw to the town, as it sits on powerful energy where the veil between the living and Hell is very thin and is weakening.

Parisa Fitz-Henley plays the character of Fiji Cavanaugh, the local witch. She lives with Mr. Snuggly (voiced by Joe Smith), her cat and familiar. She also has a crush on the pawnshop owner, Bobo Winthrop (Dylan Bruce).

Earlier in the year, while on the set of Midnight, Texas, the actress talked to journalists about her character.

Parisa Fitz-HenleyPlaying a witch, Fitz-Henley talked to SciFi Vision about creating the physicality of her spells and such.

"Fiji really believes that science and magic are pretty darn close together, if not the same thing. So, looking at things from that perspective is something that I also do. I have thought about how, over two-hundred years ago, things that would have had people burned at the stake, in particular, women burned at the stake, are things that we accept as the most natural, like making a cup of herbal tea for somebody, and "Oh, they feel better!" It seems super normal and sweet now, but there was a time when people were like, 'Why did that happen?' because the doctor couldn’t do it.

"So, I’ve looked at this magic thing as a connection to nature, a connection to my own body, and kind of feeling the energy of something and trying to help channel it.

"So, in the scene where they use my hand for something, I think about healers that I know in my own life, who really rely on the energy that we carry with us. I think about Qigong, which I love, and Tai Chi, and these practices of moving energy and channeling it. So when we do spells, and when Fiji’s putting things together, I try to be mindful of those things when I’m doing them."

She also talked to the site about meeting Harris and any insight that she got from her into Fiji. "Well, we actually got to meet Charlaine awhile after we started filming; it was like maybe towards the end of filming the pilot. But, you know, in the books there's so much insight to Fiji, but I would say one of the things that really impacted me that Charlaine said, is how much she related to Fiji and how much she loves her. I felt the same way, so it was like it just it drove it home, that feeling of like, 'I really want to honor this character she created.'

"And the thing is, I don't look like the Fiji that's in the book. I don't have the same exact background. You know, I'm not a real witch. [laughs] My mom probably says I am sometimes. [laughs] We also joke about this in my family. She has one of those things like 'My other car is a broom.' "

Some other topics the actress talked about include Fiji's insecurities, her magical abilities, her relationships with the people in town, Mr. Snuggly, and more.

Please check out the full transcript below.

So how are you taking to Albuquerque?

Albuquerque’s been a really interesting place to be. It’s much more chill than other places that I’ve lived, but it’s super beautiful.

And I’ve loved being in a small place where I’m filming with my co-workers, because the cast and crew, we really jelled immediately on the pilot and then ended up hanging out. The cast, before we even knew the show had been picked up, we would still get together, and then when we knew we got picked up, we got together more. Like I stayed over at Arielle [Kebbel]’s place when I was in L.A., and it just already felt like a family so early. So, it’s nice being in a small place. It’s kind of like being at a family retreat off somewhere, where you have access to people that you love, they’re like five minutes away. So it’s been really nice.

SCIFI VISION: You get to perform magic on the show - we see you perform a spell on the first episode at least - can you talk about creating the physicality of that, and how you sort of built that?

Parisa Fitz-HenleyTotally. So for me, and for Fiji - for both of us. We’re the same. [laughs] Fiji really believes that science and magic are pretty darn close together, if not the same thing. So, looking at things from that perspective is something that I also do. I have thought about how, over two-hundred years ago, things that would have had people burned at the stake, in particular, women burned at the stake, are things that we accept as the most natural, like making a cup of herbal tea for somebody, and "Oh, they feel better!" It seems super normal and sweet now, but there was a time when people were like, "Why did that happen?" because the doctor couldn’t do it.

So, I’ve looked at this magic thing as a connection to nature, a connection to my own body, and kind of feeling the energy of something and trying to help channel it.

So, in the scene where they use my hand for something, I think about healers that I know in my own life, who really rely on the energy that we carry with us. I think about Qigong, which I love, and Tai Chi, and these practices of moving energy and channeling it. So when we do spells, and when Fiji’s putting things together, I try to be mindful of those things when I’m doing them.

The power of magic seems limitless. Can you talk about Fiji’s struggle about what she can do, her potential, and maybe even being overwhelmed by it?

