Midnight, Texas, NBC’s newest series, premieres tonight at 10/9c! And since the series is premiering tonight, the embargo has been lifted from my set visit earlier this year! I was able to sit down with Jason Lewis, who plays Joe Strong on the new series, to talk about his character, what drew him to the series, and what he can tease for the first season!
Can you tell us a little bit about your character?
Jason Lewis: My character’s an immortal. He’s been around for a few thousand years, and that presented I think my first conundrum of trying to figure out the character. What is the character’s point of view after such a long period of time? I sort of approached it by just taking one those history of the universe graph things where all this is blank, and then there’s this series of events in the last few seconds. And just sort of started making marks and writing creative stories on it. The thing I came up with on my character is that he’s been around for so long, regardless what was shown to him in his initial indoctrinations from whatever his period was. He’s seen so much in that he’s moved past conventional ideas. He just sees the world with a little less cynicism and a little bigger picture than I would even. Trying to like strive for those higher ideals, but also recognize that there’s still a creature that fails, and thinks, and can get stuck in those thoughts and ideas.
Has he evolved the way that you thought he would? I know you guys are filming the finale episode now. Were there any major surprises to you along the way?
Jason Lewis: No. That’s an interesting question, I haven’t thought about it. I’m mostly just keeping up. Yeah, you know what, I think I might have expected him, before I saw what the material was and read the books – that he might have a lighter tonality to him. Not to say that he’s a downer person, we’re dealing with real events. He has a sensibility like probably in his day-to-day, he chooses to operate with a sense of lightness, but he’s also seen real harshness. So I think we’ve gotten a little closer to that then I thought we would. Part of that’s coming. Gotta dig in and be gritty.
Is he choosing to be the optimist?
Jason Lewis: No.
Because he’s seen so much.
Jason Lewis: No. I think he’s very pragmatic. I think he’s a very realistic human being, or creature in the sense of how he looks at the world. I think the willingness … I do think he’s a realist. I think he chooses to lens the positive, but he’s not blind to the awful. To be an optimist and kind of ignore the other set of circumstances is not his character. He just is constantly surprised by the beauty and capability of humanity and knows the depravity.
But you know, you could go to the dark side. You could just get super depressed-
Jason Lewis: In my character history he did. He had those dark moments. He became disillusioned at one point in his history and pulled back out of that. That’s a large part of where he is now. That’s a conscious choice I made for the character. I think that often times we as people, we reach a point in our life where we do become disillusioned with whatever we’ve learned, we hit a malaise or morose period in our life. I know for me I had one. At some point I looked at myself and I was like, “Well, this perspective’s not gonna get you anywhere, so let’s try a more abundant happier one.” That said, I had to balance my ideals and my realism, I’m still pragmatic. I know that bad exists in the world, but I push towards a more positive thing.
Is there an anchor for him that you would say throughout the season?
Jason Lewis: I think very much, and it’s in the books, his partner Chuy is very much his anchor. I think Chuy’s the touch stone that … The way I’ve done my back history, and this could change as the writers write it, but the way I’ve done my back history is that Chuy became my touchstone for that. To bring me out of the despondent sense I had of things moving forward and the fact that it just repeats to these horrible cycles, and you’d think that man would figure it out in this one lifetime, but no, we just keep repeating the same mistake for thousands of years. So he’s my touchstone.
Is your character running from something?
Jason Lewis: I think all of our characters are. Midnight’s a place where we can go as outcasts and not feel such, not be judged by the normal conventions of society. So, I don’t … Yes. My character and I won’t tell you what I’m hiding from specifically, as it has a specific reason for being off the radar. I think he also came to Midnight because it’s a place of acceptance. It’s where you may not have gotten the family or the peer group that you’re hoping for, but you end up finding one. I think that’s a great message, it’s something I love about our story, I think most of us in the world don’t end up being born into these perfect idealistic environments, we gotta make the most out of what comes our way and then hopefully we find the peers that uplifts and supports us and doesn’t rip holes into our egos.
What initially drew you to the role?
Jason Lewis: It was the writing. I got to read the pilot episode and seeing the things I just discussed. This was a story that had pathos and ethos and logos. It wasn’t just a piece of fluff entertainment, that you’re dealing with people circumstances and it was relatable. I think that’s when story becomes … I don’t care if it’s a heavy drama or a light romantic comedy, when the audience can put themselves in there and say, “Hey, I can relate to that,” that’s where we gain our relief and our insight for self and that’s what story is really for.
Was there a moment in filming the season, like the first moment that you felt like you really clicked with the character? You were like, I got him.
