Lucifer has been called many things over the ages: Devil, Prince of Darkness, Beelzebub, and of course, good old Satan. What you've rarely, if ever, heard him called is compassionate - something that may change once Fox's Luciferpremieres later this month.
A loose adaptation of DC Entertainment's comic book character from The Sandman, the show follows fallen angel Lucifer Morningstar (Tom Ellis) who's now in Los Angeles after getting a bit bored with his fiery domain. After befriending LAPD detective Chloe Decker ( Rachael Harris), he helps her solve crimes, learning a lot about people and developing empathy for them in the process. He's an alien with a fresh perspective on human behavior - just one with a well-known and misunderstood backstory.
"Lucifer is fascinated by crimes and why people are motivated to do what they do," executive producer Len Wiseman said Friday at the Television Critics Association winter previews. "It's a study for him where he just wants to see why humans are doing what they're doing." Here, Lucifer isn't so much evil as he is mischievous, carnal, and brutally honest about what he wants. "Lucifer is about exploring humanity and desires," said executive producer Joe Henderson. "There's no pretense." Los Angeles is a natural setting for Lucifer, since, as Wiseman put it, "L.A. is a place is based on desires and passion, bad and good. It's the perfect playground for him."
Lucifer doesn't lie, but he does compel people to reveal their most base urges without trying. There's a high element of camp, which, in the pilot, works at times and then feels silly. Lucifer is predictably suave, what with his English accent, slim cut suits and sleek sports car and nightclub that he owns, Lux. (Because the Devil must be a politician, Wall Street broker or a nightclub owner — never a mechanic, or marine biologist, right?) In one scene, Lucifer charms his way into the cartoonishly thug-filled mega-mansion of a rapper by telling the butler he has narcotics; later, he compels an about-to-be married woman to announce, at the altar, she has no plans to sleep with her betrothed.
Unlike Jessica Jones' suave Kilgrave - who we fear, respect and find a little bit sexy for having similar powers - Lucifer feels a bit like a teenage boy with his dad's Amex. But the perpetual teen mindset was intentional, producers said, as was the decision to make him a charming a--hole. None of his powers work on Decker though, whose humorless gravitas balances him and intrigues him.
"Are you at all aware of how dickish you sound?" she asks Lucifer in the pilot.
"No," he replied, perhaps making it one of the most meta exchanges you'll see on TV this season.
The actors, though, are enjoying the ride and not too concerned with the perception that they're delighting in the celebration of dark forces. In fact, Ellis' father, sister and uncle are all pastors, and they're all supportive. "I grew up with very human side of Christianity - peace, love, understanding of everybody, which I think is quite cool," he said. "They're all super excited I'm doing it. It's not some big theological debate. It's fun. Everyone feels they have a certain perception of the devil, and we're using that to tell a story." If there's any message to be taken away he said, it's that, instead of shuttling responsibility for our own behavior to some mysterious force, "we should take a look at ourselves and our own actions."
Lucifer premieres Monday. Jan 25 at 9/8c on Fox.