NBC's new supernatural drama Midnight, Texas is based on the novel trilogy of the same name by Charlaine Harris, and if that name sounds familiar to you, it's because it should. Harris' Southern Vampire Mysteries were the basis for HBO's True Blood, which turned the book franchise into an immediate megahit and made Harris a well-known name.
But even though Midnight, Texas — about a small Southern town that serves as a refuge for various supernatural beings — shares similarities with True Blood, showrunner Monica Owusu-Breen was attracted to the books for how they're different from True Blood.
TV Guide talked to Owusu-Breen about the new series and how the similarities and differences between True Blood helped make the show stand on its own.
Because Midnight, Texas is from Charlaine Harris' book and it's full of supernatural creatures, there's a STRONG True Blood tone to the show. How much of that similarity was intentional? Also, I'm not complaining, I love True Blood.
Look, Charlaine writes these worlds. She writes Midnight, Texas the novel, where a Southern town is filled with supernatural people, a different part of the South to be sure. And it's thematically different, but the world is very similar, I mean that's where Charlaine lives. For me, I love supernatural [things], it has those similarities but I think that's Charlaine's DNA coming through.
Did you do anything to try to differentiate it in anyway?
Monica Owusu-Breen: I wanted to be true to the themes within the novel, which for me felt very different than True Blood. Because when I read it, I knew it had the DNA of a show that was very popular, but the themes felt very different to me. A very diverse town in the middle of a hostile environment, where they have to commit to their community and defend one another. But certainly, that was on my mind, you know. [Laughs] I understood. I watched True Blood, I got it. It was a little bit of an exercise in "Can this be done for network, and what would that look like?"
To be perfectly honest, the novels are chaste. The novels are about love stories, they're not about sex, and characters did not have sex that much. So it also felt like I didn't have to rethink the world that Charlaine wrote either. It felt comfortably in the vein of what could be done on network television.
True Blood was metaphorically powerful in that vampires were used as a stand-in for marginalized communities, specifically the LGBT community. What social or political themes run through Midnight, Texas?
Owusu-Breen: I think Midnight, Texas is a group of people in the middle of America who are diverse, who come from different backgrounds, who sought sanctuary and solace in a place where they respect one another's differences. And it's how do we become community in the face of our differences?
I loved my winter in Midnight, Texas this year, when the country felt so fractured. Among all of us on set, being on Midnight almost felt like a little wish fulfillment. Look, everyone is so different. All these characters came from these really different histories, they all have pain and rage and anger at people, and they're brought here, but here they find a community that accepts them warts and all, differences and all. They are Midnighters, the Midnighter accommodates all that difference. I feel like our country feels very fractured, differences do feel so insurmountable. For me there's a very honest truth about America which is, we're diverse. And we can actually be a community despite that, that doesn't take away from the community.
So there's a kind of wish fulfillment, I call it "the kind heart of Midnight." There's a hopefulness about community mattering and being able to supercede difference through love.
Aww, that's sweet. The pilot was made over a year ago, do you think things would have changed if a certain someone wasn't elected president?
Owusu-Breen: No, I mean that was what attracted me to the books, frankly, There's a moment in the third book where Fiji stands in the middle of Witchlight Road and says, "Look at this town, there are Latina people and black people and white people and we're all here and we're all Midnighters, and that's so beautiful to live in a place like that." So for me, that one little sentiment from a character in the third book was always something that — you know, you asked me how I wanted to differentiate it from True Blood considering that the DNA is so similar — that was something that was so important for me.
Midnight, Texas premieres Monday, July 24 at 10/9c.