Peter Mensah interview: “Seeing Midnight, Texas being built was amazing”

Peter Mensah interview: “Seeing Midnight, Texas being built was amazing”

0 comments 📅28 July 2017, 17:18

Based on the hit series of novels by Charlaine Harris, Midnight, Texas launched in the UK this week. It follows Manfred (Francois Arnaud), a psychic on the run who finds himself in the small town of Midnight, Texas. Manfred just wants somewhere to hide, but what soon becomes apparent is he needs Midnight and Midnight may well need him…

It’s a great show and earlier this week we got a chance to talk to cast member Peter Mensah about his role as town resident, and vampire, Lemuel Bridger.

MIDNIGHT, TEXAS — Season: 1 — Pictured: Peter Mensah as Lemuel — (Photo by: Virginia Sherwood/NBC)

Can you tell us a little about your role?
Yeah, happily. Lemuel Bridger is the 200-year-old resident town vampire. He was turned [into a vampire] in and around that area and over the years has evolved into being the town protector. Actually, the way Midnight works is the residents protect each other. So the town is kind of a haven.

He’s learned over the years how to leech energy, it’s a bit of an unusual skill for a vampire. This allows him to find a way to live among the living without killing his friends. So when the hunger gets too much he can actually leech energy and that’s enough to sustain him.

Of course he can still bite people and feed off blood and that’s what he does to those who need to be removed.

So it’s an unusual role, you’re playing the living dead as it were but you’re also involved in a relationship and trying to navigate the things normal people would do.

That’s a very unusual take on vampirism. Is the ability to leech energy tied to specific emotions?
Well energy comes in a variety of ways. Life energy is clearly part of what’s in your blood and I suspect – although this is me trying to navigate the character as much as the audience is – the energy he takes has an effect. For example, when he leeches energy from Olivia his love interest she’s drained but that actually provides a service for her because she has so much pain and anger in her system. And when it does get too much, Lemuel’s energy draining techniques actually do help. So yes I’m sure in excess it would take life energy but when handled with an surgeon’s blade it can actually help.

How interesting. That almost seems altruistic.
That’s the idea. And it fits in with the general characteristics of all the inhabitants of Midnight. Just when you think you know everything about them there’s always a layer that’s a little bit different. And it all plays into their overall strength when they combine. So yes Lemuel’s skills actually provide a protection against vampires because they can’t leech energy and he can.

Where does Lemuel fit into vampiric society?
I think this is part of what’s being explored. Part of what the audience will discover this season is the process Lemuel went through to become this kind of vampire. And part of it involves his perspective on killing. In vampiric society the killing of humans is viewed as a necessary evil for the most part and he has evolved slightly differently, partially because of his views on community and the people he cares about.

So his relationship with Midnight is almost symbiotic. He protects it and the town has guided him towards becoming the kind of person he is?
Yeah, I think that’s the interesting hub of the dialogue isn’t it? That the most successful societies are symbiotic. Somebody bakes the bread, somebody makes the wine and somebody else teaches the children and if we all do our jobs it turns out fine. And I think that’s what’s happening with this community and Lemuel is both provided for in this group and provides for them.

That’s fascinating and speaks to something you said earlier about there always being another layer to these characters. One of the things that interests us most about the show is how the setting does the same thing, with this town full of charming misfits set deep inside Texas. Which, it’s fair to say, tends to skew pretty hard right.
Part of Charlaine Harris’ charm is she’s created these characters in this unusual setting. Charlaine Harris creates just fantastic characters and Monica Owusu-Breen has certainly developed them further. And in doing this they’ve been able to explore a number of societal conversations around prejudice, family, all of it. And so, and this is also I think one of the strengths of the supernatural family drama, we can have conversations on multiple levels in such a way that everyone feels safe. And that’s what Midnight is able to do.

Absolutely. Could you talk a little about how you approached the role?
Well, it’s interesting, everybody has a different approach and one aspect I always try and work with is you have to trust the literature you’re given. Every role is described by the writers and the characters have been developed and so what I first do is work with the material. Because I prefer to learn who the character is. And the great thing about playing Lemuel, and I think really about all these characters, is Charlaine Harris has done all this extensive work developing the characters prior. So it was a little bit easier in a sense because there was less of a focus on him being a vampire and more of a focus on the man and his outlook.

So it allowed me to work with that and then what you have to throw in here are his limitations and his powers. So, once you know who the character is you figure out daylight’s an issue. [Laughs] So there are things you have to throw in. You learn who someone is and realise he has a broken leg or one eye and that’s how I approach the work. Less to do with the fantastical, much more to do with the person.

I think the idea is that if we’re trying to create characters we can live with for a while and stories we can care about I really think it’s more important that we learn and enjoy who these characters are on screen. Because the powers paint an interesting, vivid picture but the depth of who this person is what allows us to invest in them. When something happens you’re going to feel it if you care about Lemuel as a person. If you see him as a superhero, he only wins or loses.

That’s one of the major advantages of series drama isn’t it? Being able to spend a long time getting to know and exploring these characters.
One hopes. [Laughs]

Is there a particular moment in season one you really enjoyed?
Oh my goodness. Several moments. I think the first day we walked onto the back lot and saw the town of Midnight as it was built. It’s just phenomenal when you see a network put so much faith in the product and the actual development of something. Because it really helps set the tone for your work when you’re in a physical environment that feeds what you do. So seeing the town of Midnight being built was pretty amazing.

I really enjoyed my fellow cast members. I mean the days were long but we’d sit together and people would go off and do their bit then come back and continue. I think during our pilot we really bonded because we ended up in a small town in New Mexico called Las Vegas I had mistakenly thought was in Nevada. [Laughs] Well it is in Nevada and that’s where I thought we were going but we ended up in Las Vegas, New Mexico. Literally there was tumbleweed going down the street. I remember thinking ‘this is fantastic’ and having grown up in England you dream of these things but you never imagine you’ll see them. So that was kind of cool. And there were days I’d wake up and look at the high desert mountains and just be blown away that I was lucky enough to be there doing this.

Midnight, Texas airs in the UK on Thursdays at 9pm on SyFy UK.

Read all our Midnight, Texas reviews

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