Peter Mensah – Midnight, Texas
By: Jamie Steinberg
Q) Do you mostly get recognized from your work on “Spartacus?”
A) Actually, what’s funny is it is always different things that people remember. Some people remember me from early movies like ten to fifteen years ago. You just never know. I did a Friday the 13th movie as one of my earliest films and just the other day someone recognized me from that.
Q) What are the recent projects that you have been working on?
A) No, right now promoting “Midnight, Texas” is my main project. I started a couple other projects, but I always find that I tend to talk less about upcoming. It’s almost easier like how “Midnight” is completed and out there now and it feels far more current. I’m also very excited about “Midnight.” It was both fun to do and fun to see the results.
Q) How was Lemuel originally described to you?
A) Here’s the funny thing. When they sent me the material, I read it and I remember calling my team saying, “Did you guys read this because I don’t look anything like this guy.” The response was, “Yes, we know. But they’ve asked for you. Go in and meet with them.” Of course, I read Charlaine’s [Harris] work and familiar with her work also from having worked on “True Blood.” So, I read the first books. I think I read Midnight Crossing. Monica Breen, our showrunner, said, “I know what the description is, but what we’re looking for is someone who can walk into the room and everyone is going to notice because that’s the essence of who Lem is. He’s got to be that unusual that he has a presence whether you want to look or not.”
Q) You and Arielle Kebbel have such chemistry on screen. Was it something you spent time developing or was it there naturally?
A) One, she’s such a great actress and so generous and such a vibrant personality. It’s really hard not to have chemistry with Arielle. That level of trust and comfort happened right away. With any job, you have to build the characters and so I was really fortunate because it was really collaborative. Of course, we were in Albuquerque and then Las Vegas, New Mexico. So, we were isolated and nothing else to do but go to work. So, we were really able to develop the characters and figure out a plan to approach the characters. We’re really fortunate that it comes across on screen and people seem to like it.
Q) What was it like when the cast first began working together?
A) Talking about chemistry, the chemistry of the cast is really quite fantastic. We ended up bonding. We stay in touch and still go out and spend time together even after work. Although we are often in different cities, messages are flying around. Those in LA will probably grab a meal and tweet together. Those on the East Coast will probably be texting messaging and tweeting in from whatever location they are in. We actually all get excited when the episode is up.
Q) Talk about getting into character with those contacts.
A) The funny thing about those contacts, I was completely on board the moment they described the concept and we did the test and the look of the character. What was interesting and challenging about them, the way the refraction works on the other side of those lenses, it’s really hard for me to actually see – especially if there are bright lights. So, it had the effect, essentially, of almost blinding me when there was a spotlight. Of course, there are plenty of those on set. But it also had the really funny effect of making me much more vampire-like. I had a hard time in bright lights. I was useless during the day. [laughs]
Q) Is there someone from the cast you haven’t worked with yet that you would like to share a scene with?
A) Actually, over the course of the season you’ll see that the Midnighters eventually all work together. It is a large cast, but eh stories are in such a way that the Midnighters end up being quite interactive. So, we’ve all worked together. We all have scenes together. We’d like more, of course, but the end result is you’ll see a community of Midnighters are often going through scenarios together.
Q) What have been some of your most memorable moments from filming “Midnight, Texas?”
A) My goodness! There are so many! The first of it is definitely the combination of cast, crew and location. It was such a unique experience. For a large ensemble, for us all to get along and develop the family chemistry that quickly was amazing. Second, the crew out in Albuquerque (a lot of local really professional and good people), there was a real sense of community to this. So, it was really interesting when the town of Midnight was built on the backlot of the studio to drive in and then literally drive into Midnight you were instantly in another world right away. We certainly felt like we were on another planet. It was just a fantastic experience overall. As for the work itself, every day there was something else. Each episode features a different character’s story. There are no arcs throughout, but what I thought was fantastic was that every week we were dealing with something different. So, it’s hard to say without giving storylines away. I would say, first and foremost, that community that formed out there was fantastic.
Q) You are a part of social media. Do you enjoy the instant fan feedback you receive to episodes?
A) Nooo! I’m the worst at it. The other guys are much better at it. [laughs] I’m not good at drawing attention to myself. So, it challenges me in that sense, but what I embrace is the fact that there are so many people who are so enthusiastic about what we do. So, if I spend a little bit of time communicating and thanking them, that’s okay too.
Q) What can you tease is in store for Lemuel this season?
A) There is so much unexpected. [laughs] There were weeks where you were like, “Really? That’s going to happen?” Having seen quite a number of the episodes it’s pretty impressive. I think that it is, as Monica describes, “a thrill ride.” It really an absolute thrill ride. So, it’s hard to say something without giving away a massive twist.
Q) It’s going to be hard to top that CGI tiger.
A) Guess what? It’s going to be topped. Trust me on this, it’s going to be topped! We’re all excited. Watching the episodes afterwards, it just progressed and got more intricate and layered. It remains fun. It’s hilarious, but at times it’s downright scary. That’s really a good combination.
Q) Is there anything else you want to be sure fans know about “Midnight, Texas?”
A) I think the great thing about “Midnight” and playing Lemuel is that writing has the subtext of a diverse community that actually comes together. It’s never really the over arcing story. So, the diversity is a huge part of “Midnight.” They are all outsiders, but they are all different and yet they form the most well woven group. I think that’s the thing that is so subtle, but never really talked about. The strength of that community is that diversity isn’t a problem. The outside issues, personal issues, are much more of a problem then being different. I think that’s the great thing about Midnight.