• INTERVIEW: Friday, 10/13 - 2:30pm ET - Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency - Jade Eshete
  • CONFERENCE: Thursday, 10/12 - 3:00pm ET - Superstition - Mario Van Peebles
  • INTERVIEW: Thursday, 10/12 - 1:00pm ET - Van Helsing - Bzhaun Rhoden
  • INTERVIEW: Tuesday, 10/10 - 2:30pm ET - Van Helsing - Aleks Paunovich
  • INTERVIEW: Thursday, 9/28 - 6:30pm ET - Channel Zero - Nick Antosca
  • INTERVIEW: Wednesday, 9/27 - 1:30pm ET - The Gifted - Amy Acker

SciFi Vision - Where Fiction and Reality Meet

Spotlight: Midnight, Texas Set Visit - Peter Mensah on Playing a Unique Character with Bite

Peter MensahNBC's Midnight, Texas is centered around a town that sits on a veil separating the living from Hell that is weakening. The town serves as sanctuary to various supernaturals, including a vampire, Lemuel "Lem" Bridger, played by Peter Mensah.

Next week's episode focuses on Lem and his past, as well as sheds a light on his relationship with Olivia Charity (Arielle Kebbel), the mortal assassin.

Earlier in the year, as part of a press day, SciFi Vision visited the set of Midnight, Texas in Albuquerque, New Mexico where the actor talked to a group of journalists about his work on the series.

Mensah talked to SciFi Vision about how his character and how he fits into the town. "I think that's the beauty of the way this is being structured. The episodes open up each character and you learn more. The pilot was sort of an introduction to everybody. Then you'll find that we tell both the stories of what happens in the town and the stories of the individual.

Peter Mensah"So, with Lem, you discover that he's been around for a couple hundred years, and he's been around Midnight for a couple hundred, and therefore he is deeply embedded in that community. But also, because of the uniqueness of his longevity and strength and all the other vampire traits, he's also developed as sort of the father figure. He takes care [of them], because the town of Midnight is policed by the regular police, but they live in Davy, another town. Everybody else kind of drives around Midnight.

"So, Lem is often the one who patrols at night, keeping an eye on things, because it's not just the regular people, it's the other supernaturals that don't always behave themselves, [laughs] and he's uniquely equipped to deal with them."

The actor talked to the site about how he first read the books after getting the part, and how the show deviates. "I hadn't read them before being called in for the show, but during the pilot I read a couple of them and read the other third as we were finishing.

"So, it was always interesting, because we didn't know how truly we were going to adhere to the stories in the books. And I think what you'll find, is that there's a lot of the books in the episodes, but again the stories are told rather uniquely and differently and probably expanded, as you can [imagine], and by casting me, they were already going away from certain aspects of the book, because Lem is a thin white duke. Hey, guess what? [laughs]

"So, yes, we do things a little bit differently, but our hope is that people get to fall in love with the characters, because at some point, the idea is you stop focusing on the fact that this is a weretiger, or this is an angel; you actually find the people. They just happen to be different.

"Lem happens to be a vampire, and he is strange to look at, but as the show goes on, you should find him [normal]. You know, his relationship is normal. They argue like couples do, [laughs] and then not like other couples do, but that's the point; it's fantastic to develop supernatural characters as regular people. But they're not. [laughs] "

He also told SciFi Vision about Lem's flashbacks and gave insight into how they were created. "You do get flashbacks throughout the show at different times, and with Lem's story, definitely. He goes through, I think, three different time periods.

"And our wardrobe department did a stellar job, because, remember, it's not just me in term of the flashback. We have to kit out hundreds of extras, and so that was also done.

"And it's everything else too. It's the music; it's the cars - everything. It's very cinematic.

"These flashbacks are very, very real looking, including the 1600s and what was happening in those times, and I think that's what again makes it so unique. This is a kind of thing you can do in fantasy that you can't do in most other shows. You can really take the show wherever you want it, and this does that. You're not just stuck in Midnight throughout the entire [season]. Even Midnight went through changes."

