TOM EL­LIS

Lu­cifer’s back... and his sa­tanic majesty re­quests your pres­ence

SFX: The Sci-Fi and Fantasy Magazine - - Contents - Words by Stephen Kelly /// Photography by Maarten de Boer

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.

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