SPOILER ALERT: Do not read if you have not watched the first half of “Lucifer” Season 5, streaming now on Netflix.
Oh my God — after five seasons, “Lucifer” officially introduced dear old Dad, AKA the Almighty (played by Dennis Haysbert), into the storyline.
The move, while seismic for the series, was done when the show’s writers and producers thought Season 5, its second year on Netflix, would be the final run for the show. The result, though, is now a two-part penultimate season that goes all out, from a noir episode to a musical installment (the latter is scheduled for the second half of the season, still to launch).
“Thinking Season 5 was the end was a bit of a gift, because we didn’t hesitate,” executive producer Joe Henderson tells Variety. “We leave what we thought was everything on the floor. That’s what makes Season 5 so powerful and so great, but also really challenged us to push even further in Season 6.”
Here, Henderson and executive producer Ildy Modrovich discuss the unexpected extra season, moving forward with Lucifer (Tom Ellis) and Chloe’s (Lauren German) relationship and why they’re incorporating the real-life discussion of police reform into Season 6.
The decision to make Season 5 the penultimate year versus the final came late in the run. How did that play out on your end, and what conversations did you have internally about whether this was the right call for the show?
Modrovich: We were in the middle of actually writing the finale, Joe and I, when we got the official call, “Hey, what if there was a Season 6?” I was in the middle of writing Act 6, the last 10 pages of the episode. [Laughs.] I literally didn’t finish. It’s so funny. I was just right in the middle. But it ended up being a good thing.
Henderson: Season 5, at first, was 10 episodes. And then we were like four weeks into the [writers’] room and they expanded it to 16. At first we were like, “No, we have this perfect story!” And then, as we spent like a day or two on it, we’re like, “Unless we did this. Oh my God, this is so much better.”
The first half illustrates that. There’s a lot of story we couldn’t have done in those first eight episodes that we were able to do because of the extension. And so, similarly, when we heard about Season 6, we were like, “Oh god, no, we’ve got this perfect ending, we don’t want to screw it up. We have to end it Season 5.” Then we spent a day or two and then we were like, “Unless…” And then, all of a sudden, this new story revealed itself.
So much of what I love about [making] TV is you you step back, you let the characters start to tell you what story they want to explore and then you go down those paths with them. Ildy, I, and our room found story that we [now feel] it would have been so sad if we weren’t able to do in Season 6, because it feels like the best story to end on.
Modrovich: The best ending. And so much of our hesitation in thinking about adding another season was because we felt like we had done everything. We left it all on the floor. And we didn’t want to disappoint people. We didn’t want to have reached this peak and then come down and peter out for our final season.
We were very protective of our show and for our fans. But, like Joe said, after we talked about it, we realized there was this one story that we all felt incredibly passionate about telling. We thought OK, we have to please us, because we’re fans, too. We had to make sure we wouldn’t be let down. And then we decided, okay, we can we can do it. You think more episodes [are a] good thing. But we just wanted to make sure we did it right.
There were some things — like God’s introduction, or Dan (Kevin Alejandro) discovering that Lucifer is the devil — that would be impossible to remove from the season, but were there any beats or smaller moments you felt would be better utilized in Season 6 that you were able to shift?
Henderson: No. In fact, one of the very important things that we argued when we were discussing this is we did not want to change Season 5 at all. We wanted to embrace the season as it was; when you see the back half, so much of it comes together. And we take it as a challenge: OK, what is the next story that we thought we didn’t need to tell? The one thing we did do, was [change] the Act 6 Ildy was working on.
Modrovich: We [decided] let’s end it at Act 5. What happened in Act 6, we actually accelerated some stories really quickly, just so that we did have a satisfying ending for each of our characters. We realized that we could really dive into them on a much deeper level in a Season 6.
Looking to the first half of Season 5, Ellis pulled double duty by portraying Lucifer and his twin, Michael, who briefly impersonated Lucifer on Earth. What conversations did you have with him about crafting this new character?
