The penultimate episode of NBC’s supernatural drama Midnight, Texas season two aired on December 21, 2018 and left fans stunned with its incredible, shocking twist. Episodes one through seven of season two built toward a big showdown with the season’s big bad, and events in episode eight shook the town to its core.
SPOILER WARNING: This article contains details on season two episode eight. Do not…I repeat…do not read any further until you’ve watched the episode. Don’t spoil the experience of witnessing the events of “Patience is A Virtue” by learning the twists in advance. You’ve been warned.
François Arnaud took time out of his busy holiday season to answer my questions about what was easily the most game-changing episode of Midnight, Texas. Season one laid the groundwork for a second season that further explored the relationships of the interesting collection of characters who call Midnight, Texas home. Arnaud’s justifiably proud of the show’s second season, and in our interview he discussed Manfred’s journey and how the show truly found its footing in the season two. He also shared insight into filming the pivotal scene in which Manfred lost his head.
When did they break the news they were going to cut off Manfred’s head?
François Arnaud: “I think pretty early on, actually. I just didn’t know how they were going to write it in.”
Obviously they had to do a mold of your head. What was that process like?
François Arnaud: “It was incredible. It took a minute. (Laughing) It took two hours to do it right. And then when it came back, it looked like the fetus version of me. And then they made it up and added some hair to it. It was really jarring to see it on the day.
(Laughing) It was quite upsetting, actually, to see my head just bounce.”
Did they let you keep your fake head?
François Arnaud: “You know what? You just reminded me, actually. Before they did the cast I said, ‘I’ll only do it if you put it in writing that I can go home with my head.’ (Laughing) I threatened not to show up. They’re like, ‘Yeah, yeah,’ and they sent me an email confirming I can keep the head. And then when I saw it, I was like, ‘I don’t want it. Too weird!’
I was like, ‘What am I going to do with it?’ I thought of all the pranks I could pull on the people who have wronged me, though. Like, send it to them in a box or something.”
Or you could use it as part of a cool Halloween costume. You could do a two-headed costume.
François Arnaud: “That would be really good, just a sleeping me on my right shoulder. I think they made two. I think the showrunner, Nicole Snyder, wanted one. I think they made two because I don’t think it’s that much more expensive than making one. I think the whole process is what’s costly and time-consuming. To make a second one I don’t think is that complicated.”
Speaking of showrunners, how did it feel to have different showrunners this season?
François Arnaud: “You know, it felt great. Well, I think just going back for a second season is just nice for everyone because you get to learn from the mistakes in the first. You know, you get to watch it as opposed to making a movie, for instance, where you can’t really fix things. I mean, that’s it; it’s done and it’s out there.
It took so long between filming the pilot and the first season airing, and then between that time and when we actually got to go back to film the second season, we had time to reflect on the work that had been done and find newfound motivation, like a new angle. It certainly allowed me to embrace, I guess, the tone of the show and lean into more…not necessarily camp…but a little bit more the fun of it, the tongue in cheek aspect that we all thought was there in the first season but was maybe a little too subtle.
A few people didn’t know that we were in on the joke. We’re like, ‘Yeah, we know it’s funny.’ And so, yeah, just make that a little bigger. Embrace the thrill ride. And just going from crazy, affecting drama to just like outright silliness.”
The second season also got a lot sexier.
François Arnaud: “Yeah, a lot sexier. That’s what the network and producers wanted. (Laughing) That wasn’t my fault! It got darker and I think it got funnier, too.
Nicole and Eric (Charmelo) were writers on the show. They were in the writers room on the first season so they weren’t completely foreign to what Monica (Owusu-Breen) had set up. They just started where we left off but with renewed energy. I think it was a good thing.”
Just prior to Manfred losing his head he mouths messages to his friends and at the end makes eye contact with Olivia (Arielle Kebbel). It’s a powerful moment. How difficult was it playing that particular scene?
François Arnaud: “I guess it’s harder for the people watching. Having to react to that is hard. How do you even put yourself in those shoes of someone who witnesses their friend losing his head? That’s insane. But they were all great. You just rely on each other. Everyone is suffering in one way or another in that scene, and then we’re locking eyes and relying on each other.”
A lot of TV shows like to kill off major characters so it’s no surprise Midnight, Texas is doing it. But, what about the loss of Creek and the Rev? Did they warn you not to get too attached to the Manfred/Creek relationship?
François Arnaud: “No. Sarah (Ramos) who plays Creek and Yul (Vazquez) who played the Rev were maybe my closest friends during the first season, so it was a little hard to see them go away. But I knew that was going to be the case. I’m just glad they were able to write it in a way that felt natural and warranted, and not disloyal to the characters themselves or the story. I feel they found ways to do that.
Whenever I’ve been on a show where I have to leave for one reason or another, I’m like, ‘Oh, I get to die,’ or, ‘I get to play heartbreak.’ You know, it’s part of how it goes. I never decided to pursue this career to do the same things forever. It’s always part of it, saying goodbye to characters, saying goodbye to cast members, saying goodbye to a world that you’ve lived in is just part of what we do. And the fact that we know it’s going to come to an end one way or the other at some point is part of why it feels important when you do it. So, it’s okay.”
With Manfred you were able to basically play a multitude of characters. Did that help make each episode feel really fresh?
François Arnaud: “Yeah, either through possessions or even in the first episode of season two I’m like a different version of Manfred, an evil version of Manfred with demon cancer. I guess it’s challenging but it’s really just a lot of fun. It’s part of why I was interested in playing the character is that it would never feel too comfortable. Yeah, you just dive in every time and see what happens. You risk being over the top and ridiculous, and you kind of have to go there.
That’s what we really found with the show this year is that you don’t know if you’re crossing over that line until you get to it. You have to risk going there. On paper, some things that happened in episode seven and eight I was like, ‘It’s so out there.’ Like the mythology is so out there and it’s different from the books and first season.”
How far in advance did you know about this season’s plot twists? How much did they tell you and did you want to know in advance what was in store?
François Arnaud: “Yeah. Early on I even expressed certain desires I had for this season. Like, exploring more of Manfred’s anger which they certainly did in episode one. And then it’s not that I need to know but Nicole and Eric were particularly keen to let us in – for me at least. I knew that I was going to have a love affair with Patience. I knew that she was going to be betraying me. I guess I thought Kai was going to be evil, too. I thought they were both in on it.”
- A brief part 2 of our interview with season finale spoilers
- Exclusive interview with Midnight, Texas star Arielle Kebbel