It's a been a hell of a year. It's something we can all agree upon, and that includes actor François Arnaud. The lead of Midnight, Texas took some time out of getting ready for the season finale to talk to me about the show's freshman season and the impact it's had on fans in its short run.
Arnaud plays Manfred Bernardo, a powerful psychic medium and conman who finds himself stuck in the tiny town of Midnight, Texas while he's on the run from a dangerous loan shark. But Midnight soon proves more than meets the eye; the town is populated with all sorts of supernatural creatures. It's their outsider status and innate otherness that binds them together, rather than race or religion or sexual orientation. There are three interracial couples on the show, one of which is gay—and yes, they kiss, and no, it's not a big deal.
It's refreshing to see a show on television, much less network television, that is so open in its inclusiveness and that so naturally reflects the reality of society. I asked #FrancoisArnaud what it was like to be involved in a show that has such diversity and progression is in its very DNA. The beauty of it, he says, is that it's not forced, but a natural extension of what so many of us already experience:
"I think that’s what’s so great about this show. The way these plotlines and relationships are introduced. I feel like even five or ten years ago if you had a gay couple on the show, that was the most important and interesting thing about them. Now I think it’s, like, the fifth most important thing about them. That’s the fifth most important thing about Joe and Chuy, or the fact that Olivia and Lem are together. It’s barely even mentioned."
He credits showrunner Monica Owasu-Breem with the "Well, no shit" approach to the character dynamics and inclusive nature of the show:
"I just feel like it’s confident in how progressive it is and I love how Monica [Owasu-Breen] presents it to the audience as if. You know, ‘This is reality today; join us. If this is a problem for you then you’re on the wrong side of history, and basically just…fuck off.’"
In the town of Midnight, the wayward Manfred eventually learns to find acceptance and belonging. The loner fights it at first, but eventually, even he can't deny that he's found a family among the residents—who refer to each other as "Midnighters"—of the tiny Texas town. I asked him about the idea of the "found family" in genre shows right now and why it's resonating so deeply with audiences. Arnaud credited those that came before in sci-fi, particularly Bryan Singer and the original X-Men trilogy for already exploring this concept ("Your differences are a metaphor for things that people struggle with on an every day basis."), but admitted that #MidnightTexas does seem to be tapping into something relevant:
"It was definitely part of what we wanted to do, but I don’t think we even dreamed that it would feel so timely and accurate as it does right now."
The election campaign was brutal, more divisive than any in recent history, and the thoughtful actor acknowledged that might very well be part of the reason the series resonates: Families were broken apart by the social and political events of the last year depending on what side of fence they were on. It was no different on the set of Midnight, Texas, where they formed their own family to get them through the trying time:
"I remember we were on set the night of the election and it was one of those group scenes where we were all sort of gathered together, kind of a group hug moment. It just felt so emotional. I’d love to have had it stay in fiction land and not seep into our reality as much as it did [laughs]... but I do think [Midnight] covers that well very well and beautifully."
It's still up in the air as to whether or not Midnight, Texas will get renewed for a second season. But, much like cult genre shows that have come before, the series has already generated a fervent and loyal fanbase that hopes to see it happen. Arnaud, who is previously best known for his role of Cesare Borgia on The Borgias, explained he's experienced it before ("Period fans and genre fans are not all that different, really") but acknowledges that his recent foray into social media has lent an intimacy he'd not expected:
I am more aware of people’s initial reactions to each episode and sometimes that’s good and sometimes it’s scary. But the reaction from fans has been overall positive. I think genre fans are very loyal and they develop and affinity for characters and will go to Hell and back with them every week.
With the series finale airing this week and its future undecided, both cast and fanbase alike are hoping for more trips to Hell and back with the characters in the future.
The Season 1 finale of Midnight, Texas airs tonight, Monday, Sept. 18th at 10pm EST/7pm PST on NBC.