[Editor’s note: The following contains spoilers for Lucifer, Season 5, Episode 8, “Spoiler Alert.”]
Lucifer has a pretty devoted fanbase, but the show’s biggest fans might be showrunners Joe Henderson and Ildy Modrovich. “I can honestly say this has been my personal best experience I’ve had working in television,” Modrovich said in a recent phone interview about the unconventional procedural drama, in which the titular Lord of Hell (played by Tom Ellis) helps the Los Angeles Police Department solve crimes. (“Don’t overthink it,” Lucifer literally sings at one point.)
Ellis’s charming performance, coupled with some wild plot twists, the occasional musical number, and a compelling will-they-or-won’t-they romance between Lucifer and his beloved Detective (Lauren German), have enabled the show to outlast all expectations. Before speaking with Henderson and Modrovich, I spent a few weeks hanging out with Lucifer for the first time, which meant discovering some of the repercussions that resulted from the show’s unconventional history — three seasons which originally aired on Fox, before being revived by Netflix for additional seasons. And even that journey has been a roller coaster, with the show receiving a fifth season renewal that was meant to end the story, until Netflix changed its mind and decided to renew it for an unexpected sixth and final season.
How did that decision affect the originally planned ending for Season 5? Where does production stand, thanks to the pandemic? What went into deciding to finally let Lucifer and Chloe consummate their relationship in the newest batch of episodes, just released on Netflix? How do Henderson and Modrovich feel about the topsy-turvy (and ultra-long) Season 3? And will God (Dennis Haysbert) sing in the upcoming musical episode? One of those questions does not get answered, but all the rest do in the interview below.
Collider: To start off, I wanted to get your sense, even going back as far as Season 1, about what this journey has been like for you?
MODROVICH: It has been such a sneak attack, in terms of the success of the show. We were fans, always, along the way, and I think there was a lot less pressure because we weren’t a high profile show. People weren’t watching us until we got canceled. [laughs] We were working in a bubble, and pleasing ourselves, and I think in a way that working under those circumstances gave a little bit of freedom to do more of what we wanted, and gave the characters a chance to find themselves without all those eyes on us. The freedom was really great. Now that we are aware that people are watching, it makes it so much sweeter. We were having fun anyway, without feeling like we were even a success.
HENDERSON: Yeah. It’s funny because early on we realized that the Devil solving crimes in Los Angeles, which on its own is its own sort of absurd concept, and decided to just pack everything we love about TV into it, and just make it as fun and weird and dark and silly, and everything as possible, and it was selfish because those were all the toys we wanted to play with, and all of the things we wanted to do, and so it was so awesome was that people kept discovering it and finding it and loving the same things we loved. It has been this incredible journey because we love making this show. We are the biggest fans of this show, and hopefully not in a patting-ourselves-on-the-back way, but we love making it. We love when the actors surprise us. We love when production surprises us. We love watching our own show because it’s not ours, Ildy and I or the writers, it’s everyone who works on it. It’s been pretty incredible.
MODROVICH: I was going to say I think the other reason why, something Joe said, the other reason why the show was so fun for us was because we looked at how it’s a police procedural but it’s also mythological. We literally put everything, but the kitchen sink in there. Because we’re like, we want to have a show where we can laugh at the jokes, and then cry at the end of the episode because we relate to something on an emotional level, and why not have all of those things? Because that’s what life is, right? Is all those things. I think, again, by having the freedom, and not having so much scrutiny around us, we were able to squish all of those things in, and people didn’t fight us so much on it. Not that they would fight us or anything. I mean they didn’t.
This is something where, watching as a Netflix subscriber versus having watched it as it originally aired, I did find myself occasionally noting stuff, like oh, this episode was meant to be in Season 2, or these episodes maybe were meant for Season 4. I know a lot of these issues are out of your control, but how do you approach that legacy?
HENDERSON: It’s funny because we had a conversation as we were working with Netflix on what to do about the episodes that were going to be in Season 4, and it was really nice. The fans fill in the blanks pretty well. People can sort of, “Oh, okay, there’s two episodes after the Season 3 finale. I get what they are.” We just embrace it as part of the strange journey our show has been on. There are these quirks with it, which is Season 3 was the weirder season because it’s got all of these episodes that had to sort of exist in a bubble, and then episodes that had to be written around them. Having said that, some of those episodes are some of my favorites, because they’re the episodes we took these weird swings on, and they sort of expanded the vocabulary of what our show could be, and that it gets a little bit more into doing musicals or doing an entire episode from a character we’d never met’s POV. Honestly, the shortest answer is that it’s been gratifying that the fans are just sort of going along with it, and understood that even if it’s a bit jarring at times, it’s the legacy of the show.
MODROVICH: We’re not weird. We’re quirky.
I think the thing about Season 3 is there’s all of that, plus the rollercoaster that is the Cain storyline. There’s a lot going on there.