I think Fiji’s main struggle is knowing deep down inside, that she’s incredibly powerful, and she’s feeling that she doesn’t have the capacity to wield that power safely. I don’t think she ever doesn’t feel powerful enough, but I think when it comes to Bobo, for example, where I’m sure it would be really convenient to not have feelings for somebody that you don’t want know about it, I think that she’d love to be able to kind of shut that down. But she doesn’t really have power over that. And that’s one of her challenges, is her powers get out-of-control in relation to her emotions - which you saw in the pilot.

And, do I think that she can control them? I think so. I think we all have the power to wield our gifts properly, but it’s about whether we believe it or not. I think that’s a big journey for her, of whether she will believe in what she can do and whether she can do it safely.

Do we get to see a dark Fiji this season then?

I think we’re going to see a lot of different aspects of Fiji. I think we’ll see different aspects of everybody.

Parisa Fitz-HenleySo. what did she pull out of you?

She’s made me think about so many of these things. From my very first introduction to this project, I had a super strong intuitive connection to it. Before I read anything about it, I was like, "This is something I need to pay attention to and immediately shut down everything that could possibly be a distraction." I was like just lasered in on this.

And I related to so much in the book that Fiji struggles with, like her strengths. I related to so much in my own life, that watching her have her journey has always either reminded me of something I needed to check in my own self or inspired me to do something else.

And Fiji, as much as she may try to hold back on her emotions, she’s - like, for one, I love the way she dresses. Like, she just shows up in her clothes every day. Mind you, she’s maybe not as sexy about it as Olivia (Kebbel) is, but she really puts color and texture in everything she does. It makes me think about it like that, and I’m like, "Hmm, why not?" So, now like three of these rings are personal.

Are those her power rings?

Yeah. There’re some that she always, always wears for various reasons.

Did you get them here?

Yeah. This one’s costume-ordered, because we saw it on someone in New York, we and got this ring and a few others that Olivia wears. But these four are from New Mexico.

Interesting, so New Mexico’s seeping into the system?

Yeah. The thing is also, Midnight being in Texas, and being in the desert, you realize how at the mercy of your environment you are.

[The lights suddenly go out and everyone jokes that she did it with her powers.]

I will tell you, now that we're in the dark, there have been so many interesting little coincidences and stuff, ever since the pilot. It’s just been interesting seeing certain things that are happening in the scripts that also happen in people’s lives around the same time. There’s been a lot of interesting stuff like that.

And also looking at the way that relationships have developed, I can’t say it enough, "I’m in love with this cast." And the relationships on the show have very much mirrored our real-life relationships, or vice-versa.

When it comes to the characters in the show - who Fiji leans on, I mean, she already has feelings for Bobo, but in terms of who she has as a confidant in town, or even in the season - that may be even a deeper relationship because of Manfred (François Arnaud) arriving in town?

Yeah. I mean, this show is such an ensemble, and the Midnighters really function as an ensemble in a lot of ways. But certainly, Bobo and Olivia are Fiji’s best friends, and those relationships are kind of limited - like her relationship with Bobo is obviously limited by the fact that she can’t tell him [that he's] the guy that’s in her life. And Olivia has such a beautiful heart, but she’s a killer, [laughs] and at the end of the day, you’re dealing with an assassin as one of your best friends. That’s always kind of present. But these are the two people that she mainly leans on, and she really tries to be somebody that others really can lean on for their own challenges.

Parisa Fitz-HenleySpeaking of relationships, what’s the deal with her and the cat? Is he her familiar? Are they confidants? Is he driving her crazy?

I’m allergic to the cats, and I think Fiji is emotionally allergic to the cat. [laughs] Mr. Snuggly is - I'm trying to think of a nice word - a grump. [laughs] He’s a grump, and he likes to point out your faults, especially when you’re in a vulnerable moment. He’s always kind of got something smart to say, because he is Fiji’s familiar, but he is inherited. Her aunt had this cat. So, he’s been given to her, and he was given to her at a relatively robust age. So, he’ll be around for a while. As for the relationship, she loves him, and I’m sure she would lay her life down for him, but she also tolerates him. [laughs]

You said you read the books.

Yeah.

All of them?

Yes.

And did you read the True Blood [series]?

No, I haven’t, not yet.

Did you meet Charlaine?

Yeah, I love her!

