I had a wonderful and exciting opportunity recently to peek behind the scenes of Midnight, Texas. I spent two days in Albuquerque, New Mexico meeting with the cast and crew as well as exploring the different sets. I also observed several scenes being filmed for the final two episodes of the season. It was amazing to see the size and scope of the effort it takes to make this thrilling and fantastical series. First, I will take you behind the scenes to explore the sets and meet the crew before I interview the cast and the showrunners about what to expect in Season 2.
The filming complex is located on a large parcel of land southeast of Albuquerque. There are nine large sound stages, several smaller buildings, and the street set for the series. From the scenes I saw filmed, the sets, and the conversations with the cast and showrunners, I feel that they have really kicked Season 2 up several notches from Season 1.
Albuquerque, a beautiful desert city, is the perfect location to simulate a small, dusty town in Texas. As our group of journalists walked the set in the late afternoon sun, I felt like I was really in the city of Midnight, Texas. We were guided through the main street of the Midnight, Texas set where I saw the new hotel which will be the center of much of the intrigue in Season 2. We were not allowed to explore this new set as they were shooting a scene at the time but I saw the interiors later in the tour.
The most interesting aspect of the backlot is the street buildings where some are shells while others, such as the church, are complete buildings. For example, the new hotel has a complete foyer but the rest of the building is a shell. The interior shots for the hotel, as well the interior of other Midnight, Texas dwellings, are shot on sound stages 5 and 6, which I was also able to visit on day two.
During my set visit, I and the other journalists were escorted behind the scenes by the new line producer, Jeff Rafner (The Golden Child, The Big Lebowski). Rafner explained that the line producer is the person who is responsible for the day-to-day operation of activities on the set. He also hires the crew heads of the different departments (set design, wardrobe, lighting, etc.). Rafner stated that there are almost 200 people employed full-time on the production of the series.
Rafner showed us around the base camp, which included the various types of trailers (actors, make-up, craft services, and wardrobe) as he explained that the series had hired a new makeup effects department head, Vincent Van Dyke (9-1-1, Code Black). Rafner was very excited to have Van Dyke as a new crew member as Rafner had high expectations that Van Dyke would raise the quality of make-up effects even higher than the show’s inaugural year.
The first place Rafner showed us was the wardrobe trailer. There we met Daniela Moore (Longmire, The Brave), the series’ costume designer. She showed us the extensive collections of outfits worn by the characters in the series. Moore has a very detailed method of accounting for the multiple costumes. She explained that she needs such an elaborate method of cataloging because there could be several copies of a single type of garment, such as a shirt. She gave us an example of how “one shirt” could be worn over the course of several scenes. In one scene it would have blood stains, in another scene the shirt would not have bloodstains, while in another scene, it had to be ripped apart. Each version of the shirt was tagged for the particular scene where it would be used and by which character. Moore remarked that one had to be very detail oriented to succeed in this job.
Moore also explained the process for choosing the wardrobe for each character. In meetings with the writers and showrunners, they give her an idea of the character and what the character is doing during a particular episode. Moore buys what she can off the rack, especially when they are required to have multiple iterations of the same wardrobe item.
From the wardrobe trailer, Rafner took the group to the interior sets on sound stages 5 and 6, where most of the interior scenes are shot. Here we met Beth Rubino (Quantico, Tremors), the series set designer. She and Rafner showed our group around the sets for Fiji’s shop, the pawn shop, Manfred’s house, and the hotel rooms of the new hotel. The pawn shop was actually really dark and creepy. The attention to detail was phenomenal, from the dried herbs in Fiji’s house to the mounted heads in the pawn shop, to the swanky decor of the hotel rooms.
As our group explored the sets, Rubino and Rafner explained that the sets are modular, which allows them to easily remove furniture, a fireplace, or even entire walls, to make the room an entirely new room. We were able to photograph most of the sets but there were certain items I could not photograph (even one entire set) since they were pivotal to the Season 2 story arc. I can say this about what was forbidden: one involved music and the other a common location in any business.
Rubino was responsible for designing the hotel sets for the new season. She not only designed the hotel rooms and hotel interior, but she also designed extensions of Fiji’s home that the audience will see, now that Fiji and Bobo are a couple. One amazing aspect of the soundstage was the amount of sand that they used to mimic the exterior of Manfred’s home. There were numerous footprints of the cast and crew going about their tasks that were recorded in the sand.
Although the sets were intriguing, especially the ones with major spoilers, the actual mechanics of what is necessary to film a scene were quite amazing. Throughout the sets, there are giant cables and cords running from different power sources. The lights, cranes, and some cameras are controlled through different control centers, which are, in some cases, wireless.
As we walked through the sets, Rafner explained the timeline of the making of the series. The process had started in March when the writers met to outline the season. A few weeks later, the scripts started to reach the production team and filming began. Rafner expected to finish filming all of the episodes by the end of September. We finished our visit behind the scenes when we were called back to soundstage 9 to interview the series showrunners, Eric Charmelo and Nicole Snyder.
The interviews with the cast and showrunners were very illuminating as they had filmed more episodes since I had interviewed them at San Diego Comic Con. Also, our group was able to interview Nestor Carbonell, who plays Kai Lucero, the new co-owner of the hotel in Midnight, Texas. Kai and his wife, Patience (Jamie Ray Newman) bring new conflict and intrigue to Midnight, Texas.