HENDERSON: Yes, and it’s 26 episodes, which is insane. Okay, Season 1, that’s 13. That’s not bad. Season 2, 18. 26!
MODROVICH: And then back to 10. We’re just all over the place, yeah.
HENDERSON: We’re a mess. We’re a hot mess. We’re the hot mess of shows. There’s our quote.
MODROVICH: Then Season 5 is 16. Yeah.
To shift slightly in the spoiler territory — the renewal came in for Season 6, but of course, Season 5 was originally going to be the final season. At what point did you have a sense that there might be another season beyond Season 5?
MODROVICH: We were actually writing the finale of Season 5 — the season and series finale, like the end. Joe and I were writing it, and I was in the middle of writing act six — so the final act of the final episode of the series — and they were like, “Hey Joe, what if there was another season?” It was whiplash, to be honest, and we were very foreign at first, when we first heard it. To be honest, we actually were like, “No!” Because we had crafted what we thought was a really satisfying ending. We thought we had stuck it, and we were very worried about having a subsequent season.
It just felt like a denouement to what we thought was such a swan song, but then we talked with the room about it for a couple of days, and just tossed ideas around until we found a story that we realized was a whole other chapter that we just hadn’t thought of. We realized we have one more story to tell. Now we can’t imagine not telling that story.
Is the original ending for Season 5, which would have been the ending for the series, still going to be a part of Season 6?
HENDERSON: One of the big things that we said when we agreed to Season 6 is that we did not want to change Season 5 because we loved Season 5. When the back half gets released from Season 5, when Season 5B gets released, I think people will see how much the whole season fits together like, I think, a beautiful jigsaw puzzle. I love it. We didn’t want to change the ending, but what we did is we just ended Season 5. We basically lopped off the act six that Ildy was in the middle of writing, and these stories that we sort of were speeding through anyways, we realized, in retrospect, we were sort of moving really fast on some things and summarizing moments that could actually be stories.
Season 5 is exactly what it was always going to be, except the very, very end of it is now its own season, plus all these new ideas that we came up with as we dug into it and explored it. It was really important to us to make sure that Season 5 stayed its own story, and then challenge ourselves to find a new story where we didn’t think there was any. Once we found it, like Ildy said, it’s hard to imagine not telling it.
Along those lines, if you had known at the beginning of Season 5 that there would be a Season 6, would Lucifer and the Detective still have gotten together in the first half of Season 5?
MODROVICH: That’s such a good question because I don’t know. I am really glad we didn’t know. I’m really glad we got to do everything that we did in Season 5 thinking it was the last season, because I think it really does wow people. It’s going to wow people, I hope. I think we can just feel like holy cow, they really just went for it and played a bunch of exciting cards, and the truth is I don’t know if we would have played all of them, if we had known. Maybe we would have saved something. Like, that God comes in this year, maybe we would save that. I’m really glad we didn’t because having God come in this season, like I said, sort of presented this new story that we hadn’t thought to tell.
HENDERSON: Yes. So much of what I love about TV is that the characters surprise you and the characters will tell you they’re going to zag when you thought they would zig, and to Ildy’s point, what happened at the end of Season 5, we had thought we told every story, but when these characters finished their journeys, we suddenly discovered that there was more stories to tell because we’d gone on the journey with them, and when we got to the end part we’re like “Oh wait, what about this? What about this?”
MODROVICH: Yeah. It’s like “I’m Lucifer and I haven’t done this yet.” You weirdly become them or you’re so on the journey with them that yeah, like Joe said, that they tell you what they want to do.
Just speaking as a viewer, I definitely get engaged with shows when they hit those moments of ‘Are they going to kiss? Oh, goddammit, just kiss already.’
And I really respect the way that you give those big moments in Season 5 real heft. It does feel like really committing to it. What has that experience been like, in terms of the back and forth?
HENDERSON: You always want to give the fandom, and we include ourselves in that, not what they want, but what they need. So much of it is we want Lucifer and Chloe together, but at the same time, what you need is a tension between them so so much of what we wrote because we wanted to see them together, we want to bring this couple together, but how do we both get those beautiful moments, but also complicate them and challenge them?
Also, there’s that moment where the phone rings, and Chloe throws the phone away. That’s a love letter to the fans. The fans are always writing about how the phone rings at the worst possible moments, and we notice it, and we also are aware of it so there’s little things like that that we try to throw in — like yeah, when Chloe throws her phone away, that’s us speaking to the fandom, and that’s us trying to balance what they want and what we want, but it also isn’t going to be as simple as what we wish it would be. And that’s why it’s a good story.
MODROVICH: I think that it’s funny because I feel like what Joe was just speaking to is sort of why things like testing are so, sometimes not useful, because people will hate it when something keeps two lovers apart. I know in Season 2, with Mom or Pierce, like, “I don’t like you.” They’re not testing well or something. Well that’s because they’re the bad guy, and they’re thwarting our good guys, but you want that. Of course people want that. If they watch a show where everybody is happy, how boring. Like Joe said, I just think it’s so important to give people, even if they say they want two people together, they don’t really.
