Lucifer’s back... and his satanic majesty requests your presence
From Miranda to Lucifer: it’s an audience with the dashing devil himself.
The greatest trick the devil ever pulled was going from a supporting role in Miranda – Britain’s wackiest sitcom – to leading one of America’s hottest new shows: Lucifer, the strange and not-entirely-serious story of Satan’s crime-solving adventures in LA.
It’s a show that initially confused the critics, who felt it was fluffy, disposable and nothing like the comics it was based on, which were themselves a spin-off from Neil Gaiman’s Sandman. But the show eventually found its feet – becoming something fun, snappy and deceptively deep. This was helped, of course, by Tom Ellis, whose portrayal of Lucifer was cheeky and charming; whose charisma was able to power the show even through its most frivolous of moments, ensuring that fans stuck around to see it all truly pay off.
On a sweltering day in June, SFX caught up with Ellis to talk the reaction to series one, what’s to come in series two and – the big question – just who the hell is Lucifer’s mother? It’s fair to say that – at first, at least – critics were not fans of Lucifer. But the series did start to click into place as it progressed, and found a loyal audience. Do you think we write off shows too easily?
There’s a lot of pre-conceived ideas of what people think the show might be. We got a lot of viewers to start with, but what’s been nice is the gradual increase in our fan base. And I think that’s mainly because people have been surprised about the show. It is a fun show, it’s an entertaining show. It’s not going to change the world. For a lot of people stuff has to be edgy and people – certainly critics – can be a bit snobby about stuff that isn’t. I mean, when Miranda started we had quite a lot of snobby people saying “what is this ridiculous show?” and then, despite themselves, people started to like it. And I think that’s what’s happening here. What’s attracted that fan base, do you think?
Around the world, culturally, there is a devil character in each religion. So there’s an air of intrigue among people because of that. But I think the reason this has done so well is because it’s been a different spin on it: the devil not wanting to be the devil anymore, and him on a road to redemption. I think in a lot of devil stories he’s this sort of fixed character; he is evil and that’s that. This one’s about an evolution of that character. Given how many version of the devil there are, how did you even begin to approach this as a role?
A lot of it was in the script. Tom Kapinos, who created Californication, wrote the original pilot script and does antihero characters well. But the more I was reading it the more it was reminding me of the Peter Cook Bedazzled movie. I’m a big Cook fan and that was a big inspiration. Did you find it difficult to balance the quippy nature of Lucifer with some of the heavier, more dramatic stuff ?
It’s a fine line. The nice thing was that when we shot the pilot we had a bit more time than you usually would have. So if we weren’t sure about stuff tonally we would try it lots of different ways. We had options when it came to getting the show together. The hardest thing when you’re making something is finding out what your show is – you don’t always know that when you’re filming. Where do you think Lucifer needs to go next?
I think the show really hit its stride by about the middle of the first season. And I think the reason that happened was because there was this story about his wings being stolen. And for the first time you realise that the stakes are higher than you thought. And the way that we left season one with mum escaping hell – that means that for our main characters the stakes are all higher at the beginning of season two. And so I think, with the stakes being high, our stories will resonate better and the series will kick off faster. But you know, more of the same too! The nice thing is when you do a second season you get to iron out the creases, and evaluate what is working and what isn’t working so well. Do you think series two will start opening up the relationship between Lucifer and his father?
I think it’s at the core of Lucifer’s troubles, of what’s propelling him. Seeking some sort of peace or resolution is not something I think he’s actively looking for but something that he needs to find. We will continue opening that up. Otherwise it would be a sort of glib, flippant thing. And I think we need to earn those dramatic moments, they’re important. It’s nice to make people laugh and then pull the rug beneath their feet with something like “A Priest Walks Into A Bar”, where we started to explore theology. All of a sudden our audience realised that they’re a lot more invested than they thought they were.
Lucifer returns to Amazon Prime in September.