Dylan Bruce is about to tease a plot point from the second episode of NBC’s supernatural drama Midnight, Texas, when lights on the set flicker and fade.
“Whoa! Hello!” the actor says, momentarily rethinking whether he should tell the tale to a group of visiting writers eager for the reveal.
It’s late January and we’re on a soundstage at Albuquerque Studios in New Mexico during the final days of filming for Bruce and his fellow cast and crew members on the show’s first season, which debuts at 10/9c July 24.
The set blackout seems fitting for a show about a small Texas town where a man who sees dead people isn’t the strangest resident. Adapted from “True Blood” novelist Charlaine Harris’s “Midnight” trilogy by executive producers Monica Owusu-Breen and David Janollari, the drama follows the eerie goings-on after psychic Manfred Bernardo (Francois Arnaud) moves to town.
By the end of the premiere, Manfred meets Midnight’s supernatural beings—and some humans with secrets of their own. Bruce’s character, Bobo Winthrop, would fall into the human group. Bobo is a good ol’ boy from Arkansas who owns the local pawn shop (which is a story in itself).
Bobo would give a friend the shirt off his back, Bruce says. But, the former “Orphan Black” and “Heroes Reborn” actor adds, “You don’t mess with his friends, or you will feel his wrath.”
Bruce, sporting Bobo’s cowboys boots and giant belt buckle, presses on with his story and the lights eventually come back on—no supernatural intervention or spoilers involved.
In this edited transcript of the group’s questions, Bruce talks about Bobo, entering the supernatural world of “Midnight” and how his character gets along with the town’s talking cat (yet another story).
What drew you to the show and what do you like about Bobo?
I auditioned for a lot of pilots when this pilot was out, and this was definitely my favorite one by far. I’m a fan of the supernatural. I’m definitely a fan of Charlaine Harris. I’m a fan of Monica, who’s our brilliant show runner and writer. Then when I got the pilot script, and I found out Niels [Arden Oplev] was directing. You have to be familiar with his work; [he did] the original “Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.” He’s called the pilot winner, as well, because every pilot he directs gets picked up.
It was a very different character than I have ever played before. I read the books before my first audition. I read the first book. I knew a little bit about the character, and he’s actually in a different series by Charlaine Harris, the Lily Bard Series, when he was a teenager. That actually comes into play in our show because of his past and why he’s here. I thought that was very interesting, too. I always wanted to play a good old boy from the South, and I’m definitely playing that in this. It’s been great.
My character, Bobo, is the owner of the town pawn shop. I would say he’s one of the newer residents in town; probably been here about three, four years. He’s been readily accepted by everyone, both supernatural and mortal. He’s the guy who would give you the shirt off his back. Friendly, gets along with everyone.
Is he a little too trusting?
I would say he’s very guarded, but he masks everything with a smile and a nicety to him. He’s very charming, but there are a lot of layers underneath that. A lot of demons in his closet … Gosh, it’s really fun to play that balance, because at a moment’s notice, he can pop off and something bad can happen.
That’s where Fiji [the witch played by Parisa Fitz-Henley] comes in. She’s kind of his moral compass. She guides him, calms him, but he definitely has a tendency to be a loose cannon at certain times, especially in the series with his past, and with what could possibly be catching up with him in Midnight.
He seems to welcome Manfred, but he’s looked into him.
He’s like, “Come on in. I checked you out.” That is that smile masking his suspicion. Manfred has to earn the town’s trust, and he does that pretty quickly with each and every one of us. He shows his mettle and his worth. That’s what you have to do in Midnight because people that come to Midnight, or entities that come to Midnight, for the most part, have ulterior motives. That’s why we’re very guarded and protective of this special, special place, which you will find out is very special.
Everybody who comes to town has to go through that? Your character probably went through that, too?
He did. Fiji has a way of discovering people’s true intentions when they come to town, which is all in the books, so if I said it, I don’t know if it would be very spoilers, but it involves cookies that she bakes.
What is Bobo afraid of, because he lives in this town with these supernatural beings?
I wouldn’t necessarily say he’s afraid of anything. He’s pretty age appropriate to how old I am, mid 30s, and he’s been on the run since he was 17. He’s gone through a lot in his life. I don’t think, as far as anything in the mortal world, scares him.
I think the supernatural kind of freaks him out a little bit. Bobo is new to the supernatural world, so when new supernatural things happen, it’s almost a shock. It’s fun to play that shock. Then having an angel in the town, and one of my closest confidants being a vampire, and a psychic finding out about my fiancee’s death and helping me with that. It’s fun to go on that journey with him.
I don’t know if they used it, but I like to play it that he’s infatuated with Joe, because Joe’s an angel, and Bobo comes from a religious background, and he’s just like, “There’s an angel. It’s amazing.” [Laughs.]
He’s not afraid of much. He’s just afraid of his friends getting hurt—mainly Fiji.
Do Bobo’s neighbors and friends know about his past?
No one knows. He’s kept that a secret. Everybody’s pretty mysterious in Midnight, which is great … because each episode focuses on a single character. You find out about their back story, and the rest of us find out in the town, along with the viewers, which is neat. That has repercussions with the relationships amongst other Midnighters.
Also cool—we have a sweet overarching theme for the whole season that’s pretty terrifying. We have contained episodes, but we also have that main arc. Everything’s pretty exciting.
What kind of journey is he on? What is his evolution from when we meet him to where we end up?
