Tom Ellis on How Netflix Saved ‘Lucifer’, a Shorter Season 4, and the Show’s Future

     May 8, 2019

In Season 4 of the drama series Lucifer, making the big move to Netflix after being canceled by Fox, Chloe Decker (Lauren German) is finally facing the fact that Lucifer Morningstar (Tom Ellis) has been telling her the truth about who he is, all along. What that means for their budding relationship still remains to be seen, as pretty much everyone in Lucifer’s life is left to wonder exactly what path they want to be on.

During this 1-on-1 phone interview with Collider, actor Tom Ellis talked about the journey from cancellation at Fox to pick-up at Netflix and what happened in the time between, the show’s very loyal and very vocal fan base, how only having 10 episodes worked to their benefit, the character dynamics in Season 4, how he came to be singing Radiohead’s “Creep” in the Season 4 premiere, new characters, the Lucifer-Chloe relationship, flashbacks, and the possibility of a Season 5.

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Image via Netflix

Collider: It’s obviously not unheard of, these days, for a show to get canceled by one network and picked up by another, but it’s also not something that’s guaranteed. When you got the news about the cancellation, were you immediately hopeful that the show would find another home, or were you convinced that that was it?

TOM ELLIS: For about 36 hours, I was convinced that would be it. Then, I had a call. Basically, the moment that it was announced on social media that the show was canceled, was the moment I started to feel better about everything because, within an hour of that announcement, my phone had just gone absolutely crazy. The outpouring from everywhere was really overwhelming, but at that point, I was still crushed and gutted. Then, the next day, because of that outpouring, I got a call from Warner Bros. saying that it hadn’t gone unnoticed, and that they were going to try to find a new home for it. In that period of time, I encouraged people to keep making noise because it seemed to have at least made a conversation start. Once there was a conversation, there was still hope, even though I knew that the chances of it being picked up were really slim. I think that the constant knocking on the door from the fans, Netflix was subsequently as overwhelmed and happy to see the response, and it felt like a good fit for them to have us. When eventually it was picked up, I was obviously thrilled, but I was more thrilled for the fans than anybody because they just really, really wanted it.

It’s one thing to know that you have fans and that they’re very devoted and loyal, but it’s another to hear them all talking at once about saving the show. Did it surprise you that they were that vocal?

ELLIS: I’ve had this strange feeling for awhile, where I knew that there was stuff happening at Fox with the Disney takeover, and that our figures on Fox didn’t truly represent how popular the show was because there was a huge following for the show, outside of the Fox domain. I did have a feeling that, if Fox canceled the show, that there may well be some unhappy people out there. I just don’t think anyone really figured on quite how many there were, and how loud their unhappiness would come to the surface.

You’ve previously said that, even though things had seemed positive, at the last minute, you heard that that maybe it would all fall apart. Do you know why things almost fell apart and how close they actually came to falling apart?

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Image via Netflix

ELLIS: The thing is, what goes on behind closed doors with the business side of the industry, I really don’t have a massive knowledge about. I know that it’s never straightforward. I think a lot of it was about Netflix having to reclaim the rights, globally, from various places, in order to secure having it. That was a lengthy process. So, until I’m sitting on a set, ready to film the first scene, I’ve learned that anything can happen, at the last minute. It was a strange one. 

Regardless of the move from Fox to Netflix, it still feels like the same show that you would have been making, if that move had never happened. Was it also important, especially four seasons into a series, to keep the show feeling like the show?

ELLIS: Well, yeah. One of the big things that came out of out the whole Save Lucifer campaign was not only how vocal our audience was, but how big and eclectic they were. It seems to appeal to lots of people, across generations. There are not many shows that cater to all of that. I think one of the reasons was that because we were on Fox, we had boundaries in place and we could never go too far. We could never go vulgar. We could never curse, all the time. There are things that alienate certain audience members, and we became very mindful of that, once the show got picked up by Netflix. So, even though we have new boundaries that we can operate in, we wanted to make sure that we didn’t change the show that people have fallen in love with. We wanted to keep our audience and grow our audience, and becoming aware of the broad appeal of the show was quite important in that.

