“Oh my Me.”
After initially struggling with the concept of taking on God’s (Dennis Haysbert) powers, the final episode of “Lucifer’s” fifth season found the titular character (played by Tom Ellis) unwittingly becoming the new Almighty.
Initially, his intentional was selfless: During a battle with his brother, Michael (also Ellis), Lucifer’s long-time partner/love Chloe (Lauren German) was killed. He went to Heaven to retrieve his girlfriend and seemingly sacrificed himself so she could return to Earth. But as she was dropped back into battle with Michael, Lucifer reemerged, and the angels around him bowed down, realizing he appeared to have a whole new subset of powers.
Originally, the move was set to come in Act 5 of the “Lucifer” series finale. But after Netflix approached showrunners Joe Henderson and Ildy Modrovich about continuing on for a sixth season, they opted to chop off Act 6 and flesh it out into what will now be the final year. (The episodes, though filmed, are still unscheduled.)
But that wasn’t the only shakeup the show had to contend with: COVID-19 shut down production as they were filming Season 5’s final hour, which led to them having to drastically change plans for the episode’s big battle.
Here, Henderson and Modrovich discuss introducing Heaven, working around the global pandemic, Lucifer’s new powers, and crafting the final season.
Last time, you shared that you stopped writing this episode in Act 6 when they approached you about another season. When it came to crafting that final moment in the Season 5 finale, how much did you tweak because you knew it was going to be a season finale cliffhanger instead of a beat in the series finale?
Idly Modrovich: Weirdly, nothing really changed. It was very strange how it all happened; it was very serendipitous when we look back on it. The only thing that changed in the end was Lucifer’s last line. And that happened on the day; that happened at the Coliseum, when we were messing around and throwing different alts to Tom.
Joe Henderson: One of the things we realized, especially looking back, was that, yes, we had an entire act of story that we lopped off but, boy, were we relieved. Because as we started backing ourselves into it, we [realized], “Oh man, we backed ourselves into a corner.” There was so much story, that we didn’t realize until we got there, that we want to unpack. So Season 6 became this gift of being able to go, “Oh, we can actually dramatize this. We can actually live in this. We can actually tell these stories, and find new stories.” Which is what we always do. When Season 5 was going to be 10 episodes and then became 16, at first we [were] like, “There’s no way it can be 16!” And then it was like, “There’s no way it can’t be 16.” That’s the same thing that was here. This ended up being a gift, it ended up be a boon. And we were able to just expand all that. But that’s all all that changed. There was a question of where we ended the season. And we look back, we’re like, “Oh, yeah this is the ending. Yeah, this is it.” [Laughs.]
Modrovich: Act 6 really became Season 6, just completely explored and blown up and examined in a very, very detailed manner. We realized we were, in a way, speeding things up too much in that Act 6 when we look back on it. So, yay, Season 6.
We’ve seen Lucifer with degrees of power, but this is another level of tools in his belt. What can you preview about how he handles the responsibility?
Henderson: That sounds like a very interesting thing for Lucifer to have to face. And to be both excited about and terrified by.
Modrovich: We can’t say much.
One of the things that was discussed earlier in the arc was how this amount of power could be detrimental to a relationship. How is this imbalance changing Lucifer’s dynamic with Chloe?
Modrovich: Let’s just take a look at the history of God. God’s relationship with Lucifer and with his own kids, he was a little absentee. So I think that’s, perhaps, a fear, just looking at the precedent. But that’s all I can say.
Lucifer also, finally, told Chloe he loved her. With that milestone out of the way and an entire season to go, how did you approach hitting other big moments for the couple in Season 6?
Modrovich: Every season we’ve tried to explore a new problem for Lucifer, a new chapter, a giant step for him to take emotionally. When we were offered, generously, Season 6, we found one story, one final chapter that we realized we had to explore. And that does have consequences and effects to Lucifer and Chloe. We’ve all been there. Once you’re in a relationship, it’s not like once you, let’s say, get married, then that’s it — happily ever after! There are things thrown at you and obstacles and things you have to go through, which affect your relationships as well.
