‘Midnight, Texas’ – Arielle Kebbel Interview on Season 2 and Olivia’s Journey

Arielle Kebbel Midnight, Texas
Arielle Kebbel as Olivia in ‘Midnight, Texas’ season 2 (Photo by Lewis Jacob / NBC)

When Arielle Kebbel jumped on the phone for our interview in support of Midnight, Texas season two finale, it was prior to the disappointing news that NBC had opted not to renew the series for a third season. At the time of our interview Kebbel was hopeful the show would stick around and had nothing but praise for fans of the series who consistently tweeted the #RenewMidnight hashtag.

Arielle Kebbel had just returned from Argentina the day prior to our interview and described it as a truly special experience being there and live tweeting while watching the show. “We have the best fans in the world,” declared Kebbel. “I was with fans of the show in Argentina and then I was on Twitter talking to fans in the U.S. and around the world, and it really just gave me perspective on how fortunate we are with this show and the fan base and how invested the fans are with our characters. It really means so much to me because I love Olivia and I love what she’s given me in getting to play her.”

The season two/series finale airs on Friday, December 28, 2018 and although there aren’t any episode nine spoilers in the following Q&A, the events of episode eight are discussed. Make sure you’ve watched season two through episode eight before reading any further.

If season two boiled down to just a short take on Olivia’s journey, how would you describe it?

Arielle Kebbel: “I think being willing to feel and work through the pain from the past to finally let it go and make room for new experiences and new possibilities to build her future life, instead of holding onto the pain of her past.”

Season two episode eight’s scene in which you’re telling Manfred to look at you as he’s about to lose his head is, I believe, your finest scene in the series. How difficult was it to perform that scene?

Arielle Kebbel: “Thank you, you just gave me chills. You know, honestly when I read that…we’d been kind of warned. We had heard of things that were happening throughout the season but obviously getting the script and reading it the first time through I had this like ‘oh shit’ moment. (Laughing) I heard it was coming but it’s different when you read it. I was like, ‘Okay, I got to do this.’

I just knew that eye contact was going to be everything, you know? It was that moment where as an actor I can’t think about the tears; I can’t think about the emotion. I can’t think about trying to be angry or sad. I just have to look at this person’s eyes and know that it’s that life or death moment where you don’t even have time to think. You just connect to that person and look in their soul. That’s just what I did. I just had to be so connected to his and then trust that whatever was going to happen was the right emotion for that moment.

I think he and I both felt great about it afterwards. We were exhausted from filming it 900 times! Because that’s the other thing – you have to redo it god knows how many takes. But I think we both felt great about it walking away from the scene that night. I hope everyone watching it feels what we felt while we were filming it.”

Arielle Kebbel Midnight, Texas Season 2
Dylan Bruce, Arielle Kebbel and Peter Mensah in ‘Midnight, Texas’ season 2 episode 8 (Photo by Karen Kuehn / NBC)

It’s interesting that in the first season Olivia was physically strong and physically intimidating. In the second season she’s still strong in that way but she’s more mentally and emotionally the heart and soul of season two than season one. Did you feel that as you were reading the scripts?

Arielle Kebbel: “Yes. Well, thank you for noticing that because that was my goal for this season so yay! Check that one off the list. (Laughing) It was interesting. I loved everyone I worked with in season one and I thought Monica Breen did an incredible job bringing these characters to life from Charlaine Harris’ book series. But that being said, season one she had a lot of work to do because she had to set the groundwork for all these characters. That was what season one was. So, who is Olivia? She’s an assassin. She’s a badass. She has so much pain it’s unbearable so Lem leeches it. We had to get through all of those first layers to just tell the story of who these characters are in Midnight and who Olivia is in Midnight. Now in season two, we get to peel back the layers even more and go on this emotional journey with these characters, especially Olivia.

I had a conversation early on with Eric (Charmelo) and Nicole (Snyder), our showrunners for season two, talking about, ‘You know, season one we stayed pretty close to the books. What’s the plan for season two? Are we still doing that because if so that means Olivia’s dad is coming and he’s the enemy of season two?’

They very quickly told me, ‘No, season two is about healing for Olivia.’ Honestly, it caught me so off guard. We were still months away from filming – we were in prep – and it really knocked me on my ass. I remember being like, ‘Okay…’ In my head, mentally, I was preparing.

I honestly thought we were going to stay close to the books and they were going to say her dad is going to come and he’s going to be the archenemy of season two. And so hearing that, honestly in that phone conversation everything changed for me. I was like, ‘Okay, I don’t know what’s coming episode to episode but I know my job is going to be this season to crack open. But I’m going to have to crack open in a way that’s authentic to Olivia, which is very different because she is this badass.’

It was fun for me. It was fun for me to find these different layers in Olivia and have her be willing to find a new strength, be willing to be vulnerable and let go of these past wounds and be willing to fill her heart with new things. In episode five she chooses her new life with Lem and the Midnighters over her father and her past and her history and her pain. And that was a big turning point for her.

I think that I’ve been through a lot this year with my family, personally, and it was really healing for me to get in touch with some fears and wounds that I had in my personal life and kind of throw those feelings into this storyline. There were definitely moments where I felt like I was healing as Olivia was healing, and maybe vice versa. Who knows? Sometimes it’s a really blurry line. But that was very special to me and I really thanked Eric and Nicole numerous times for that because I didn’t know that’s how season two was going to go. But now that it did go this way, I’m so thankful for it.”

Has there been anything a fan has told you that you’ve internalized and put into Olivia after hearing how they were affected by the character? Maybe something you’ve added based on how the fans receive her?

Arielle Kebbel: “I wouldn’t say based on how the fans receive her because a lot of times, going back to that scene with Manfred, I have to be so in the moment I can’t think about how people will react to it. If I’m doing it for them down the line, then I’m taking myself out of the moment. I can’t really afford to think about that; I have to just stay connected to what she’s feeling and what’s happening in front of her.

But, I definitely would say that, and I’ll go back to the phone conversation, I think the biggest turning point for me was that first phone conversation months before we were filming when Eric and Nicole said this season is about Olivia healing. I remember taking a big gulp and being like, ‘Oh, shit!’ because I knew as Arielle and I knew as Olivia that it’s sometimes a lot easier to be strong and tough and forceful than to be willing to feel feelings. I felt like, ‘Oh shit, here we go. I’m going to have to really feel feelings this season and we’ll see how that goes.’”

Were you able to offer any suggestions for Olivia’s story for season two?

Arielle Kebbel: “They’re great at taking suggestions and I think they really learned to trust us with knowing our characters. There’s definitely stuff like on the day where we’re filming where it just feels like I should be saying this and not this. They’re like, ‘Yeah, of course.’

On the days where we were filming it was a true collaboration. We’d work through things in rehearsals or even when we were filming different takes, they’re totally open to change and shifting lines around and cutting things and adding things, which feels great because that’s not always the case on other shows.

But as far as the massive story points, that was between Eric and Nicole and the writers room. We’d always have conversations about it and they’d give us a heads up about certain plot points. They’d also ask us if we want to know or not, because there’s certain things I did not want to know. […] To me, that’s life and I don’t want to know what’s happening a week from now. I don’t want to know because it would alter how I am in this moment.”