• INTERVIEW: Friday, 7/14 - 5:00pm ET - Midnight, Texas - Monica Breen
  • INTERVIEW: Tuesday, 8/1 - 9:30pm ET - Wynonna Earp - Tim Rozon
  • INTERVIEW: Thursday, 8/3 - 4:00pm ET - Midnight, Texas - Peter Mensah
  • INTERVIEW: Friday, 7/4 - 6:00pm ET - Midnight, Texas - Parisa Fitz-Henley

Spotlight: Midnight, Texas Set Visit - François Arnaud on Manfred's Journey

François ArnaudEarlier in the year, SciFi Vision participated in a press day at the set of Midnight, Texas in Albuquerque, New Mexico. The NBC show is based on the novel series by Charlaine Harris. When Manfred, played by François Arnaud, who can talk to the dead, arrives in Midnight after trying to escape his past, he finds that the town is a safe haven to a group of supernaturals. However, there is a lot more to Midnight, as the town sits upon a weakening veil between life and Hell, and something wants to cross over. Meanwhile, there is also the threat of discovery when Bobo (Dylan Bruce)’s fiancé, Aubrey (Shannon Lorance), is murdered.

During dinner at Hotel Andaluz, Arnaud talked to a group of journalists about joining the series, his character’s abilities, the format of the show, and much more.

François ArnaudThe actor talked to SciFi Vision about Manfred’s choice to stay in Midnight to help the town.

“I think that what's great about the character, is that he's not particularly willing [laughs] to put himself on the line to help others. And that's why it's so interesting to play a character who's flawed, selfish, and a reluctant hero, who will eventually learn to be the hero that he was told he's meant to be.

“But I think one of the reasons is, because he has nowhere else to go, and he might as well make the most of it and make these people his friends rather than enemies. But I think ultimately he does find it rewarding to help others, but it's definitely a learning curve.”

Arnaud also talked to the site about the format of the show, how it balances an overall mythology with stories of the week. He also touched on two of the main plot lines: Aubrey’s murder and the vale. “How it was presented to us, was that Aubrey's disappearance was going to be the main plot line of season one. And then as things go, the network, I think, didn't want a murder mystery, and so I think it is both.

“Aubrey's story isn't solved for a few episodes. I mean, it just sort of takes a back seat to other things for a little while and then comes back with a punch, but it's not the main plot line of the season. I think whatever rumblings that are going on under the floor of Manfred's house in town is more of a key to understanding what the main mystery of the first season is.

“Basically, Midnight sits on a vale between the world of the living and the dead, and this vale we are told is fraying. So, it's like Hell is trying to open up and swallow the earth through Midnight.

“So, there's that, but also what happens, is that that phenomenon enhances everything else; everyone who's got a secret and a supernatural power in Midnight has a harder time controlling their inner demons.

“So, I think for a while, they wanted it to be a monster of the week sort of. And I don't think that's what it's turning out to be at all. There is sort of a new threat every week, but it's very character driven, and so each episode is sort of focused on one of the main character's backstory and Manfred's relationship to that story.

“Like episode two is definitely the Rev (Yul Vazquez)'s big secret that sort of comes out. He's awesome. He's my favorite. [laughs]

“Episode three is Lem (Peter Mensah) the vampire's backstory, so there are flashbacks to 1800s when he was first turned. So, for this episode half of the episode looks like a period show.

“So, I think it's not something that we've seen, definitely not on network television. I mean, I can't think of anything else that's resembles it. It's not Ghost Whisperer, like it’s not that at all; that's not what it's about.”

Other interesting topics during the interview include Manfred’s family history, his journey through the season, and his struggles with his ability, and more.

Be sure to tune into Midnight, Texas on July 24th on NBC.

Check out the full transcript below.

Midnight, Texas
François Arnaud

January 30, 2017

François ArnaudWhat was the appeal with this character that as soon as you read it you said, "Yes!"

FRANÇOIS ARNAUD: It was really the dialog, actually, which is very rare in television, [laughs] that it's the dialog. Well not [always] necessarily, but with what I had been looking at recently. You know, often you think, 'Oh the plot points are great; the storyline's great, but we're going to have to just work on [laughs] the phrasing of certain things.'

And I thought there was a humor, a dark humor, that was very similar to my own actually, [laughs] and then I thought, 'I can get away with a lot in this.'

And then it turns out it clicked, and I see it more and more actually, now that the writers are writing for me. So that feels very good. I see a difference - not necessarily François, but like my interpretation of the character.

It's organic.

Yeah, definitely.

He seems to struggle with his gift a little bit. Can you talk about how he sees it? Is it a blessing? Is it a curse?

I think it's definitely more of a curse than a blessing, and you'll see more of that in the following episodes, but he has tried to use it as a blessing, or has tried to make the most of it. He's definitely gifted. He doesn't really control his power, but he's definitely used it to scam people and has gotten away with it in the past. He's sort of on the run because of it, and hiding in Midnight because of it.

And so those things will obviously come back and haunt him, [laughs] quite literally. But I think it's a coming of age story really, and the journey to understanding his gift and his powers is central to the plot line of the first season.

SCIFI VISION: Were you told why, or if not, maybe just what is your own interpretation, of why he decided to help them in Midnight, because at first when the spirits were asking for help, he was against it. I know he wanted to help the town obviously, but was there one specific moment or thing that made him change his mind?

I think that what's great about the character, is that he's not particularly willing [laughs] to put himself on the line to help others. And that's why it's so interesting to play a character who's flawed, selfish, and a reluctant hero, who will eventually learn to be the hero that he was told he's meant to be.