Jason Lewis: Good question. I’m trying to remember if it happened on the pilot. It happened really quick, and I don’t know if I can mark that right now. I’d just be making something up. But great question. I doesn’t always happen right away. This one it … I don’t know, I did a ton of writing and backstory and imagining on it, it just it was pretty available to me from the go. There were a couple of concerns that I was going in the wrong direction, but it didn’t seem to be an issue. This was pretty easy.
How much did they suggest that you actually look at the book?
Jason Lewis: Not at all. No one suggested that. I just do it out of my own interest.
Does it help when you’re building a character, even if they don’t write to it, does it infuse your own perception of the character in a way?
Jason Lewis: I wanted to know where Charlaine was coming from and creating the world and the tone. Does it help? We’re breaking new ground with this character for sure. There’s a lot more that we’re having to discuss about who the character is as compared to what’s actually in the books. It didn’t hurt. I don’t really know, everybody works different. I want to be saturated with as much information as I could experience. Like I just said, I read a bunch of backstories, I write specific memories for my character. I might find out later that my history is totally wrong, but at least I have an anchor and something real to attach myself to.
Did you get that info from the pilot?
Jason Lewis: Oh, yeah. It’s just how I do acting. I did a lot more after the pilot, cause I had more time. That’s the thing about … You’re on the ground running going, “Have I got all my clothes on? Oh, I’m barefoot, damn.” So I got as much as I could, the pilot happened pretty quick, I had a lot more time afterwards to dive in and create stories and imagine on it and really figure out what was the perspective of this character. One of the things that definitely didn’t come to me until after the pilot was, these guys have been around for a long time, these little trivialities the human beings get stuck on … These have gotta seem so inconsequential to me as a character.
Is he the oldest resident of Midnight?
Jason Lewis: Yes. Yes, I’m an old man. Lemuel [Peter Mensah’s character] is not that old, and the Rev’s not that old. I’m the oldest.
How is working with your writers and the executive producers? Genre shows a lot of times executive producers don’t want to tell their actors anything, they want you to be in the moment, so obviously you’ve been able to build your own backstory, but was there a point post-pilot where Monica or anybody came and said, “Okay, here’s where he’s going”?
Jason Lewis: I cannot praise them enough. Talk about transparency, and Monica is just an incredible woman. She’s a great Mom, she’s an awesome woman, she also happens to be a damn good showrunner. She invited me to meet all the writers and talk with her. It wasn’t something I pushed for, it was something she opened the door wide open for. So our accessibility to speak to them about the character is bar-none. It’s pretty transparent and pretty wonderful. Now, do they tell us everything? No, of course not. They shouldn’t.
Is it weird for you filming a whole season before getting fan interaction and feedback via social media?
Jason Lewis: The hope is greater than it was at the beginning. God, I hope this goes. That’s related to the producers, this is one of the best working environments I’ve ever been in. The people are great, I so love my peerage here. My crew, my cast, my show runners, my producers, directors… So I’m hoping for years of success. No, I would have never paid attention to that anyway in terms of getting what I had to do, because it’s too confusing trying to satisfy everybody. I guess in that, the desire for it to stick around is more great now, and we won’t find out till the fans find out.
Do you guys know anything? Have you asked any questions about, “Hey, so this is happening this week, in the final week of filming, where is this gonna go next season?” Are you guys asking any of those questions?
Jason Lewis: Oh, you know…
I know you can’t talk about it, but as an actor on the show, are you trying to get answers.
Jason Lewis: Some ask more, some ask less. I read the last episode, I can see where they’re kind of going if I used my creative imagination, and I also figured they got a lot more headaches ahead of them. Wow, you guys gotta write this thing, I’ll leave you to it then.
How do you feel this series fit in with other genre shows that are currently on? How would you compare it or say it differs or how would you describe it to potential viewers?
Jason Lewis: Let’s not compare it to other things, because I don’t need to be creating in that way. It’s definitely a genre show in the sense that it will satisfy, and I like genre shows I love supernatural things, I love the fantasy and magic of words you can carry. So there’s definitely the satisfaction of those elements. We’ve got a witch, we got a were-tiger, we’ve got different vampires, and angels, and demons and things. Come on. Where I think often times a show fails is that it relies so heavily on the genre and sometimes forgets the story development and character development. They’ve done a really good job about making these characters consistent and matter, and that the bond and the drive for the characters to act the way they are is because of how they feel about the other characters and themselves. I think we got something good here. Watch it. Silly.
Midnight, Texas premieres on July 24th on NBC at 10/9c! Will you be watching? Let us know your thoughts below!