If you thought it was supposed to be hot — or at least a little toasty — in Hell, you've clearly never been to the set of Lucifer.
Way back in the Before Time — a.k.a. January — I visited one of the Warner Bros. soundstages the Netflix show uses in Burbank, Calif. Not far from the set of the police station that is central to the show's crime-solving stories, I chatted with stars Tom Ellis and Lauren German, who play Lucifer Morningstar and Detective Chloe Decker, respectively. They were thoughtful and attentive — occasionally finishing each other's sentences -- as they talked about their characters' star-crossed, fascinating relationship.
I am duty-bound to report that on that soundstage, it was positively freezing, so much so that German huddled beneath a parka for part of the interview (Ellis braved the chill in one of Lucifer's dapper three-piece suits). You may come up with whatever "Hell freezes over" pun you desire.
The thing is, during the past year or so, Hell kind of did freeze over: Lucifer was canceled — again — until it wasn't.
As the Lucifam knows, the Netflix drama was supposed to wrap up production on its fifth and allegedly final season this spring. Of course, along with the rest of the American TV industry, Lucifer shut down in March in response to the coronavirus pandemic. Not long after that, there was another hitch — this one much more exciting. In June, to the delight of Lucifans everywhere, Netflix decided to order a sixth season of Lucifer. (I recently interrogated Lucifer's showrunners, Ildy Modrovich and Joe Henderson, about all of these developments.)
When Lucifer returns with the first eight of Season 5's 16 episodes on Aug. 21, its loyal audience will be able to binge on the show's energetic mixture of banter, character development, and surprisingly moving emotional themes about abandonment, morality, maturity, and devotion. There's also singing! And a film noir episode to die for!
That said, despite the love they have for each other, things are often hellishly difficult for Lucifer's characters — in a dramatically pleasing way, of course. When the season begins, the king of Hell is stuck down in those lower depths, trying to control his demonic subjects and put condemned humans through their suffering paces (as one does). Back on Earth, Chloe and Lucifer's friends are dealing with their sudden separation from him — a development that brings with it its own twist, one revealed in this trailer.
Season 5 is not only well worth the wait, it features guest star Dennis Haysbert as Lucifer's dad (yes, Haysbert plays God), Supernatural fan favorite Rob Benedict as an intriguing new character, and also the return of Tricia Helfer.
Below, German and Ellis address the history of Deckerstar, how the show has evolved since Season 1, and hint at what's to come.
When you look back at the first season of Lucifer, what evolutions and changes have surprised you the most?
Tom Ellis: You start a show in Season 1, and you really have no idea where it's going to go. In the pilot script, Lucifer was a very irreverent character. He didn't seem to care about anything other than himself. It was just, f-- his dad and f-- everyone. He just doesn't care anymore. He's decided to do things his own way. When we shot the pilot, the relationship with Decker — it was apparent that it was something that was going to blossom. I don't think I'd really comprehended what a journey it would be, and how kind of less devilish Lucifer would become as he evolves and spends more time with humanity. Especially as he spends more time with the Detective, and what that brings out of him.
Lauren German: You look back now, and Lucifer's been helping do such wonderful things with Chloe — helping get bad guys, and he helps her learn about herself. You would never think, even when you and I got the roles, that it would have turned into this very sentimental, caring friendship where there are feelings. Where this man, Lucifer, has just been more like an angel who has helped.
German: Yeah, I know! I know. Not necessarily a fallen angel. Just a really great angel.
Ellis: That's quite interesting — [the characters have] been like angels in each other's lives. We spent five years pulling the layers back, having a character that was very stoically one way, and then realizing — and seeing him realize — that there's much more to him than that. And that has been exposed by the Detective, basically. They are the most vulnerable when they're with each other.
That's so interesting, because the Detective makes Lucifer vulnerable, physically, but they've made each other…
Ellis: Emotionally vulnerable.
Chloe Decker has undoubtedly influenced Lucifer to a great degree. But how do you think Chloe has changed as an individual, whether changed by Lucifer or just by circumstance?
German: I feel like Chloe has become more tender and more OK, at this point, with being vulnerable emotionally, like Tom was just saying. I think that her and [her ex-husband and colleague] Dan probably had a great relationship, but there's nothing with anyone ever before [comparable to] what she feels with Lucifer. There's just such respect there.
I think she's always in awe of how he helps people and how he helps her come out of her shell and feel things she hasn't really felt with anybody. There's a lot of love and respect there, and her vulnerability is more present than ever before — but that can often be the most intoxicating element in a relationship. Someone that keeps you on your toes can be thrilling. It can be a different level of love from the love she has for Trixie or for Dan. It's just this… you know… sad fireworks. [Both Ellis and German laugh]
If you look at Chloe early on in the show's run, Chloe had quite a few defenses up. But then again, I'm not sure which character had more walls up.
Ellis: Yeah, they both had walls up. But the weird thing with Lucifer was that he was very open with everybody about the fact he was the Devil, including with the Detective, but she wasn't having any of it. Actually that sort of played into their relationship because without that element, Lucifer is kind of nothing, he's stripped down to, "Well, what is it you see in me?"