HENDERSON: Or you want a brief moment, like where we try to give everyone a cheery moment, but guess what? We’re going to pull the rug out from under you again because we are sneaky devils, and also because we know deep down, that’s what we want too.
MODROVICH: Yeah, we want to fight.
I’m really glad that we’re several decades out from Moonlighting, and a lot of people have stopped talking about, “You can’t let the characters get together. It’ll ruin the show.” But it is still a tricky thing to pull off. How did you guys approach hitting that?
HENDERSON: I can speak to that a little bit because a huge part of it is not about whether or not they get together. It’s whether or not, while together, they’re still getting in their own way. That, to me, is the challenge because like you said, the Moonlighting template is so outdated, but there was a reason that it lasted so long as a template because people are terrified of the tension going away. What we’ve been lucky about is that we have two main characters who can get it their own ways quite a bit. Lucifer is always getting in his own way with his own subconscious issues. So much of it is him taking two steps forward and one step back on emotional maturity. So much of it is also his subconscious getting in his own way. Like for example with his mojo, with his vulnerability. You’ve got these things that he can’t control, that reflect deep down his own insecurities, and Chloe’s own insecurities coming up as well, which might work against her.
To me, the challenge is you can bring your characters together, but what you can also do is embrace their own emotional issues so even if they’re together, they can still be trying to find each other within that.
MODROVICH: Yeah. I think we all know there’s no happily ever after so if you read into that and find all the ways we self-sabotage…
HENDERSON: Well, Ildy does. I don’t.
MODROVICH: Right, yes, Joe’s perfect in his marriage. [laughs] And then there’s all these outside voices that they have to confront with, and how that effects their own relationship. Like Michael, in this case.
I know that the pandemic is a major reason why the season is split — you guys still have a little bit more of Season 5 to shoot?
MODROVICH: We do. Yeah. A little more than half of the final episode.
HENDERSON: I do think, and Ildy correct me if I’m wrong, I think they actually planned to split it ahead of time anyways, and now it’s actually become a bit of a blessing because it’s allowed us to get the first half out and buy some time as we race to the finish shooting the second half.
MODROVICH: Yeah. That was always planned. In fact, if you can tell, hopefully you can tell in the first eight — we built a cliffhanger at the end of Episode 8 because we did know we were going to split.
It’s a quality cliffhanger.
HENDERSON: Yeah. We didn’t know it would be quite as long as a wait in between seasons. I think the intention was not to do that, and the honest truth is I think the second half will come out as soon as we can finish shooting it.
Is there any talks of timeline in place for that?
MODROVICH: Not yet.
HENDERSON: There are always talks, we’re still working on it. The challenge is how do we make, number one, how do we keep our cast and crew safe? And then number two is how do we make a good show? But the first one is the one that’s most important, and that’s the one that we’re still trying to figure out.
Of course. In terms of Season 5, is there anything in the second half you’re prepared to tease at this point?
HENDERSON: We could.
MODROVICH: I’d say it’s even better than the first!
HENDERSON: The musical episode is in there, which Ildy wrote, which is absolutely incredible.
MODROVICH: I’m excited about that.
Are these original songs or is it pre-existing songs?
MODROVICH: Pre-existing songs. Not original.
I mean, that’s a lot of extra work.
HENDERSON: And obviously we have Dennis Haysbert, which obviously you see at the very end of the season, but when you get an actor like that, Haysbert, who can do both comedy and drama, that was a wonderful thing to be able to play with. He’s such a wonderful actor, and a lovely human being! Honestly it was a joy to be able to write to all of his strengths, and just watch him play in our sandbox.
MODROVICH: He has such an incredible energy. I miss that. He had I want to say a Godly energy to him. When Dennis Haysbert hugs you, you transport somewhere else.
Does he sing?
MODROVICH: That’s an interesting question, and we’re not going to tell you.
To wrap things up, at the beginning, the premise of the show attracted some controversy. But after having watched it, it’s very clear there’s a really interesting examination of the concept of good versus evil within this framework. How have you felt about being able to explore that?
MODROVICH: Yeah. I’d say I think, like you said, after watching our show, we came in at the very beginning deciding what we wanted to say with the show, and it really is a show about redemption, and we described this before, but if the Devil can be redeemed and can be forgiven then anyone can, and that is the idea behind many religions, including Christianity. Which is why I think we’re actually pretty popular in places that are known to be more religious, like Brazil for instance. The religious community has embraced us in Brazil, a large portion, because we’re not trying to glorify evil. We’re trying to say that people are, there’s just more grey in the world. That there are broken people and some, if not all, are allowed the chance at being forgiven and making up for their past wrongs.
Lucifer Season 5A is streaming now on Netflix.