Modrovich: We had many conversations with Tom, talking about who we thought Michael was, how he spoke, how stood, his backstory, why he does all these things. Tom, myself, and Joe were the ones that discovered it together — even how he dressed! We knew we were asking him to work twice as hard, essentially, to be two characters now. And it’s funny, because when you watch Tom as Lucifer, you feel, “Oh, that’s just who he is. It’s so effortless and so beautiful the way he plays that character.” But it’s not; Lucifer is not Tom. And when you see how far he goes with Michael, you realize, wow, the skill he has, and the range he has. He can play these two characters, so completely, believably side by side.
Henderson: One of the things that we really wanted to do, with every antagonist per season, is they need to be the hero of their own story. We were sort of cards down in the first half [with that in these episode], but the second half of Season 5, you get to understand Michael a little bit more and where he’s coming from. A lot of the stuff [in there is what] Ildy and I and Tom all talked about so that Tom understood where the character was coming from and how he was the hero of his own story.
When a character is impersonating another character, infiltrating their world, it’s always a delicate balance for how long that can sustain. What was the debate in the writers’ room about how long that should last and how long Chloe could stay in the dark?
Henderson: It’s funny, when we were only [doing] 10 episodes, he only, in early conversations, impersonated Lucifer for an act or two. Who knows if that would have changed? But the minute we got 16, we realized, “What if we do a whole episode? What if we really let him dig into Lucifer’s life and see what that looks like?” It’s kind of scary, because you’re literally doing an episode without Lucifer. Obviously you’ve got Tom Ellis, but that was kind of a scary prospect and an exciting one because we’re changing things up a bit.
Modrovich: So much of trying to figure out how long Michael got away with what he was getting away with had to do with making sure we kept Chloe formidable. But also playing with the toy [of the deceptive].
Given how close Lucifer and Chloe were to taking their romantic relationship forward at the end of Season 4, what were the conversations about her moving forward upon his apparent return with his imposter?
Modrovich: Yeah, nobody wanted that. But what is so very satisfying is how many people have worried that that’s what was going to happen [based on the trailer]. And we are just giddy that they’re all scared. We’re like, “We got you.”
Henderson: So much of the conversation was how do we keep Chloe smart. How do we play with the [twin element], but also make sure [we don’t diminish her]. She’s not a detective, she’s THE detective. So how do we unspool the mystery right in front of her, for why is Lucifer acting different, in a way that lets us dig at their characters, but also speak to just how smart she is? This is a mystery she’s never had to deal with. So you were able to buy a little bit of confusion, because she doesn’t know Lucifer has a twin brother. She doesn’t know these things are possible. But at the same time, she’s smart enough to eventually figure out that there is something wrong,
Modrovich: She knows how she feels. She knows Lucifer. And she knows how she feels about Lucifer. And that’s the thing also guiding her: her feelings. And Chloe’s always about her gut. She’s like, “Nope, does not feel right.” And we wanted the tables to turn in the episode where Michael’s playing her and then [in reality viewers discover] she’s playing him.
When Lucifer was properly back, he and Chloe did consummate their relationship — only for him to promptly worry he’s lost his mojo when he can no longer compel people to tell them their deepest desires. What led to that decision?
Henderson: So much of the will they/won’t they is always the two steps forward, one step back, right? So much of it is also Lucifer’s own insecurities. We knew that if we’re going to bring them together, one of the things we had to do was also get have Lucifer get in the way of his own happiness; that defines the relationship so much. And if it’s not Lucifer getting in the way of his own happiness, it’s Chloe getting in the way of her own happiness. So, in this case, what we realized is that we wanted to find a way to physicalize Lucifer’s insecurities. And the mojo became an excellent opportunity to do that as well as his own vulnerability around Chloe. And so whenever we’re playing with these things, we always want to take these very emotional ideas and figure out a way to dramatize them. And those were just awesome opportunities.
God coming in to break up the midseason-closing fight between his kids and Dan having to grapple with the truth about Lucifer are two big cards to play with going forward. How will those new dynamics change things going forward?
Henderson: Keep in mind who Dan used to date [God’s ex-wife], and the possible implication. You don’t think we’re going to play with that? Every season, we try to torture Dan.
Modrovich: We do. [Laughs.]
Henderson: No stone will be left unturned.