Does Season 6 pick up immediately from that cliffhanger or do you jump forward in time to see things a bit more established?
Henderson: It doesn’t pick up immediately after. There is a passage of time.
In introducing Heaven, what was the priority there? What rules and aesthetic did you want to establish from the start?
Modrovich: Back in the day, we said, “We will never go to Hell.” And then we went to Hell, and we said, “We’re never going to go to Heaven.” And then we did. [Laughs.] But the way we approached Heaven was the same way we approached Hell: we wanted to make everybody’s Heaven their own. We envisioned it almost like with the Hell rooms — these doors that you can go through, that was a little more amorphous in heaven. But that you created your own Heaven. That whatever Heaven was to you, was what you experienced. And so we tried to imagine what Chloe would think Heaven was and that’s what we landed on: this beautiful pastoral scene with her dad, having a picnic, eating some egg sandwiches.
Henderson: And we figured to make it the opposite of Hell, all the doors are open. You can visit anyone’s Heaven spaces, and wander about. There’s the mention [that] there’s an entire place full of cotton candy. [In] Heaven you can go wherever you want. You have your places, you have other people’s places, take a little bit of everything. Welcome to Heaven.
Modrovich: It’s more communal, less lonely.
Dan [Kevin Alejandro] died in Season 5, yet this is a show that has brought back people and utilized actors in different roles. Will Alejandro be in the final season? And if so, can you share anything about how he might come back?
Henderson: Kevin Alejandro is a great actor. And, boy, it would be a shame to lose him for a season.
Modrovich: It sure would.
Henderson: I can’t imagine anyone wanting to do that. Dan Espinoza’s such a great character. A writers’ room should really find a really cool story for that character, even in death.
Modrovich: Plus, it’s not like he ended in a fantabulous place.
Henderson: That sounds like a journey. I think I can say safely Dan Espinoza is one of our favorite characters to torture, and getting a chance to do it for a little bit longer has been a delight.
Michael lost his wings at the end of the finale. How much is his journey playing into Season 6?
Henderson: The Michael story is pretty much wrapped up. As much as the story of [Season 5 was about] fathers and sons, [it] was also story of two brothers at war. And so, we will definitely see the consequences of Michael’s actions in Season 6, but Season 6 is a new story and a new journey for Lucifer.
In the second half of Season 5 God was an unexpectedly humorous addition to the show. How much of that was a choice from the start to subvert the trope of the character being portrayed in a serious manner?
Henderson: Lucifer is his father’s son, right? Part of it is we wanted to show that you see a little bit of God in Lucifer and vice versa. The apple didn’t fall as far from the tree as Lucifer might have always protested.
Modrovich: And families are funny. I always tried to look at our celestial family as just another dysfunctional family, [like] when you get together at Thanksgiving with your parents and you start acting like a 10-year-old. It’s those dynamics that we hadn’t explored yet. So much of it is the dynamic between them. But I will say, it was challenging to make sure that we kept God a proud character in this. We didn’t want to make him too goofy, but also he wears socks with sandals.
And gets brain freeze.
Henderson: Oh man, that was amazing. And that exact point is a perfect example. Dennis Haysbert, is a comedic actor. Everyone forgets, he was in “Major League.” Yeah, he was the president on “24,” but he’s got this great comedic background. People just haven’t highlighted it. And it was exciting to us to be able to show off what he’s capable of and how much he can actually do. That was just such a toy to play with.
God was a key part of the long-awaited musical episode. Was he a character you needed to have on the canvas to pull this off or did you realize after this introduction he could be a good way in?