I think from where you meet him to where he ends up, his journeys rectify his past. [He is trying] to make good for what has happened that might not be his fault. He’s trying to prove that he is the man that he wants to be to his fellow Midnighters, and to gain their respect, and to keep their respect. It’s fun to go from being put on a pedestal to falling from grace, and then trying to earn that back. That’s kind of his journey, I guess, in a nutshell.
What’s something that you’ve had to get used to, playing this character, that’s clearly not you, or clearly something you haven’t done before?
A lot of running in cowboy boots. I am always running. Lem [the vampire] blurs. We run and we stop, and then he just blurs past us. Everybody else walks at a cool pace, but they’re always making me run in these things. I actually enjoy it. I get to workout while I’m at work. One episode we shot was very physically taxing on me. I’ve had the most fun I’ve ever had on a show.
It’s been fun learning the accent, too. He’s a good old boy from Arkansas in the books. From Shakespeare, which is a fictional town. I was listening to the dialect of people from Arkansas, and from my own ignorance, I thought Arkansas is very deep South. I thought it might be more of a thick, hokier Southern accent, but no. It’s very slow drawl. Very Bill Clinton-esque, I was listening to a lot of Bill Clinton, trying to get that down. It was fun doing that.
Do you accidentally keep the accent sometimes?
Yeah. The last group of interviews I did, I was accidentally talking in it, and I was like, “What? Stop it.” It’s when I get these boots on, it just happens. And this [belt] buckle. Gosh, how can you not with a buckle like that? Sometimes I catch myself. When I go home, my wife’s like, “Stop it. It’s not a turn on.” I’m like, “Wait ’til you watch the show, honey. Wait ’til you watch the show.”
Is it a fun change of pace to actually play a character who’s so smiley?
Yeah. It is. All those years of having braces in high school, it’s definitely nice that I get to smile every once in a while now.
It’s paying off.
Yeah, it’s good [smiling] instead of playing such a stoic individual. It’s fun playing a guy that has a heart of gold, but that has anger issues as well. It’s been interesting, but it’s been a lot of fun. I like to smile. It’s nice.
Do you have much of an affinity for this kind of material … the supernatural, horror?
I love … the supernatural element and the horror element. But also, it’s about a group of misfits, if you will, that are banded together and have formed a real community from all different creeds, sexual preferences, sexual orientations, backgrounds. It’s really neat to see everyone work together, and try to protect the town that they love and respect. That’s been a lot of fun.
We always come back to the relationships. The relationships are so strong, and they’re so sweet. Some are a little salty, some are sweeter … It feels like it grounds the supernatural element of our show, which is really cool, because we are a high concept show in the supernatural sense, but also, we have that romanticism that viewers crave.
My favorite scenes are the one-on-one friend scenes, or the one-on-one romantic scenes that I think are really sweet, when our show is frigg’n insane.
Is there any scene that was especially challenging to do?
The most challenging scenes are those all of us are in. It’s an ensemble cast, and there are a lot of different perspectives that we have to get. These scenes that could be three pages with all of us in them that have high stakes can take a whole day. Those are emotionally and mentally taxing to stay at that level for the duration of filming, and we have a lot of those. But it’s cool.
There’s a lot of CG stuff, too, so it’s hard. How can I complain, though? Tatiana [Maslany] acts with the tennis ball in “Orphan Black,” so I can’t complain about pretending to see an angel in the sky, and being terrified by a demon or something like that.
Fans of “True Blood” might already be invested in this. What do you think?
I think our show stands alone. It’s very different than any other show I’ve seen on TV. It’s very different than “True Blood.” “True Blood” was on HBO. It was a lot of sex, but we’re more about the bond of the township, and the relationships, and how important that is.
The supernatural element on the show is insane. It’s out of this world; it’s so crazy. It’s also neat that it blends together so well. I think we are a show that’s fun, and that’s going to be a lot of fun to watch, but I think we are trying for high concept. A lot of the stuff that happens on our show is very prevalent in today’s socioeconomic climate. It couldn’t have been done on purpose, because we didn’t see what was going to happen that is happening now. I think a lot of the issues we explore are very relevant in today’s political world, too.
And we’ve got a talking cat; how can viewers not want to watch?
Does Fiji’s cat like Bobo?
He doesn’t like anybody. He thinks I’m a dimwit.
Does Bobo have any inkling about Fiji’s feelings for him?
No. He’s completely oblivious. He’s a big dodo.
So the cat’s right?
Absolutely. I think Bobo, in the earlier part of the season, is so caught up with what happened to his fiancee, that I think he’s kind of blinded by that. This and Fiji’s relationship is very sweet. I think you guys will be pleased to see how it turns out. I definitely am. I love working with Parisa. I think she’s just a doll, and she’s such an amazing talent, so it’s fun to be able to share a lot of scenes with her.
Actually, our whole cast is amazing. I don’t think they could have picked a better bunch of folks. When you read the books and you envision the character they work. I see Arielle [Kebbel] and I’m like, “Yeah. You’re totally Olivia.” I see Peter [Mensah], I’m like, “Oh, yeah. You’re Lem.” Jason [Lewis], “Oh, yeah. You’re Joe.” It’s really neat to see all these characters, and everybody step in the role, and everybody having so much fun, and everybody working together so well.
On the Midnight, Texas set
Francois Arnaud defends his psychic character