God been a card the writers’ really have avoided utilizing in a major way until now. Given how big the move is, did you have internal parameters about which storylines he could get involved in, how many scenes he could be in, etc?
Modrovich: Yeah, to be honest, we were always worried about bringing God into the [show] because we loved that it was always about people interpreting his actions or his lack of actions. And if we brought him actually there, would he give us too many answers? Instead of God being mysterious, suddenly, oh, here we are with the drawer of answers. [Laughs.] We wanted to make sure we didn’t do that. I think we found a way.
The first half of the season also dove into Linda (Rachael Harris) and Maze’s (Lesley-Ann Brandt) pasts, with the reveal that Linda gave up a daughter for adoption, while Maze sought out her mother, after learning her whereabouts in the noir episode. How much of those storylines were planned for a bit, or were they the result of the extra episodes this season?
Modrovich: The Linda thing is funny because there was a line she said really early on, in Season 2, where she is talking about hell. And I think Lucifer says something like, “Well, not that you’re going to hell.” She’s like, “I wouldn’t be so sure about that.” We always kind of had that dangling. Why? What did she do? What did Linda do that could possibly send her to hell? And so we’ve been riffing about it for every season since. We thought, “What if she has this secret she feels guilty about, but we completely can sympathize with and understand?” And that’s when it became she has a daughter.
Henderson: We had always talked about wanting to dig into [Maze’s] mother issues. We hadn’t quite figured out how to yet, and then when we expanded, it was the first thing we grabbed on to. It was one of those things that was looking for a home, and so we were like, “Let’s do this.” We wanted to do another flashback episode, we wanted to go into noir, and all of these things are collided. I think like literally the first day after we got our episodes expanded, we had this episode conceptually figured out. It was a noir, it’s about Lilith and Lucifer’s time with her. It is fun writing when you’ve got these pieces, these spinning plates and every now [everything clicks and] you have the story.
Modrovich: And that is a good example of an episode that would not have happened had we not gotten the expansion from 10 to 16 [episodes]. Like Joe said, we always wanted to get to Maze’s mom, because it informs her trust issues, obviously, so much, but this was the most fun way to do it, by far. And we wouldn’t have been able to do it [in a shorter season]; we didn’t have the real estate.
Ella (Aimee Garcia) was thrown when her “nice guy” new boyfriend was revealed to be a serial killer. How will that impact her mindset in the second half of Season 5?
Modrovich: When looking at all of our characters, and Ella is no different, we really tried to explore whatever they’re struggling with internally. And so whatever happens to them plot-wise, that’s just informing where they’re at emotionally. After Ella had her crisis of faith, we really thought, “OK what has she not dealt with?” And that’s herself. This spoke to what she’s always been worried about — that there is a darkness inside her. She’s so happy — she’s so light — but she’s always been worried that that’s what she shows everybody because she’s afraid of what’s inside. We thought how can what can really inform that? And then Pete came along.
Looking ahead, in recent years, a number of Warner Bros. shows have ended with their 100th episode. Has there been talk of “Lucifer” Season 6 being 17 episodes to reach that mark?
Henderson: We’re not allowed to answer our episode order yet.
Modrovich: It’s a very good question. Conversations have been had.
Henderson: It is something that they take very seriously.
While the second half of this season is still in the can, the writers are currently working on Season 6. Do you plan to incorporate either the current COVID-19 pandemic or conversations about police reform into the final batch of episodes?
Henderson: Pandemic-wise, we might make some passing references to it, but we’re not going to make a meal of that. We feel like that’s hopefully something that will be gone by then. But the one thing we are going to definitely address is our place within the world of police procedurals. That is something that we did a lot of soul searching on. We did have a lot of discussions about, and it’s very important to us to speak to the glamorization of police officers and our place in that.
Modrovich: It’s important to us that we examine it within our world, through our characters’ eyes, and see it fairly and emotionally, and not in any kind of preachy way. We did not want to shy away. We did not want to pretend that our show doesn’t take place in the world of the police.
Henderson: We’re trying to learn and we’re trying to take the lessons we have learned and put them on the screen in a way that makes sense to the language of our show.