Modrovich: It’s pretty much the latter. I knew I wanted to do a musical since that minute Tom sang on-screen. Pretty much our entire cast loves to sing and dance. But we didn’t want it to just have people singing and dancing for no reason. We wanted to earn it, story-wise. So we thought, “Well, maybe there’s an angel of song.” We were playing with that at one point. And then when God showed up, we’re like, “Perfect.” Especially when we decided to have God be struggling with his powers, that’s the fun way to do it because it’s this joyful thing. But then to find the twist on it, that it’s because he’s kind of sputtering. [Laughs.] It was so much more exciting that this joyful thing is actually a sign that something’s wrong; it gave it a deeper layer.
It also allowed for Lucifer and God to sing out their problems with the “Les Mis” song “I Dreamed a Dream.” What was the genesis of them performing that number?
Modrovich: At first it was just going to be a song that Lucifer was going to sing to his dad. And then we decided it would be much stronger to be a duet, so we looked at a couple songs. “Father and Son” was a song we were circling for a while. But the “Les Mis” song is such heights of emotion. And it really is soul-wrenching. And they both dove in headfirst, and I was floored by by Dennis. I know Tom can sing his ass off, but I didn’t know that Dennis could just bring it like he did. The entire set was in tears.
The hour did allow virtually the whole cast to get into the fun, and also varied greatly from the more subdued, like the “Les Mis” number, to the outlandish, like “Another One Bites the Dust.” How did you approach who got what and how big it could be?
Modrovich: In constructing the episode and choosing the songs and the musical numbers, we knew we wanted a range of different emotions. There’s joyful numbers and there are more sentimental numbers. And then there’s just flat-out dramatic, and sad moments, like the song from “Les Mis,” which is my favorite. We knew we wanted to hit as many fields as we could, just like we do in a regular episode. You try to balance the comedy with the drama. And then the other element was to make sure our cast felt comfortable and showcased in the way they wanted to be showcased. At the very beginning of the year, we asked them all, “Are you comfortable singing and/or dancing? And what kind of music would you prefer singing?” It was our intention to make sure nobody was pressured or they had to do something; it was meant to be fun. So everybody pretty much said they wanted to sing and dance. D.B. [Woodside] said, “I’d love to rap, if I could.” It was meant to meant to make everybody happy, at the same time telling the story.
The show also brings back the device in the finale as a stalling tactic in the battle. Was that a trick you knew you would come back to later on, or was that a happy accident?
Modrovich: It came up in the moment. [Laughs.] We knew they needed to waste time until Maze and the prisoners got there. But I have to say, that almost got cut several times, because we were worried it would be too funny in the middle of this serious moment. We were like, “Are we making things too light here?” But never: In the land of “Lucifer,” the answer always is never too funny.
From a production standpoint, the pandemic hit while you were finishing up Season 5. What, if anything, did you have to shift when it was safe to resume production under very different protocols?
Henderson: The initial location for the final battle was Mount Wilson Observatory. For one, it’s very isolated and up in the mountains. And two, the wildfires were raging near it. When we came back, we tried to find the biggest wide open space, where our crew could be situated comfortably, where everyone could be as safe as possible, because the first thing we shot when we returned was the L.A. Coliseum. Which was insane, but also wonderful, because it was so expansive. Also, it’s a location we normally wouldn’t be able to get. But because we’re in the middle of a pandemic, we were able to get it, and be able to shoot this beautiful location. So that changed. And some of the elements of the fight changed. This was back in September — it was still very early on — and so we were doing our best to figure out clever ways to show a battle and at times imply a battle, while keeping our cast and crew safe, because that was the most important thing.
Modrovich: Yeah, as challenging as it was to bite off this entire fight, because it really was re-choreographed and re-imagined, we also [originally] had more angels and more demons [in the fight]. And we had to tear it all down. We were worried that we would look all swallowed in this giant stadium. But, instead, I think it came off as kind of gladiators in the middle of the arena.
Since you jumped straight into Season 6 production, how did the reality of the pandemic restrictions impact what you were able to do with the final season, whether it was locations, guest stars returning, et cetera?
Modrovich: It didn’t really factor in gigantically. We did have to wrangle some things, because we couldn’t really hire anybody who was outside of LA at the time.