As background into how he came to be Kai Lucero, Carbonell told our group that he knew Snyder (executive producer) from a series called Ringer, on which they had worked together. He explained that his character is a faith healer, whom he hinted might be the villain of the season. Carbonell explained that he researched faith healing online, with a special emphasis on Reiki Healing (a form of alternative medicine). He told us that he, himself, was not sure about faith healing but that clearly his character does believe in it.
Carbonell continued by telling us that he enjoyed being in New Mexico and he was excited to take on a role which is a major departure from the usual types of roles that he has played. As he discussed his character, Carbonell told us that Jamie Ray Newman had also played his wife in the penultimate season of Bates Motel, which is an eerie coincidence. He explained that he had not seen the first season of Midnight, Texas, because he wanted to approach his character with fresh eyes, since each season can be viewed as a standalone season. Carbonell really enjoyed being on the sets in Albuquerque because the feel of the area made it much easier to believe that he was really in the mythical town of Midnight, Texas. In closing, he told us that Midnight, Texas is an incredible world and he is glad to be a part of it.
Next, we interviewed the returning cast of Midnight, Texas: Peter Mensah (Lem), Arielle Kebbell (Olivia), Jason Lewis (Joe), Dylan Bruce (Bobo), Parisa Fitz-Henley (Fiji), and Francois Arnaud (Manfred). In most cases, they could not reveal more details about the upcoming season than they did during the interviews at San Diego Comic-Con (see the SDCC coverage here), but they were able to give us greater insight into their characters and their evolving relationships. Also, they hinted at what is to come during the season.
Since relationships are the name of the game in Season 2, Arielle Kebbel (Olivia) and Peter Mensah (Lem) talked about their characters’ relationship and how it has changed for the better and worse because of Lem giving his blood to Olivia to save her. Mensah emphasized the character development throughout the season as they deal with the intrusion into their lives by the new owners of the hotel. He also said that fans of the show should expect big surprises during the season.
Kebbell discussed how married life changes Olivia. Also, she spoke about how Lem’s connection to her eventually takes a dark turn, as she is a truly independent person who is not used to someone knowing her well as Lem does now due to their shared blood. Their level of intimacy will help to drive the conflict between them. It will be an emotional journey for both of them. As if these problems are not enough, fans will finally meet Olivia’s father in Season 2, which the cast promised will be a true tour de force.
Jason Lewis (Joe Strong) agreed with the assessment of the other cast members regarding the heightened level of conflict in Season 2. He also talked about how the relationships for everyone would evolve as the season progresses. Lewis talked about what the fans would learn about Joe and what drove him from the world to hide in Midnight. Fans will also learn what he has hidden from the world for a thousand years.
Of course, as if Joe’s life is not complicated enough, another new character arrives in the Midnight, Texas: Walker Chisum (Josh Kelly). Walker Chisum is an immortal demon hunter whose arrival in Midnight causes problems because Chuy is a demon and Joe was created to hunt demons. Clearly, Walker’s arrival will cause problems for Joe and Chuy. Lewis’ excitement about the new season was contagious.
Dylan Bruce (Bobo) and Parisa Fitz-Henley (Fiji) discussed how, because it is Midnight, Texas, there are no truly happy endings. The new passionate relationship between Bobo and Fiji will have serious consequences. They both agreed that the new season will step up the dramatic tension, conflicts, and special effects. Bruce let drop that there will be lighter moments, such as when Bobo goes to Lem for relationship advice. Why else would one have an ancient vampire friend, if not for relationship advice? Bobo has Lem and Fiji has Olivia.
Fiji’s new-found relationship with Bobo gives her the freedom to fully explore her power. In the new season, she feels that she no longer has to deal with limitations on her power. Fitz-Henley told us that the scripts in Season 2 have consistently surprised her as the story has developed. Fans will see a side of Fiji which they have not previously seen and possibly may find troubling. Fiji’s journey will encompass her greatest hopes and fears, which by itself would mean major issues which have to be resolved. But, throw in the new hotel owner and fans should be expected to be taken on an exciting rollercoaster ride of epic proportions.
Francois Arnaud (Manfred) agreed with his cast members that this season is considerably more intense, exciting, and explosive than the first season. Manfred is haunted by the demons he released, which infect his dreams and his life. His relationship with Creek (Sarah Ramos) changes as she explores leaving Midnight. And, of course, the new owners of the hotel make an already complex situation even worse since Manfred may make some bad choices with regards to Kai and Patience Lucero.
Finally, Eric Charmelo (executive producer) and Nicole Snyder (executive producer) told us that their marching orders were to add more salacious elements, more drama, and more conflict. The entire cast agreed that they accomplished this and more. Charmelo and Snyder were just as excited as the entire cast about the upcoming season. From what I saw on location, this season will be amazing. I observed a totally committed cast and crew who were committed to making a top-notch series. From what I saw, they succeeded my expectations. Make sure to watch the premiere of Midnight, Texas on October 26, 2018, at 9 PM Eastern/8 PM Central on NBC.