But I think one of the reasons is, because he has nowhere else to go, and he might as well make the most of it and make these people his friends rather than enemies. But I think ultimately he does find it rewarding to help others, but it's definitely a learning curve.

Do you know how long it was before Manfred first got his visions, or his ability to talk to the dead? His grandmother, Xylda (Joanne Camp), obviously he talks to her like he's calling her on the phone; he doesn't seem fazed by it. Can you go a little into the history of that?

I can tell you that in, I believe it's episode nine, actually...there's a big flashback sequence where we go back to Manfred's childhood, to a moment when - I think he's always known, but other people around him realize that he's got this gift, which is sort of expected, because in the tradition of a psychic family's psychic power, it's passed on by blood, and it's often something that skips a generation. So the grandma has it; the mother doesn't have, because Xylda's his maternal grandmother.

François ArnaudI don't know if we mention it in the pilot, that Manfred comes from a long bloodline of gypsies - I mean that's not politically correct to say anymore - Manfred's self-identifies as gypsy. [laughs] So I think when you're a gypsy, you can say gypsy; I don't think other people can say it.

But I think it's a very moving sequence, actually, that obviously, I'm not a part of. I didn't play my five-year-old self, but I read it, and the actor who plays it is fantastic.

When he gets to town, his grandmother's the one who pointed him there, and he doesn't really seem that fazed by the supernatural aspect of the town. What does he make of Midnight and the citizens there, the townsfolk?

I would think on the contrary, actually. I mean, his experience with the supernatural is limited to the undead or to spirits and ghosts, but I don't think Manfred's aware before going to Midnight of the existence of vampires or witches or [whatever].

So it's all pretty surprising, and I think that we try to keep an element of surprise when these things happen. Obviously once you've lived in Midnight for three weeks, you know that [laughs] everything is possible, but something always seems to top whatever horror we've been through the week before.

What is your own interest in this kind of material.

I'm a big fan of independent horror films, and I see pretty much everything. In recent years I was a big fan of The Babadook, and that's a film that I can draw a lot of parallels with Manfred's story, actually, because I think it's about controlling and managing your inner demons without necessarily conquering them, but just like taming the beast. And so I think that's part of Manfred's journey.

I watch mostly drama, but I do like mostly independent horror and thriller films.

The draw for me was the people involved. Niels Oplev, who directed the pilot, we were just really on the same page about the cynical aspects of the character.

I thought Monica [Breen], who's the head writer/showrunner - I don't even know what the difference is, actually, because David Solomon is also the showrunner, but David Solomon wasn't involved when we did the pilot, so he wasn't part of my decision making - but I just thought Monica had a real commitment to inviting real emotions into the genre, and I think that we really agreed on that, that we have a responsibility in telling these stories, to tap into real fear, real doubt, real family drama and to make the surreal believable. So that was the appeal.

SCIFI VISION: This question is more on story format, but at first Manfred is trying to help Aubrey, but then all these ghosts come in, and what I was kind of wondering, is it going to be sort of all serialized dealing with the murder, or could it be more monster of the week with him helping each person, or is it kind of a mix?

With serialized, you mean like a longer arc?

SCIFI VISION: Yeah, like a season long arc.

So, how it was presented to us, was that Aubrey's disappearance was going to be the main plot line of season one. And then as things go, the network, I think, didn't want a murder mystery, and so I think it is both.

François ArnaudAubrey's story isn't solved for a few episodes. I mean, it just sort of takes a back seat to other things for a little while and then comes back with a punch, but it's not the main plot line of the season. I think whatever rumblings that are going on under the floor of Manfred's house in town is more of a key to understanding what the main mystery of the first season is.

Basically, Midnight sits on a vale between the world of the living and the dead, and this vale we are told is fraying. So it's like Hell is trying to open up and swallow the earth through Midnight.

A Hellmouth, in other words?

Yes exactly. Midnight is a potential Hellmouth.

So, there's that, but also what happens, is that that phenomenon enhances everything else;  everyone who's got a secret and a supernatural power in Midnight has a harder time controlling their inner demons.

So, I think for a while, they wanted it to be a monster of the week sort of. And I don't think that's what it's turning out to be at all. There is sort of a new threat every week, but it's very character driven, and each episode is sort of focused on one of the main character's backstory and Manfred's relationship to that story.

Like episode two is definitely the Rev (Yul Vazquez)'s big secret that sort of comes out. He's awesome. He's my favorite. [laughs]

Episode three is Lem (Peter Mensah) the vampire's backstory, so there are flashbacks to 1800s when he was first turned. So for this episode there's like half of the episode looks like a period show.

So, I think it's not something that we've seen, definitely not on network television. I mean, I can't think of anything else that's resembles it. It's not Ghost Whisperer, like it’s not that at all; that's not what it's about.

For Manfred through this season, what's his journey - sort of what his evolution is from where meet him to where he ends up, as a person I mean?

Manfred's sort of a loner; he considers himself an outsider. He's not a very happy person. He's sort of been fending for himself, and I think when coming to Midnight, not necessarily by choice, but staying in Midnight, because he feels he has no other possibility, he learns about solidarity and develops a sense of community and that gives him a purpose.

François ArnaudSo, on top of the Hellmouth [laughs] theme there's also this prophecy that certain characters are aware of - obviously not Manfred, but it's eventually revealed to Manfred that the prophecy, is that someone who can bridge the worlds of the living and the dead will come to Midnight and save it, save the world from the opening Hellmouth.

So it's definitely a pretty traditional super hero journey, like where he's sort of reluctant to understanding or even admitting that he has the strength to overcome his own demons and help others.

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