Interview: Tom Ellis opens up about Lucifer

DIY spoke to the British actor ahead of the series’ airing on Amazon Prime.

British actor Tom Ellis has landed his first major U.S. starring role in new Warner Bros. Television series, Lucifer playing the eponymous fallen angel, which lands on Amazon Prime Video from 26th January.

Based loosely on the characters created by Neil Gaiman and Sam Kieth (in the Sandman graphic novel) and Mike Carey in the spin-off solo comic (Lucifer) the series marks a high-profile move for the charming Brit best known as the dreamy Gary in the hit sit-com Miranda.

Lucifer Morningstar (Ellis) is the Lord of Hell and bored with his lot. Abandoning his throne he heads to Los Angeles and is enjoying his retirement until a violent attack on an acquaintance forces him to confront the possibility he has some deeply buried compassion within. Meeting LAPD homicide detective Chloe Dancer (Lauren German) he is intrigued by her resistance to his charms and her inherent goodness. With Lucifer’s ability to draw out people’s secrets the pair form a partnership but God’s emissary on Earth, the angel Amenadiel (D.B. Woodside) has been sent to L.A. to convince Lucifer to return to Hell.

From Jerry Bruckheimer Television and with Underworld director Len Wiseman taking the helm on the pilot and serving as Executive Producer on the series, the show launches in the U.S. on FOX on 25th January. Amazon Prime Video secured the streaming rights from Warner Bros. International Television in the UK with each episode available a day after U.S. broadcast.

DIY had the pleasure of speaking with Tom over a crackly transatlantic phone line to chat about the positive fan reaction to the show at San Diego Comic Con last year and just how he’s still pinching himself at landing the role of a lifetime.

Len Wiseman is mostly known for feature films so did it feel more like making a movie than a TV show when he came on board to direct the first episode?
Absolutely! He thinks big does Len [laughs]. It was great because we needed that for this. The other side of it is you’re given a lot longer to make your pilot than you would when you make an actual episode should you go to series. So in actual fact I think our pilot shoot was something like 18 days which is sort of unheard of for an hour’s network TV. It was a sort of bigger, slower filming process and much more like doing a movie. That in itself was exciting, I had a lot of ‘pinch me’ moments, we had Hollywood Boulevard closed down for 5 nights in a row. It’s crazy driving around Hollywood in this gorgeous black Corvette, “This is alright this job!” [laughs]

Did you have much prior knowledge of the Sandman graphic novel and the Lucifer spin-off before you signed on?
The answer is no. I got the job completely unaware that it was based upon a comic. It wasn’t until I read Deadline when I got the job that [I found out] it was based on a comic and I was like, “Oh God I didn’t even know that!” In a way I am glad that I didn’t know beforehand because it didn’t affect my choices about what I was doing. But since then I am obviously very aware, we were at Comic Con last year - my first ever Comic Con which was an amazing experience - we had a lot of hardcore fans of the graphic novel interested in the show. The nice thing is we seem to have attracted a much broader audience than that as well. We are based loosely on the comic, we’ve taken the character and rumbled it in a direction to make a TV show about him.

What was the fan reaction to the episode shown at Comic Con?
The wonderful thing about Comic Con was more often than not you don’t watch TV with a large group of people. They screened the pilot in this enormous room, there must’ve been about 3,000 people in there and they all laughed in all the right places and they all loved it. It was a real kind of euphoric feeling in the room and then we had a panel afterwards. It was very exciting because to sort of put yourself out there and hope for the best is always quite nerve wracking but the reaction was really, really encouraging.

Neil Gaiman who created the character has given it his seal of approval after watching the pilot and he’s also described the way you play Lucifer as ‘sexy, mad, bad Doctor Who’. How do you feel about that description?
[Laughs] I find that incredibly complimentary! He did contact me personally as well to tell me how much he enjoyed it. I was very happy about that. When people talk about tone and all that sort of stuff I quite often say to people, “Think of the tone of Doctor Who,” it’s fun, it’s mad. You get taken to these sort of mad experiences and he’s your guide through it. I can see where the comparisons are drawn for sure.

The general gist of the show is that Lucifer is bored in Hell and comes to Earth. Can you expand on that for us?
The notion is that he was bored of hell, bored of punishing people and bored of constantly being blamed for everyone else’s wrong doings. In the ultimate act of rebellion to his father he’s like, “Do you know what? I’m not going to do this anymore.” At the heart of the series is Lucifer’s daddy issues. He has a massive chip on his shoulder about the fall that he had and he’s pondering the fact that is he the Devil because he’s inherently evil or is he the Devil because his dad just decided he was? That’s where he finds himself. Introducing humanity into that starts to take him on, what I feel, is a redemption point. His experiences of humanity he starts to learn about himself and starts to learn about people a bit more. He finds that a bit of a rollercoaster, exciting at times and completely perplexed by people’s behaviour a lot of the time.

Len Wiseman and I talked very early on about Lucifer seeing human beings almost like lab rats to kind of work out what’s going on with him. He kind of doesn’t really care too much about anybody. But then he starts to and that’s where we find him, starting to care and intriguing him enough to carrying on staying on Earth and not going back to hell.

So you would describe it as essentially a redemption story…
I would describe it as the ultimate redemption story.

We see in the trailer that he has powers where he can make people admit things that they wouldn’t normally be saying out loud but he doesn’t seem to use this power on his partner Chloe. Can you describe that relationship a little bit and why Lucifer is so fascinated by her?
She is the first person he’s encountered who his abilities and powers to draw out desires and whatever and the carnal fascination that every woman has about him, it just doesn’t exist with her. It’s the first time he’s ever encountered that and it really throws him but there’s something about her because of that keeps him coming back for more, he wants to find out about her, maybe she has an agenda… All these things, he does think that most people have it in for him as well. It’s fun because someone who’s had everything very easily suddenly not being able to use all those things, it makes for comedic moments but also makes him more vulnerable than he’s ever been.

You’ve been extremely successful over here playing a really nice guy in Miranda, almost the quintessential nice guy, now you’re playing the quintessential bad guy - he’s a naughty boy! How much fun are you having playing him, it must be quite liberating just to be a bit naughty on screen?
Oh absolutely! I mean there is something completely wonderful about being able to play a character who says whatever he wants, whenever he wants. I think if people were given the opportunity, for a day for example, to just say whatever they wanted to whoever they wanted, all those things you’ve stored up and you could say it with no comebacks whatsoever it’s an incredibly liberating experience. So yeah, it’s a really fun character to play because I get to say lots of very inappropriate things.

One of the show’s producers is Jerry Bruckheimer. Did you have any kind of contact with him?
Yeah absolutely, very much in the early stages as well. I met Jerry when we had our first read through and he was very lovely. Then he came on set a few times when we were shooting the pilot and he’s just been very, very supportive. Everyone at Bruckheimer TV has been big champions of the show from the start. It’s always nice to work on something when you feel a sense of excitement from people who might be somewhat, what shall we say… weathered [laughs]. When someone like Jerry Bruckheimer is excited… I bumped into a few people along the way who’d gone, “I saw Jerry Bruckheimer last week and he was talking about your show and he loves it!” [laughs] So it is exciting, I’m not gonna lie!

Lucifer is available on Amazon Prime from 26th January 2016.

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