Interviewed by Jaimee Jakobczak @ThisIsJaimee
Photography Greg Vaughan
Styling Javon Drake
Grooming Gerald DeCock using Oribe Hair Care
Canadian born Francois Arnaud quickly gained mass attention as Cesare Borgia in The Borgias and he’s kept himself quite busy ever since. The Montreal native let VULKAN in on his experience working with fellow Canadian darlings the Levy’s on Schitt’s Creek, his recent feature length film Permission, and his brand new series, Midnight, Texas, premiering July 24th, 2017 on NBC.
You appeared in Schitt’s Creek this year which happens to be a very Canadian cast. How was it working with the Levy’s? Did you catch a lot of family-bickering on set?
I was so excited to be a part of Schitts’s Creek that I don’t think I ate much during the shoot at all. To be in the presence of these comedy legends just tied a knot in my stomach. But everyone was so easy and welcoming and loving and they’re all so comfortable on that set, it was just a real pleasure. It’s literally a family affair for them and it feels like they want everyone to feel like they’re a part of that. We went for drinks on my last day and I just didn’t want to leave at all. The quality of the writing is just phenomenal. It’s so funny and sharp and incisive but all character-driven and with so much heart. And it came at the perfect time for me. I’ve been wanting to flex my comedy muscles and so I’ve been leaning toward that side of things lately. Even though I find the work to be of the same nature. It’s still about finding the more authentic performance, albeit to a different end. And there is often a lot of humor to be found in the most dramatic situation.
You’ve had a pretty versatile career thus far. Out of all the roles you’ve played, which one has been the most challenging?
The Borgias was a pretty awesome challenge. I know some actors are very experienced at 24 years old, but I was still very green in so many ways. So to travel to Budapest, to work opposite Jeremy Irons and with Neil Jordan, in an English accent, after having exaggerated (lied about) the extent of my horse-riding and sword-fighting skills, that was all a trip.
You have a new show premiering soon on NBC called Midnight, Texas. In it, you play a charming psychic/medium to spirits that have crossed over. Had you ever had your palms read or had a tarot reading before?
I did a little bit of research on the subject while preparing for the role and met with a few psychics, firmly deciding to leave my skepticism at the door. I really wanted to look at it from the perspective of someone who believes. Who has no choice but to believe. Psychic Ana, who I met in Albuquerque, was particularly generous. She let me into her routine and was very helpful with tons of practical details. Then obviously I have to work with a script and the show is all about entertainment and thrills and I’m very aware that it isn’t a documentary. But ultimately I think it’s good to have a few jokers in your back pocket. Or a tarot card 🙂
Your character, Manfred Bernardo, ends up moving to the small town and has to learn to trust the people he meets rather quickly; if you moved to Midnight, do you think you would be as trusting of your neighbours?
Well the thing is, Manfred doesn’t really have anything to lose. His best friend is his dead grandma’s ghost, he doesn’t have a dime, and his self-esteem is at an all-time low. So he’s pretty hard to threaten at this point. I, on the other hand, am completely chickenshit. And very wary of strangers’ good intentions.
What would you say is Manfred’s biggest motivator. Fear? Love? An intrinsic desire to help those in need?
I actually think Manfred is pretty selfish at the beginning of the story and he’s mostly interested in saving his own ass. Then he falls in love. And people keep telling him he has the power to do good and help others. That can go a pretty long way. I think most people start wanting to get better when we tell them they can. Or that they’re already better than they think. That’s where the idea of faith comes into this story. It’s not ultimately about faith in superior beings, but faith in yourself, in the power of community. And the power of love, as Celine Dion famously sang.
The situations that Manfred finds himself in would be a nightmare for most people. What’s your biggest fear, and are you someone that tackles your fears head on?
My biggest fear is to lose the ones I love. And to not be good enough to the ones I love. To cause more harm than good or to not be present enough. I’ve tackled that in a number of ways. To varying degrees of success…
Your latest film Permission revolves around the theme of polygamy, something that a lot of people still consider pretty taboo. Do you believe in soulmates or are you more open to the polyamorous side of things?
I think Permission poses a lot of questions that reflect my generation’s concerns. Everyone seems to want the success-story, the fairytale but with the guarantee that they’re not missing out on anything else. Permission doesn’t give any easy answers, but it doesn’t cower from uncomfortable situations and ideas. I think it’s timely, but in the end it’s a specific story about specific people who make specific mistakes. It’s certainly not a guidebook to navigate polygamy. And it’s very funny too!
I don’t know… whatever floats your boat I guess. But I believe in honesty and humility and trying not to hurt the people you care about.