It seems like the biggest difference is the fact that you guys did 10 episodes for the season. Does it feel like you’ve stuffed a lot of material into that 10 episodes?

ELLIS: I think it’s the opposite, actually. What happens when you’re on a network and you have to 22 episodes is that you end up diluting and elongating and really stretching out a story. It’s quite a challenge. My favorite episodes, at least when we were on Fox, were always the ones that were rich with story. The result of having 10 episodes a season is actually a benefit for the show because you get the best version of it. You get the lean, great storytelling, for all of our characters, all the way through the 10 episodes, and it makes it more compelling. Plus, now it all comes out at once, which means that people can do what they like to do and binge it. I’ve watched this season, and I feel like it’s our strongest season, for lots of reasons. The fact that now you can sit down and watch them, one after the other, really changes that. The end of every episode has got something where you want to know what’s next.

One of the best things about the show is the character relationships and the great dynamics between everybody. What did you most enjoy about those character dynamics, this season?

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Image via Netflix

ELLIS: I feel like where we’re able to go with Lucifer and Chloe, because now she knows, her world has just been torn apart. Lauren and I got to do scenes that were really raw, heavy, emotional scenes that we’ve not been able to do thus far because we’ve had to play with that conceit of her not really believing that he’s the devil. So, I found myself in scenes with her that were just a joy to act in. Subsequently, with other characters this season, like Kevin [Alejandro], who plays Dan, he’s been quite a comedic character for a season or so, but this season, he’s really going through it and dealing with some stuff. Across the board, with all of our characters, what I would say about this season is that it’s the most personal season that we’ve done. That’s kept it fresh for everybody. I felt like a proud dad, watching it. I just felt like I was watching all of my castmates, who I adore, just doing really great work, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. It’s not easy for me to say that I’ve sat down and watched something I’m in and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed it when I watched it because that’s really quite hard. I’m terrible at doing that, but this season was just such a joy.

It’s interesting to see all of the characters struggling with their place in things, this season, with Amenadiel being dissatisfied with what he’s always wanted, and Maze not knowing where she fits in, and everything that Ella is going through.

ELLIS: Everyone is having a crisis of something, whether it’s a crisis of faith, or a crisis of who they are and their identity. Lucifer and Dan have got similar things going on. They’ve been in a lot of pain and they need to forgive themselves, or they need to work out that they need to forgive themselves, before they forgive anyone else. Those two characters are at the opposite ends of the spectrum, but it’s quite interesting how thematically similar our characters’ journeys are, without them understanding that about each other.

I love that this season kicks off with you singing Radiohead’s “Creep” because I love that song. Was there much conversation about what song to sing, or was it always that song that you wanted to sing for that episode?

ELLIS: In my down time, what I quite like to do is annoy Joe [Henderson] and Ildy [Modrovich] with ideas. I’ve always got my guitar on set, or in my trailer, and at some point last season, I went to Ildy and said, “I’ve been working on the Radiohead song “Creep” because I love it, but the more I play it, the more I think that we need to have it in the show, at some point. It feels so relevant about Chloe and Lucifer. I just don’t know where.” Then, I opened Episode 1 of this season and I was like, “Oh, there it is.” It was perfect for what we wanted to do, taking that song and having Lucifer make it about himself, which he likes to do. It also helped, in that opening sequence, to create a period of time and trying to get into our story that way. I hoped that we’d get to use it one day, and then, when we did get to do that, it felt right.

It’s one thing to love a song and want to do the song in the show, but it’s another thing to possibly have to do many, many takes of it. Did you ever get to a point where you just never wanted to hear the song again?

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Image via Netflix

ELLIS: Oh, my god, yeah, when we finished filming that sequence. The way that we shot it, we had this big camera shot that was programmed into a computer, so once we lined up the shot, which took a good couple of hours, that was it. We would just then change out bits, and I’d come back and sing it again. I think I probably did it about 21 times, on the day, plus rehearsals, so yeah, I was quite over that song, by the end of that day. We need to take a break from each other.

You have the very interesting addition of Father Kinley, who we don’t really know what to make of, when we first meet him. How will he affect things, especially between Chloe and Lucifer, and what does Graham McTavish add to the series?

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