Did she sign any of your books?

No, because all the books are on my phone. [laughs]

So what did you say to her?

I was just so happy to meet her, and so grateful. Especially for a character like Fiji, because, in particular, one of the things that really touched me a lot, was that Fiji talks about her insecurities a lot. I don’t see that, in a lot of books, and I’ve so related to not feeling comfortable in my own skin, in my own life, and being overly conscious of how I’m being perceived and whether I fit in in the world or not. But the thing is, there’s something very empowering about when people share what’s going on with them.

So, I was very grateful to Charlaine for writing a character who is so open about that. I mean, not open - because obviously Fiji doesn’t really think anybody’s listening to her internal thoughts - but as she was experiencing them, I was really grateful to be able to be experiencing them with her.

SCIFI VISION: Was there any insight she gave you about the character just from talking to her?

Well, we actually got to meet Charlaine awhile after we started filming; it was like maybe towards the end of filming the pilot. But, you know, in the books there's so much insight to Fiji, but I would say one of the things that really impacted me that Charlaine said, is how much she related to Fiji and how much she loves her. I felt the same way, so it was like it just it drove it home, that feeling of like, "I really want to honor this character she created."

And the thing is, I don't look like the Fiji that's in the book. I don't have the same exact background. You know, I'm not a real witch. [laughs] My mom probably says I am sometimes. [laughs] We also joke about this in my family. She has one of those things like "My other car is a broom."

Fiji's shop, Inquiring MindSo, it was inevitable for you to be playing a witch?

Totally. And there're so many things about it, like I was in love with Lost and Fringe, and then when I found out that Monica [Breen] was a writer on those shows, I was blown away. That was before I ever read the script. I just was like, "Oh my God, she's on this?!"
If you had to come up with alternative familiar, what kind of animal would you pick?

I want a tortoise. I keep telling them I want a tortoise. Like what if Mr. Snuggly just got poofed into a tortoise? I want someone who stays on their mark for a while [laughs]

It doesn't make you sneeze, or do you get hives?

Hives. I get all of the stuff, but I'll take something before I work with him, so I'm okay, as long as I don't get too much fur on me.

But there's this amazing thing about cats, which is that they don't want to spend that much time with you anyway. It's interesting. When we have scenes, it's like, "and she holds Snuggly."

Snuggly moves through like a greased eel. [laughs] He's not going to chill out with you for long.

But we've had some lovely cats, and we've had lovely trainers, so it's been pretty cool.

You've mentioned insecurities, are there rivalries that are going to emerge or evolve?

In Midnight, Texas, everything will emerge and evolve. And I think the Midnighters are tight; we're really like "all for one, and one for all."

But we get some folks coming in - folks, I use that term rather broadly, because some of them are just monsters literally, and figuratively, but Fiji always gets to face the question of whether she's up to the task of dealing with stuff.

In the poster she has a book. Does she have a grimoire in this? How important is it, or is it just for the poster?

Fiji has so many books. She studies. She loves learning; she loves drawing from different sources. So, she's got books from every age, every kind of source, that she's always looking for different things that will help to pull things together. So, you'll see a number of different tools and things that will be of assistance to her along the way.

Parisa Fitz-HenleyAfter the last episode is finished, do you have things you're working on?
Well I do write, so I'm hoping to get back to writing some of my own work. I have a script that I want to do some revisions on. I've been getting some new ideas. And then also, I want to do some traveling. I haven't seen my family in a while, and they're spread along on the east coast down in the Caribbean.

You're from the Caribbean?

I'm from Jamaica, originally. I grew up between there and Florida. My mom's family is from Maine.

Do you want to work down there, make a film down in the Caribbean?

I would love to. Actually, the script that I'm talking about is partially set there.

And there's some incredible work that's been done in recent years by filming crews...[and] some really exciting things happening in film in the Caribbean in general.

[...]

Do you have a favorite show, relating to magic or something, that provides inspiration to your character?

Magic in the sense that I think Fiji sees it, as a science thing, like I'm rewatching Fringe right now. I'm a massive, massive Fringe fan. So, I actually I find a lot of inspiration in that, because it's like this lovely ensemble, and they are like coming up with different ideas, and there's always something mysterious and ancient about something. There's a lot of that here, so I'm loving it.

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