I think the interesting thing, for both of the characters' development, has been when the Detective found out he actually was the Devil at the end of Season 3. In a weird sort of way, that's like Lucifer's biggest fear — that she actually found out. He assumed at the beginning of Season 4 that she had disappeared and that's it. You know, no one wants to know the Devil.
And the knowledge that she left put him in metaphorical hell.
Ellis: Yeah, he was in a personal hell about that. That's why it was so disappointing when we got canceled [by Fox]. It was like, we just got to the [midpoint of the story], and I wondered what the second half of the story was going to be. [That revelation] laid down challenges for our characters. The fact that she knows he's the Devil and she suddenly has to forget all these things about science and logic — all the things that made her the person that she is — she's able to see through that, and still see the man beyond that. And that is quite an amazing and humbling experience for Lucifer.
I started watching it thinking it was a charming, fun, witty show. But it's turned into this sweeping love story. Did you expect to go in this epic romance direction?
German: I didn't. I never projected it feeling this genuine. The fact that Lucifer and Chloe have never been together or dated — when that happens in life with someone, we've all been there, where you may want to be with someone but for whatever reason, you can't. If you love the person and they're still in your life, it forces you to get to know them better and love them in a different way than maybe just a physical way.
So I think, luckily, through our trials and tribulations, Chloe and Lucifer have been forced to get to know each other in a way that brings so much more depth to the friendship and the love and the respect. [The fact that we've gone down that path] for so long — it just feels like it means so much. As opposed to maybe in Season 2 or something, if we just started dating — then it becomes about that. This feels so tender and precious and beautiful because it's been kept at arm's length a bit. I love that.
It's almost like, when it comes to their relationship, there's a hesitance to plunge fully in, because what if you break it?
Ellis: Yeah. That is a lot of how Lucifer feels. When we find ourselves in Season 5, he's in a place where he is acknowledging all these things — but for him, that is terrifying, because what if, like he has done many times in the past, what if he messes all that up?
Like that one time he got exiled from Heaven. That's a bit scarring, right?
Ellis: Exactly! Completely scarring. Weirdly, as someone who presents as supremely confident, he's actually his biggest doubter. Especially when it comes to something like this, because this is new territory. All these feelings that he's been exposed to and is feeling — he doesn't know what to do with them, because that's not his safe place. He's been seemingly happy to just do what he wants and say what he wants. But actually, when it comes down to it, he's as vulnerable as everybody else when it comes to sharing your emotions with someone.
Going back to your question, when you start off with a pilot script, for me first thing that was appealing was the fun of the character and the relationship of these two and the fact that you've got someone whom he doesn't affect in the same way as everybody else. That was the conceit to start with.
Knowing where that was going to go and knowing it's going to turn into this big epic love saga — I don't think either of us really comprehended that. Because the other thing about when you're approaching pilots, you're kind of led to believe [the shorthand description] — "This is a medical drama," "This is a procedural cop drama," and so forth. When people were trying to shoehorn this into one of those soundbites in the early days, it would have been easy for us to think, "Oh well, we'll just do a case of the week and that will be that." That's been the beauty of the show — yes, there is this procedural element to it, but it's consistently affected by how these two feel about each other.
German: Thank goodness. Imagine...
Ellis: Could you imagine?
German: It's been deeper than that, thank god — thank you writers, a lot. Thank you, everyone!
So when we left Chloe at the end of Season 4, she told Lucifer she loves him. And then he went home. What's that like for someone who had those walls up?
German: I think it's pretty brutal. For someone like Chloe, who really does have so many walls up, finally, finally she gets to this point where she just can't almost take it anymore, and is so in love with him, and she tells him. And he leaves. And so…
Ellis: …And it seems reciprocated — well, it is. But there's something in that last scene that didn't happen and that is kind of fuel for our [fifth] season. You know, [Lucifer] didn't actually reciprocate what was said.
German: I think Chloe's heartbroken, but it's like, you can't turn off love. It's actually really fun to play the element of, "He said what he said" — or hasn't said — "and this is where I'm at and this is how I'm feeling." Chloe is maybe feeling a little rejection, a little heartbreak, but she's smart enough and knows him enough to go, "There's such good in there. I know it."
Ellis: She has an incredible amount of faith in Lucifer, which is really quite warming.
German: Yeah. It's consistent.
But is there an element of danger in the whole situation? All these very restless demons we saw at the end of Season 4 probably want to run around and do demon-y things, I would imagine.
German: But for Chloe, all he's ever done is protect or help me. I wouldn't necessarily want to see his anger, which I've seen a couple of times. But I think Chloe feels very safe with him.
And as for Lucifer taking his throne back — it's been a while since he was down in Hell. I would imagine that's not going to be a simple task.
Ellis: No, it's not that simple. At the beginning of Season 5, our characters are poles apart celestially, and geographically as well. And how we get them back together — that's not really a spoiler because you know that at some point they will get back together in the same room — it does kind of cement this faith that they have in each other. But it's like you say, nothing is simple when there are celestial threats around.
The first half of Lucifer Season 5 premieres Friday, Aug. 21 on Netflix.