Henderson: There was one episode with a guest star who happened to be in Europe when we were doing it. So we had to find a very clever way to get them to appear in the episode, because we had an episode we were allowed to tell with a character who had pre-existed, and they were not available to come back. So we found a way to get them back in a very unexpected manner.
Modrovich: We did have to push up casting a lot, because you had to get them into testing.
Henderson: Also, we knew what we were writing to. So we tried to write things towards our limitations both of production, but also the opportunity to tell more intimate stories. It was the challenge of, “OK we’re not going to have the same amount of razzle-dazzle that you might have, but let’s dig into these characters that the fans love so much and that’s the razzle-dazzle.” That’s what we come for anyway: we watch the show because we want to see what happens with these characters and their journeys. It really was a great challenge for us to just dig even deeper.
Modrovich: Season 6 is a much more intimate story.
In writing a final season, there are generally some storylines that are left open, either due to time restraints or by choice. As you set out to write Season 6, after already penning a season you thought would be it, how did you approach those threads?
Henderson: It’s funny, because breaking Season 5, we had a board. And we had every single thing we wanted to hit — we hit them all. And I think what’s interesting about television, and about telling a long-term journey, is that sometimes you have to get to the end of the journey to have perspective on what’s still a story worth telling. I think if you told us at the top of Season 5, come up with a story for Season 6, we wouldn’t have come up with the same story; we wouldn’t have found it. Because part of it is going on the journey with Lucifer and Chloe and everyone else. When you get to the end, you’re like, “Oh, now that we’re here, there’s this path that we never saw before. Let’s walk down that.” And that’s one of the things I love about TV, and about letting your characters speak to you.
Modrovich: In terms of wrapping up everybody’s stories, there’s no way to do that completely or entirely, I think. Joe and I always say we want to give the audience a satisfying ending, but not necessarily everything they want. If you give everybody every thing they want, it’s too much. You’ll get cavities. You want a little bit of bittersweet in there. You want a little bit of longing, I think. So we tried to craft that environment, as well. [If] you give somebody a super happy ending, Cinderella and the Prince in the back of the carriage kissing, but that’s not real. It doesn’t feel real, and so it won’t be satisfying. You need a little bit of some broken bits in there to make you feel like, “OK I feel fulfilled and happy, but also it feels real.”
You’ve been open in the past about how longer episode orders have allowed for things like the musical hour, the noir, etc. With a 10-episode final season, was there room to be a bit unconventional in any of those hours?
Henderson: I was able to write an episode that is very abnormal, and in which we were able to do something we’ve never done before.
Modrovich: I think that’s all you can say.
Henderson: That’s all I can say right now. Going into this [upcoming] season, there were certain things we wanted to do. We wanted to speak to our role with Black Lives Matter, our role in copaganda, all of that stuff. And so we wanted to get very dark and also get very light. We wanted to just hit everything we never hit, we wanted to visit our characters one last time, and really send them off in a love letter season. But also, we were like, “OK what are the things we’ve always wanted to do?” And in the case of my episode in Season 6, I got to play with a toy I’ve never been able to play with before.
But to clarify, that’s not the Black Lives Matter episode, correct?
Henderson: No, those are different episodes.
Modrovich: I would say in getting more episodes and then getting another season, I do feel like we got to really focus on every character at one point, and give them their own sort of shining moment. That’s the biggest gift in getting more episodes: not having to keep the story so narrow and specific. You only have so much screen time. The “Daniel Espinoza: Naked and Afraid” episode would have never happened [in a shorter season].
Henderson: That would have been a tragedy.
Modrovich: Things like that episode and Rachael [Harris’] episode, where [Linda] gets to find her daughter. And the stuff between Inbar [Lavi’s Eve] and Lesley-Ann [Brandt’s Maze] is just juicy and great. And Ella has a whole thing in Season 6 that is so fun. So, those things we wouldn’t have been able to do. And I’m glad we got to do them.