Lastly, Mensah talked to the site about his inspiration for developing the character. "Charlaine's characters are so rich. A lot of the information is actually in her work, but then, in order to do this, I find it's easier to develop a character based on the stories you tell, because you don't want to play a vampire; you just want to play a person. All you can do is develop the specific parameters of what he can and cannot do, and that's the challenge.

Peter Mensah"I've played a number of characters that sort of aren't of this earth. So, if you tether it, you sort of limit it, and the idea really is to try to be like anybody else, not knowing what your full potential is. It kind of discovers itself as you go along, and that is what I try to do, because, you know, how do you play a complete inability to live in light and at the same time move at super speeds? There're so many things I cannot relate to. [laughs] I just have to find the person who happens to have these things born into him. And so that's what I did, really."

The actor also talked to journalists about his character's abilities, Lem's relationship with Olivia, other vampires, and more

Please read the full transcript below.

Midnight, Texas
Peter Mensah

January 30, 2017

So, jokingly, but like typecasting? Charlaine Harris, vampire [which you’ve played]. Did you say "yes" or did you say "maybe not" when you first got this?

[There was] no hesitation, and he's such a uniquely different vampire than True Blood. As I was explaining to somebody else, True Blood was well established by the time it was to support a storyline, whereas in this particular case, we're creating something completely new.

We're creating a new family, a new group of characters for an audience to enjoy. And in that sense, it's far more exciting, because if you get to develop something, and God willing you do something as successful as her other work, you know, then what's there to be upset about? So this is pretty wonderful.

He's unlike any vampire we've seen before. Can you talk a little bit about the show's take on vampire mythology?

Ah. The ever-developing mythology. In this case, Lem is unique in that he doesn't have to kill to survive - doesn't have to kill to feed, and therefore survive. He can actually feed off of energy, so he does what he calls leeching, which is something that he can do to a greater or lesser extent. So, he can leech to the point of death, or can leech in such a refined way it's a soothing experience. He's fairly surgical in his use of it. That's unique. It's unique to me; I haven't come across it before.

So, we explore that, but he also has the ability to feed like all the vampires we know, and that lends itself to the more terrifying aspects of Lem and these stories, that he doesn't hesitate to kill, but in service to his to his Midnight community, he would rather look after them than have anything happen to them.

Are his weaknesses the traditional vampire weaknesses as well?

Peter MensahWell, I'm not sure what all of them are, but there is definitely the attraction to blood - and under certain circumstances it's hard to resist - and an aversion to sunlight. You know, so it's basically meant that I've had to mostly live nights most of this season. [laughs]

Lots of late night shoots?

Lots of very late night shoots.

So yes, there are some traditional, but there are also some unique aspects. And I think actually the interesting thing, is that because of the uniqueness of Lem, he's actually able to live in the community and actually have relationships in the community. And I think that's the thing that's unusual, a relationship with somebody other than another vampire.

SCIFI VISION: Can you kind of expand on what his role is in the town? We don't know a whole lot about him yet.

I think that's the beauty of the way this is being structured. The episodes open up each character and you learn more. The pilot was sort of an introduction to everybody. Then you'll find that we tell both the stories of what happens in the town and the stories of the individual.

So, with Lem, you discover that he's been around for a couple hundred years, and he's been around Midnight for a couple hundred, and therefore he is deeply embedded in that community. But also, because of the uniqueness of his longevity and strength and all the other vampire traits, he's also developed as sort of the father figure. He takes care [of them], because the town of Midnight is policed by the regular police, but they live in Davy, another town. Everybody else kind of drives around Midnight.

So, Lem is often the one who patrols at night, keeping an eye on things, because it's not just the regular people, it's the other supernaturals that don't always behave themselves, [laughs] and he's uniquely equipped to deal with them.

What's the nature on both sides of the relationship with Olivia? We see a little bit of that in the pilot. What do each of them sort of get emotionally from each other?

