Midnight Texas in ATX Television Festival

ATX Television Festival

The cast members and showrunner of Midnight, Texas really show genuine affection for each other, their characters, the story they tell together and the books that inspired it all.  The Midnight, Texas panel at ATX Television Festival scheduled showrunner/ pilot-writer Monica Owusu-Breen and actress Arielle Kebbel who plays hitwoman Olivia.  We truly got a bonus when Peter Mensah, who plays Lemuel, joined the ladies on the stage.

The actors and their showrunner had great chemistry as they talked and gestured with each other.  They clearly felt very relaxed around each other and spoke from their hearts.  There was nothing formal or stilted about the way they acted amongst themselves.  They acted very comfortable with each other.  The panel moderator, sitting inches away, was a hundred yards outside the group.

Showrunner Monica Owusu-Breen came to Midnight, Texas with an incredible resume.  Ms Owusu-Breen worked with industry giants like Marvel Television, J. J. Abrams and Greg Berlanti, on acclaimed shows like Agents of SHIELD, Fringe, Brothers and Sisters, Lost and Alias.

Ms Owusu-Breen feels kismet with Midnight, Texas.  She told us that two falls ago, her mother, and mother-in-law both passed away within weeks of each other.  Both women had lived in small towns (like Midnight) and her mother-in-law had been a psychic (like Midnighter Manfred).  Shortly after those deaths, Ms Owusu-Breen read the first book in Charlaine Harris’ Midnight, Texas Trilogy and immediately felt she had to make the books into a television show.

Ms Owusu-Breen describes Midnight, Texas as everything she loves in a blender: adventure, romance, horror, supernatural, action.  And a western, to boot.  She called it a roller coaster.  The pilot was definitely a rollercoaster.  But it’s well paced, both in terms of action/horror/recovery-time beats and the order in which it reveals expository information the audience.

The pilot has horror moments, action moments, romantic moments and each act builds up to a visual crescendo.  The visuals for horror moments in Manfred’s visions look good, particularly the makeup effects for the ghosts.  Manfred sees disquiet ghosts as their death injuries.  The effects on the woman who drowned were really cool.  The drowned woman constantly had water flowing out of her mouth, and looked like an actress in makeup, not CGI or animatronics.   The fight scene between Midnighters and biker gang Sons of Lucifer, foreshadowed in Act 2, took place in Act 4. The fight sceen stunts looked practical and as good as anything else on television. The pilot ends with a kind of showdown in the middle of Main Street at high midnight.

Ms Owusu-Breen, her cast and her crew have made ten episodes to date.  At the point they shot the pilot, the first two books were published and the third was on the way.  Season one, consisting of ten episodes, adapts books one and three.  If they’re renewed for Season two, they’ll make book two and the continue to tell the story of the world and characters they have established, hopefully with additional books from Ms Harris to serve as their road map. Ms Owusu-Breen feels genuinely fortunate to have the opportunity to tell the story of the small Texas town Midnight and it’s unique family of supernatural and mortal characters.

The pilot screening showed Midnight and the Midnighters as a town of secrets, the least of which, I suspect is the very thin veil between this world and those that come after.  Psychic/ medium/ seer Manfred flees there and we learn about the town and its citizens through his eyes — mostly. Each citizen from the Reverend, to the Pawnbroker, to the tattoist, to the grocery/garage owners and every one else are more than they seem.  Midnighters we saw in the pilot include an assassin, a vampire, a witch, a possible werewolf, an angel and open minded mortals.

Arielle Kebble plays assassin Olivia.  Ms Kebbel told us that when she read for the audition she felt a kinship with the character Olivia. Ms Kebble says Olivia has much to teach her as an actress, as a woman and as a badass.  She really wanted the character.  When the call came, Ms Kebble read the first two Midnight Texas books.  Ms Kebble and Mr Mensah both read the books as reference material, to give themselves an understanding of the town and the relationships among the characters, but their portrayals come from the scripts.

Peter Mensah plays vampire Limuel.  Mr Mensah previously played a vampire.  He told us Limuel has a different role and different powers.  Limuel is part of a community and he has relationships with mortals.  Mensah says that Limuel is dead but he has a romantic relationship, and that has to be played for irony and with comedic elements in Midnight, Texas.  Limuel draws power of emotion through touch much like a White Court vampire in the Dresden Files.  He also does the neck/blood thing… Limuel will act with menace toward those who threaten his friends, the Midnighters.  To the Midnighters, Limuel acts as a protector.

Ms Owusu-Breen and her television writers broke the season and developed the plots based on the action beats needed to drive a television show.  The books move at the pace of a small town.  Which is wonderful for literature, and movies or niche television, but not network television.  So, the books create the world and the relationships, but the scripts aren’t going to follow the books page-for-page.  But listening to the passion and care with which the panel talked about the story the are telling, this is a roller coaster I want to ride.

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