To describe Lucifer as a “show about the devil solving crimes” is an oversimplification, but an accurate one. That’s what co-showrunner Joe Henderson half-jokingly calls it while chatting with SYFY WIRE ahead of the Season 5 premiere. Lucifer might have started out that way: The literal devil gets sick of lording over hell, so he pops up to Los Angeles for some fun, only to fall in with a detective for the Los Angeles Police Department. But after four seasons of therapy, tragedy, chicken chasing, a half-angel baby, a nudist colony, and more devil puns than should reasonably be able to fit into one series, Lucifer — both the character and the show itself — is in a very different place from whence it began.
As played by Tom Ellis, Lucifer Morningstar is a suave, deeply traumatized charmer with the power to make anyone reveal their deepest, darkest desires, a useful skill when hunting down murderers and mobsters alongside Detective Chloe Decker (Lauren German). But seeing as Lucifer Season 4 ended with Lucifer returning to hell, forced to abandon his loved ones back on Earth, Decker’s having to adjust to a Lucifer-less life in Season 5.
Or so she thought. The first trailers for Season 5 back in July revealed that Lucifer soon returns. Or, rather, Ellis returns onscreen to play Lucifer’s identical twin brother, Michael. (Because of course, the devil has an evil twin with an American accent.) Michael soon begins mucking up Lucifer’s life in the sorts of ways only a devious celestial could, and everyone from Decker to Amenadiel (D.B. Woodside) is affected.
SYFY WIRE spoke with co-showrunners Henderson and Ildy Modrovich — who are currently deep in the heart of writing the series' sixth and final season while in quarantine — about the first half of Lucifer Season 5 ahead of its premiere. Below, we dig into becoming a late-breaking hit, Lucifer’s daddy issues, and playing God.
I’ve seen the first eight episodes of Season 5, so I just have to start out by saying: How dare you.
Ildy Modrovich: [Laughs.]
Joe Henderson: [Laughs.] That’s the nicest thing you could say.
Lucifer really took off post-Season 3, right around the time the show was canceled and picked up by Netflix. What’s it been like to see a new outpouring of love for the series as you start to near the end?
Henderson: I don’t think any show expects to become a hit in Season 4. And it was one of those things where we love our show, we love making it, we love doing it, we love everything about it. And we’ve always felt like, “Hey, if enough people saw this, hopefully they’d love it like we do.” But you sort of just hope that’s the case. In Season 4 with Netflix, it finally felt like people were exposed to it and it got out there and people were able to sort of share our love for it. "Oh! We weren’t crazy! People do love it."
Modrovich: The reason it was so extra shocking to discover that people actually liked the show and were watching the show is because we literally went from being canceled to that discovery. It was like, “Oh well, we’re fans.” And then once it got canceled and then the discovery came with #SaveLucifer, we were like "Oh!" We were shocked, because all we knew was our domestic numbers, and they were fine ... we had developed an international fan base that we had no idea existed. So that was a shock.
Henderson: And what’s amazing is now we have developed a domestic fan base as well, and we had one, but that domestic fanbase grew as well to the point where we now just have a fan base. For example, this girl posted her yearbook photo [online] and the [yearbook] quote was “Lucifer Season 3, Episode 20, timecode ...”
Oh, god, what’s the quote?
Henderson: It’s Lucifer saying: “Well, I’m not saying this was a complete waste of time, but it was.” [Laughs.]
Let’s chat a bit about bringing in Michael, the evil twin. Did that come from a desire to give Tom something new to play with? Or was it a “Wouldn’t this be crazy?” kind of thing?
Henderson: It was a mixture of a couple of things. One was starting off with the very simple idea of “What’s something that’s very personal to Lucifer? What’s something that can put him through hell?” So much of our storytelling is “How do you torture the ones you love?”, and so what better than Lucifer to be down in hell and some monster f***ing up his own life?
But also, Tom is an amazing actor and so much of what he does seems effortless, but it’s actually just an incredible amount of work, and something like this lets us showcase him, lets us get out of the way and show just what an incredible actor he is.
Modrovich: And I think also it came in at a perfect time because Lucifer was in hell. "OK, how is Lucifer going to come back?" And we were like, “Oh. What if he doesn't?” And the other thing is we have in the past looked to the comics, and this was such a great little nugget that was so ripe for the picking, and it came from the comics.
The other big plot point folks have been excited to see in Season 5 is God. We haven’t seen him in the show before, but we got word in January that Dennis Haysbert had been cast to play God in Season 5. Had you always intended to bring in God? Because that’s a big move ...
Modrovich: It’s funny, because [in] our very first season, we were talking about how we wanted the show to be very grounded. And we said like, for instance, “We’re never going to go to hell.” [Laughs.] We very specifically said that, and then we did that quite quickly. And then I realized, in that moment, that nothing was off the table.
We always said we wanted to keep God this elusive person in the sky who our characters can interpret what he’s trying to do. And the fun was then getting it wrong and trying to guess, and it’s all about his mysterious ways and his frustrating mysterious ways. And we thought, “Oh, it’ll ruin it if we actually get him down there.” And so when we came up with the storyline that we came up with for him that you’ll get in the second half of the season, we realized, “Oh, this is the way to do it, because this is a story for God, not just our characters.” So we knew we could add a completely different layer of digging into his character.
Henderson: And a big part of it, too, is [Season 5] was definitely our final season. It was definitely the last season ... The biggest issue [Lucifer] would have had at the very beginning was issues with his father, and so the big part of it was “All right, this is the biggest piece of the puzzle. How do we make sure we do it the right service? How do we be sure that we explore it in all the ways the story we’ve told deserves? OK, this is our last season. Let’s go out with a bang.”
And then you got another season.
Henderson: And then we got another season and discovered that we had one more story to tell that, honestly, we’ve been [writing] it for a month now, [and] I would have been heartbroken if we weren’t telling.
Modrovich: It’s an emotional one. We’re very excited.
I, uh, can’t imagine Lucifer’s gonna be too psyched about his dad showing up. He’s grown, but not that much. How’s he gonna handle that?
Modrovich: [Sarcastically] They just embrace and it’s fine and they get along perfectly and there’s no drama!
Henderson: [Equally sarcastically] Yeah, it’s really weird. Ildy, you know, we should go back and rewrite that. I’m not sure that’s the best.
Modrovich: They go to a baseball game. Have some dogs.
Henderson: All I’ll say is that I can’t believe you would think our Lucifer Morningstar would be so immature as to not handle his father finally coming down to Earth well.
I don’t know what I was thinking.
Modrovich: With Lucifer, the fun is always one step forward, five steps back. We all talked about how you go home for the holidays and Thanksgiving and suddenly you’re acting like a 14-year-old again.
Henderson: To Ildy’s point: Everything we always do with the show is: “How do you take the big crazy idea and turn it into something relatable?” The goddess of all creation is loose — well, let’s talk about mother issues, let’s talk about a mother who loves her children. So God is just a dad, a wayward dad, a dad who is mysterious — like, dear lord, if any of us could identify with the idea of an unreadable father ... And so taking those concepts and stepping them out, and then what’s awesome is that you don’t have God coming down to Earth — you have a chance to talk to your dad.
The first eight episodes of Lucifer Season 5 premiere on Netflix on Aug. 21.