Exclusive: Midnight, Texas' François Arnaud on Manfred's Relationship Troubles, Alternate Universes, and More

François ArnaudTonight, an all-new episode of Midnight, Texas airs on NBC, entitled, “I Put a Spell on You,” in which according to the official description, “Patience (Jaime Ray Newman) and Manfred (François Arnaud) bond over their relationship troubles.”

Recently Arnaud talked to SciFi Vision in an exclusive interview about not just what is coming up for those two characters, but also his character’s future with Creek (Sarah Ramos), playing a possessed Manfred, and more.

François ArnaudWe’ve seen in the video promos for the season, and I’m not sure if it’s this week’s episode or not, but it looks like Manfred and Patience sleep together. Can you talk about their relationship and what’s coming up for them?

I think they develop a connection, if you will, through adversity. They’ve found common enemies in the past few episodes, and of course, that forces a sort of bond.

And with Kai (Nestor Carbonell) being absent with his going to various events with his followers, I think Patience finds herself a little lonely.

And Manfred is also devastated by Creek’s departure and is finding strange ways [laughs] to cope with it. I think he’s a little in denial, and rather than process it in a healthy way, he may just make decisions that aren’t necessarily healthy or sane in the moment.

I know Creek is returning to Midnight at some point, can you tease about what’s coming with up with her?

Let’s just say, in the later episodes, there’s a sort of demigod that comes to Midnight. He’s a demigod that thrives on chaos and conflict, and he’s able to sort of play the Midnighters and turn them against each other. And that will sort of force Creek to return to Midnight and deal with that.

And obviously, upon her return, she will discover things that are hurtful and true, but some of it may also be a ploy to get her there, a ploy from this demigod character.

It will have an effect on everybody’s relationships, though, not only Creek and Manfred’s.

On set, you mentioned that Manfred will enter Kai’s painting, and we’ve seen him getting a flash from the painting, but obviously there is more coming.

François ArnaudWhen Manfred touched the head, touched the skull...that’s merely a tease for what’s to come.

The painting and the skull obviously will play a huge role in this season’s mythology, [but] it will take a while still. Like we’ll be dropping hints here and there for a few more episodes, but in the second half of the season, the boundaries and limits of what we know as Midnight will just literally be blown to smithereens. And in the second half of the season, there’re even hints of an alternate universe. It’s hard to explain without actually just revealing what it is.

But I guess the first half of the season focuses on the relationships between characters, and the second half really dives deep into this mythology with the painting and the skull and a more imminent threat to Midnight and the world.

When Manfred goes into the painting, you said before it was in a way like time travel, so if it’s in another time, I’m assuming it’s in the past rather than the future, going by what the painting looks like, but I’m not sure how far back. Are there any period costumes or anything like that in those scenes?

I think if you look at the painting, it will give you some clues. A painting or a photograph sort of freezes something in time. So, whenever that painting was made, let’s say the character or characters featured on the painting were sort of frozen at that time, and Manfred may find out that the help he needs to solve problems the Midnighters are facing resides in that painting.
We learned that Kai can take the supernatural out of people. Manfred tells Joe in the one episode that he’s happy with who he is now and wouldn’t want to do that. At any point is that going to come up again, where maybe he isn’t sure? Or is he set on that?

Manfred meant it when he said that, I think, and he’s kind of lost everything at that point. Like Creek is gone; Xylda (Joanne Camp) is gone. He doesn’t have a personal life [laughs] outside of this town, and he feels like he’s found a purpose. And I think that’s helped with his self-worth somehow.

And I don’t think Manfred really doubts that anymore, but others characters might for sure. I mean, the Rev (Yul Vazquez) did.

But I think it’s definitely a question that’s at the core of the second season, whereas, you know, I think it’s a question that we can all ask ourselves, like if we could give up what makes us different or unique, because it would give us a little bit of a smoother ride in life, would we? And I think a lot of people can relate to that.

François Arnaud and Jaime Ray NewmanCan you talk about Manfred’s tattoos and the meaning behind them?

The tattoos on Manfred’s arms? Yes, they sort of represent a cycle of energy. There’re two sets of arrows. One points up and one points down, and let’s say if Manfred joined his hands together, it’s sort of a cyclical energy thing. Where like it comes out one way - the tattoos don’t allow him to do that obviously, they’re just a symbol of psychic energy coming in and out, flowing in and out.

That was through the makeup artist from the first season, which is different from the one we had in the second, but she had done her research on those tattoos, and then we sort of discussed them together.