That's sort of the story that the audience will be introduced to, and as in any relationship, it's not clear cut where it begins and ends. It ebbs and flows and develops as time goes on, as in any relationship.

It is unique, because of the uniqueness of both characters. As touched on in the pilot, she comes into Midnight with baggage. She has a unique job: she kills people. And she's bonded with the dead person in town, the vampire, but his unique ability to take away the pain of her past allows her to function as a more normal person. Over the course of time, they've started to function as a couple.

So, again one of the unique things about Midnight, is everybody is so completely different, but their experiences bring them together. And in this particular relationship, they have such unique experiences that they've found comfort in each other. And strangely he's a vampire that doesn't like to kill, but he's found a relationship with a human who does. [laughs]

Peter MensahEvery character in this town has a big secret. Can you maybe tease a little bit about his, and we know you have a flashback coming up, will that delve into that a little bit?

What I think you'll probably find, is people have more than one secret, or the secrets are layered, so it takes more than an episode to find out. But yes, there is more of a reveal of Lem and where he came from in one of the episodes.

Every character has a bit of background information flow through as we tell the flowing stories from episode to episode. What that does, is each episode actually is kind of stand-alone in its story and its style. So, they are never similar, actually, because such radically different things happen. We're telling somebody else's story, so lots of different things happen, so the episodes have a slightly different feel from one to another. I think that makes it interesting. It made it interesting for us to do, and I think most certainly we'll probably engage the audience in these unusual people.

SCIFI VISION: Have you read the books?

Yes. I hadn't read them before being called in for the show, but during the pilot I read a couple of them and read the other third as we were finishing.

So, it was always interesting, because we didn't know how truly we were going to adhere to the stories in the books. And I think what you'll find, is that there's a lot of the books in the episodes, but again the stories are told rather uniquely and differently and probably expanded, as you can [imagine], and by casting me, they were already going away from certain aspects of the book, because Lem is a thin white duke. Hey, guess what? [laughs]

So, yes, we do things a little bit differently, but our hope is that people get to fall in love with the characters, because at some point, the idea is you stop focusing on the fact that this is a weretiger, or this is an angel; you actually find the people. They just happen to be different.

Lem happens to be a vampire, and he is strange to look at, but as the show goes on, you should find him [normal]. You know, his relationship is normal. They argue like couples do, [laughs] and then not like other couples do, but that's the point; it's fantastic to develop supernatural characters as regular people. But they're not. [laughs]

SCIFI VISION: You just said sometimes they fight like normal couples, so now you have me curious, when they are fighting, has he ever thought of just taking her anger away when she's mad at him?

Yeah, but she's got to let me! [laughs]

SCIFI VISION: That's true. [laughs]

How much of Lem's origin story will we see? Like will we find out how he was made during this season?

It's explored, yes. It's explored and referred to, and there are certain circumstances that will make it a huge part of our show. But I think thats the thing, isn't it? Like I said, each one of these characters, starts to tell their story, or their stories are told. They're told through their words, the situations the Midnighters find themselves in, and then in their interrelationships. You know, it throws you back. And Lem's story is told, but if you were to go and tell the entire story, that's a whole other series, [laughs] similarly for everybody else.

Peter MensahVampires typically travel in packs. Will we see other vampires in the show, and is he kind of an outsider to his brethren?

Again, this is a town of outsiders, so each within this town is actually outside of the norm, and thats the beauty of it, and that's sort of the subtle social messages, perhaps.

So, other vampires are around. Lem's unique abilities protects his town, but it doesn't stop them; it doesn't stop that story from being told. So, yes, there's going to be times when you're going to have to deal with others. [laughs]

SCIFI VISION: Someone had mentioned that you have a flashback to, I think, the 1600s. Can you talk about filming that and also the costumes - the period dress?

Yes. You do get flashbacks throughout the show at different times, and with Lem's story, definitely. He goes through, I think, three different time periods.

