Hold up, Midnighters, this interview contains spoilers from Ep. 9 Riders On The Storm. If you don't want to be spoiled, turn back now.
Yes, I know you want to read what François Arnaud has to say, but I mean it.
Okay, great. Now that we have that out of the way.
Having brought the forces of nature down upon Midnight, the demon Kolkonar is bound and determined to make Fiji his and take her magic in order to become more powerful. Gypsy dark magic met witchcraft dark magic, Manfred took a trip to see a guy about a thing, and someone managed to get a cat to sit still. Sort of.
I spoke with Arnaud about Manfred's life, death, his reaction to losing Xylda, and how a grifter turns out to be a town's best hope. After a quick round of hellos, we got right down to it.
Grandma has been such a beloved part of the world and part of the show. When did you find out [about it] and why was now the time to...leave Manny without her guidance?
I found out when I read episode 8, and I was, to tell you the truth, heartbroken. I gave a call to the showrunner and I was like are you sure this is the right thing to do? Manny and Xylda have the seminal relationship at the core of the show. I think it’s just, it sounds like it was necessary on a few levels. First, for Manfred to finally own up on his potential and his role as a savior of Midnight, and potentially the world, he had to part from something that ultimately tied him down or was too comforting. That he was sort of using it as a crutch, his relationship to Xylda, and I think him finally being on his own and having that goodbye moment with Xylda sort of allowed him to soar finally. Also, I think I feel like in this day and age of television, post Game of Thrones, the audience needs to feel like no one is safe, no matter how beloved.
He’s finally accepted that he’s the Chosen One. At least he knows now...having to live in this space and make decisions. So where’s his head now with all that information?
There’s a moment when they’re all sort of sheltered in the country bar where Manfred has the revelation. He’s kind of down for the count, he doesn’t think, he’s doubting that he’s "The One" once more in this conversation with Creek. Then he has this flash where he understands that being a leader does not mean doing it all by yourself. It’s knowing how to delegate and trust the people around you. Him being this sort of prophet, or the One doesn’t mean that he’s on his own really. That’s a comforting idea for him. And also a flash.
The discussion about unfinished business with Creek. Clearly, he ends up dying and coming back to life...[but he] didn’t know that was going to happen. So at this point is he willing to die for her? Is he willing to put his life on the line for her?
I think he is, but I think when he says “I have unfinished business,” I think there’s an understanding that she has lost so much, he doesn’t want his death to be another burden on Creek’s shoulders. It gives him a reason to not die. I think if he didn’t have Creek he’d be more willing to die.
You think he would have just stayed there in the spirit world?
There’s this peace to it. He’s finally, when he wakes up on the other side of life, being dead, there’s a quiet and peace to it. Where he feels like he could potentially stay. And then the warrior reminds him of the purpose of his journey to the other side. I think for a moment he finds the idea of staying there may be pleasant. So I like that idea of his death being a peaceful one. Then sort of a tempting path to follow as opposed to a torturous path. Living in Midnight seems really really difficult.
This kind of comes back to that. This is a dysfunctional family of a town. He’s been a grifter his whole life. What turns a grifter into a champion for a whole town?
I think it’s the faith others put in him. He never believed in himself. He never thought he was good enough to be that guy. But because it was written, and people trust him, it sort of allows him to explore that possibility of maybe being a better person than he thought he would be, or he allowed himself to be. I think that there’s a beautiful idea behind that. I think you can fight hate with love and trust and by telling people they’re good you make them want to be good, make them want to live up to other people’s expectations in a positive way, being part of the solution.
One last question. Tell me what it was like to shoot the scene where you’re sacrificing the cat. How did you keep a straight face?
I’m never gonna live this one down. Every shot of the cat, there were a couple of different cat actors, but that particular one was fairly new on set and he wouldn’t stay still so every two second shot of the cat that you see is like 45 minutes of just wiggling a little. The cat got many more takes than any of us ever did. I can tell you that much.
I’m allergic to cats. The scene where I have to grab him, when I’m saving him from the glass house, I forgot we were shooting it that day and I forgot to take a Claritin. Obviously, we had a few takes of that to do. I took one right before but it hadn’t kicked in. I was sneezing and my eyes were all red.
Whatever, it worked.
François and I chatted about the season finale, as well. Check back after it airs September 18th to read his thoughts on that episode and what he's looking forward to if he returns to Midnight.