In the book, Manfred’s covered in tattoos and piercings, but they wanted to keep it a little simpler for the series. So, those are the ones we decided on ultimately.

Which do you prefer - playing the Manfred you’re used to, or do you enjoy playing the possessed and often evil Manfred?

That’s part of the thrill of being on this job; there isn’t just one Manfred. His evolution is sort of broken up and influenced by other elements.

And obviously like in episode one, the demon cancer was a thrill and really fun to have Manfred go bad like that.

There’s more of it throughout though, not caused by the demon cancer, but I mean, obviously, the possessions are fun to do. Some are more threatening and dangerous. Some are more comical, I would say.

François ArnaudThere’s an episode later on in the season that maybe relates to what happens to Creek where Manfred goes through something horrible and is honestly in a fiery dark place, and so there’re some very traumatic events, and like having to solve a problem, he has to take in another spirit. And throughout the episode, I get to go from playing a really dramatic, grounded, realistic emotional drama scene, to getting possessed by an old Russian lady [laughs], and you can’t help but leaning into the comedic value of a scene like that.

And that’s what’s great about it, being able to explore different tones and genres and you know, break up Manfred’s regular arc. Like when else do you get to play a character like that? So, yeah, of course that’s part of the fun for me.

Is that challenging? It looks challenging - like for instance when you played both Bruce and Carolyn. I really enjoyed that scene; you were brilliant.

Thank you. It’s challenging in the way that what I enjoy most about acting in general is connecting to other actors and have my performance be effected and influenced by what other people give me, and obviously in a scene like that, where I’m playing three characters, Manfred and the two ghosts, you’re kind of master and commander on board, which is also it’s fun to craft. And you know, there’re no surprises [laughs], because it’s all me.

And the way it was shot, I have to wear these contact lenses to play ghosts. So, we had to break it up. So, we did the whole thing without contact lenses, and then with, and then again without, but when I have them on I’m completely blind. So, there is something that’s quite freeing about not seeing. Like I don’t know where the cameras are; I forget about the whole crew. I’m arguing with myself [laughs] and completely blind. So, there’s something that’s kind of liberating. It’s sort of easy to throw yourself into those scenes when you feel so isolated from the outside world and the set.
François ArnaudWhen we were on the set, we saw the lobby of the hotel with the pool. When I was there, I was just thinking about it and was just curious if you used it at all? I can see people on set at some point just jumping in.

Oh the pool, no, it’s used many times in the season. Like no one’s swimming laps though. [laughs]

Right, but I meant between takes? I was just curious, because I could see people doing that.

I think someone said at the wrap party, “Let’s all jump in the pool,” and then it just got cold and everybody changed their minds and didn’t do it [laughs], but we do use it many times in the season. Manfred doesn’t get to go in for a dip; not that I recall [laughs], but a lot of others do.

And it’s an actual pool, and they can fill it up within minutes, I think, with cold water, hot water, cold blood. [laughs] Yeah, it was used to its full potential I think in the second season.

I had read at least an interview you did from last season, that you said that you did not like social media. Has that changed at all since you started working on the show? I mean, I assume they probably expect you to engage on social media at least somewhat.

They do, yeah, for us to engage. And I do what I can. I just find it very hard to separate whatever has to do with the show with whatever I see on social media.

Like for instance, this morning, I just go on Twitter, and the first thing I see is this picture of a high school class, like a prom picture, and they’re all doing the Nazi salute. And it’s driving me a little crazy.

And especially when I have a little bit more time to myself, it’s hard not to - I feel it just amps up my frustration, and I find myself being angry all the time. [laughs] And it’s hard. It’s hard not to engage, and you want to, but then to what extent, and for what purpose? What purpose does that achieve? I don’t know; I feel like sometimes - like every other day [laughs], that’s my dilemma. Every other day I ask myself, should I just get off of all of it and just like read more books or participate more actively physically in my community life as opposed to - like it gives us like a false sense of validation. When you tweet about something, like of course you speak up, and you engage, but sometimes I feel like it allows us to be a little lazy when it comes to things we could achieve in different more concrete manners.

François ArnaudI find Instagram a little less difficult than Twitter. I mean, I’m very proud of the show and the second season specifically; we’ve worked really hard. I think the episodes are really strong, and you know, I want people to see it, and I’m happy to promote it, but yeah, sometimes it’s hard to keep your personal and professional life separate with social media.

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