And our wardrobe department did a stellar job, because, remember, it's not just me in term of the flashback. We have to kit out hundreds of extras, and so that was also done.

And it's everything else too. It's the music; it's the cars - everything. It's very cinematic.

These flashbacks are very, very real looking, including the 1600s and what was happening in those times, and I think that's what again makes it so unique. This is a kind of thing you can do in fantasy that you can't do in most other shows. You can really take the show wherever you want it, and this does that. You're not just stuck in Midnight throughout the entire [season]. Even Midnight went through changes.

Since they're both so long lived, what's his relationship like with Joe?

Again, [laughs] without giving too much away, these are the stories explored, and we'll probably continue exploring as we develop. The fact of the matter is, they know the world in ways most mortals don't, because they've just seen more of it, Joe especially.

I think his story is probably one of the more extraordinary to watch and see how the audience [reacts]. Everybody knows what vampires are. How many angels have you seen in a series? So, there's a lot there.

And along with the Rev, the older members of the community have a unique understanding of the process that's happened in the earth's development and in the community's development, so they're sort of the guardians of the process, but at the same time, they're not gods. They don't get to decide anything. In fact, at times, they almost have to hold back what they know to allow people to develop and allow these things to emerge, as they do.

So, I think that there is some similarity in their backstory, but Joe goes back even further and perhaps holds the bigger secrets. And I think because Joe is in hiding, he doesn't emerge as much, whereas Lem can't hide who he is. He just doesn't show up during the day. So if you're going to be up to any shenanigans, do it during the day! [laughs]

As you've mentioned, Lem is the protector of Midnight. Manfred [shows up and] is the newcomer to the town. How does he size up having a stranger kind of show up on their doorstep?

Well, there's a number of things in around this. He knows a little bit about Manfred's history, and that actually is part of the acceptance, because knowing Manfred's grandmother is a huge part of why he's the one who accepts Manfred, before even his girlfriend does. But the protector role he takes seriously, and, you know, because as I said, the cops don't patrol. They only show up when somebody calls in a complaint. And the only person uniquely equipped to deal with the supernatural is Lem, so he is the one who goes out and walks the beat at night and knows a lot of the town's secrets.

With the outside law, they obviously clash. Do they believe they're above the human laws?

Peter MensahNo, because I think that there's the desire within the community to keep the outside authority out, not because they're above them, but just because they know they don't understand, and their process and development and sort of implementing law would interfere with normal life in Midnight. So, there's a desire to keep them away, because it'll turn into pitchforks and torches if you let the outsiders in, and that's actually the reason the Midnighters want to keep them out, not because there's any feeling of superiority, it's just simply, "We want to be left in peace."

SCIFI VISION: Given that he is a different kind of vampire, was it hard to kind of find - like what source material other than the book and the script did you draw from? Was there anything you researched or got inspiration from outside of that?

Charlaine's characters are so rich. A lot of the information is actually in her work, but then, in order to do this, I find it's easier to develop a character based on the stories you tell, because you don't want to play a vampire; you just want to play a person. All you can do is develop the specific parameters of what he can and cannot do, and that's the challenge.

I've played a number of characters that sort of aren't of this earth. So, if you tether it, you sort of limit it, and the idea really is to try to be like anybody else, not knowing what your full potential is. It kind of discovers itself as you go along, and that is what I try to do, because, you know, how do you play a complete inability to live in light and at the same time move at super speeds? There're so many things I cannot relate to. [laughs] I just have to find the person who happens to have these things born into him. And so that's what I did, really.

When did you realize that you being cast was different from the Lemuel in the books? Was it when you picked up the books, or did someone tell you?

Actually in the audition piece, the description of Lem [laughs] was from the book. So I was like, "Did you guys make a mistake?" [laughs] They're like, "No, this is actually what we want, so let’s to do this," and I'm so grateful, because he's a wonderful character. I hope you enjoy it, because it's fun.

Latest Articles