LUCIFER the series, and Lucifer the character, as played by Tom Ellis, have both been through dramatic journeys over the last year. In Season 4, Lucifer – the Devil, who has left Hell to live as a nightclub owner in Los Angeles – is dealing with the fallout after he revealed his true self to the woman he loves, LAPD Detective Chloe Decker (Lauren German), at the end of Season 3.
As for LUCIFER the show, Fox Networks aired the first three seasons, then canceled it in May 2018. But Netflix, at least partly in response to the reaction of fans, picked LUCIFER up for a fourth season (the service is now streaming all four seasons). Netflix recently announced a fifth and final season of LUCIFER, which is based on the DC Comics series by Mike Dringenberg and Sam Kieth, which is an offshoot of Neil Gaiman’s venerated SANDMAN graphic novels. The show was adapted for television by Tom Kapinos.
Executive producer Joe Henderson (WHITE COLLAR, ALMOST HUMAN, GRACELAND) serves as LUCIFER’s co-show runner with fellow executive producer Ildy Modrovich. In a wide-ranging telephone interview, run here in two parts, Henderson talks about how LUCIFER got from Fox to Netflix, why certain things did and didn’t happen in Season 4, and what we might expect from Season 5 and the series finale.
ASSIGNMENT X: What happened with Fox? Season 3 of LUCIFER was twenty-six episodes. That seemed like it was definitely going to be renewed, because these days, nobody gets twenty-six episodes.
JOE HENDERSON: Well, they actually gave us twenty-two, but we’d had the four [that had been made for Season 2 but weren’t aired then] that we were carrying over. That’s why we ended up with those twenty-six. And part of the plan had been to roll over two of the episodes of the season into what became Season 4. And so that’s why “Boo Normal” [in which the character of coroner Ella Lopez, played by Aimee Garcia, thinks she is friends with a ghost who is actually the Angel of Death] and “Once Upon a Time” [an episode in an alternate reality, narrated by Neil Gaiman as God] exist a little bit out of time. We were going to find a place for “Boo Normal” in Season 4, and “Once Upon a Time” is just its own parallel reality. But as we moved forward, and as we started exploring Season 4, and with everything that’s happened, we decided that since “Boo Normal” is vaguely anywhere [in the timeline], we felt it was better for Season 4 to just let “Boo Normal” exist ephemerally in Season 3, and just focus on making Season 4 as good as possible.
AX: How did you get Neil Gaiman to narrate as the voice of God? Had you had any kind of conversation with him before that of, “Would you like to show up on the show at some point?”
HENDERSON: I had emailed with him very rarely. I emailed with him when I first got the show, I emailed with him when we got the season pickup. He’s a very busy man, so I try to be very sparing when I reach out to him. When were breaking this story [for the “Once Upon a Time” episode], God is narrating the story, and of course, it’s Neil Gaiman. That was sort of the joke, because wouldn’t that be awesome, wouldn’t that be great? I’ve listened to all of his audio books, I love it when he actually narrates them, because he’s got such a wonderful voice, but also, the idea of the creator of LUCIFER actually playing the Creator of Lucifer seemed too perfect. So I ended up emailing him, and his response was this typically clever thing – “I can’t possibly do it, I don’t have time, let’s figure it out.” And then he just made himself available while he was show-running GOOD OMENS, and we did a recording session. it was just so much fun. Ildy and I got to meet him in person at the last Comic-Con. It was a real delight.
AX: Will we see the Charlene Yi’s character Ray-Ray, aka Azrael the Angel of Death, again?
HENDERSON: Never say never. It’s one of the things that we’re going to add onto our list as we try to figure out what to do in our final season.
AX: Do you know why Fox canceled LUCIFER?
HENDERSON: I don’t know the reason. That’s a higher pay grade than me. Our ratings had gone down a little bit. There are a lot of different factors in there. But the fact of the matter is, I thought we were canceled, I thought we were coming back, I thought we were canceled, I thought we were coming back. It was the weirdest roller coaster, where it was constantly happening, where we would get one good news, one bad news. So I got to the point where I stopped worrying and decided to wait until the final decision. So the long and short of it is, we found out [about the cancellation] the day that everyone found out.
AX: And then did you think, “Okay, we’re dead,” or did you think, “Wait, we have fans that will come to the rescue”?
HENDERSON: I thought, “We’re dead, but the fans will show them the mistake they made.” But I didn’t think we would get rescued; I thought the fans would show them, “Wow, we underestimated this fan base.” But apparently I did, too [laughs].
AX: You thought the fans were nice people who would put flowers on the grave, not that they were actually the angel Amenadiel and could resurrect you.
HENDERSON: That’s exactly it. I thought it was going to be a great Irish wake, where we’d tell jokes, and cry, and laugh, and have a great time, and all talk about what a wonderful journey we’d been on together. And that was satisfying. That was actually really exciting for me as I dealt with the grief. But then when it actually started coming together, it was quite miraculous.
AX: How did that happen? Had you already gone out to the streaming networks, or did Netflix go, “We see that there’s this giant groundswell of people storming our gates, demanding that we pick you up”? Or …?
HENDERSON: That’s an above my pay grade question. What I’ve been told is, they noticed the fans, and they noticed the people who were watching it on all the streaming devices and the platforms in various countries. One of the things is, Fox only broadcasts in America. And we did good in America. But we were doing huge internationally. From what I’ve seen online, it seems like we’re doing huge both in America and internationally. And I think part of that is a testament to the way Netflix has marketed us and pushed us in Season 4.
AX: Who did you find out from that LUCIFER had been picked up by Netflix, and then who did you call?
HENDERSON: We found out from the executives at the Bruckheimer Company, and they literally were like, “In three minutes, the announcement is being made [to the press].” So we didn’t have time to call pretty much anybody [laughs]. We texted the actors a minute before – we were getting ready, because no one wanted to blow the surprise. So it was fast-moving. I don’t think I even talked to Tom before the actual pickup happened, because I don’t think there was time to get him.
AX: Does Neil Gaiman, or does anybody from the comic books, have to bless where you’re going with LUCIFER, or you just give them a heads-up, and they go , “Oh, that sounds great,” or, “Eh, why are you doing that?”
HENDERSON: Well, DC is involved in the show, so they’re always on the call. The good thing is, they know me. In particular, I’m a huge DC nerd, and a huge LUCIFER and SANDMAN nerd. So they don’t really worry that much. They more get excited about anything that we pull from the comics, but it’s usually me, or one of our nerdier writers, pulling out the Gaudiums of the world, or trying to find those characters. I don’t expect they’ll have any worries. I think it’s more, “Hey.” They’ll have questions, or be excited about stuff. But they’ve trusted us for awhile now.
HENDERSON: Gaudium is a character from the comics that I’m still trying to get into the show. He’s a character that I teased back in the Maze [the demon bounty hunter, played by Lesley-Ann Brandt] standalone episode [“Mr. and Mrs. Mazikeen Smith”], who I’m still trying to figure out how to get into the show, and is one of the things I’m hoping to do in the final season if I can figure it out.
AX: Might you bring the Sandman character into LUCIFER?
HENDERSON: [laughs] I wish. We don’t get to touch that toy.
AX: Are they doing something else with Sandman entirely?
HENDERSON: I assume. I wish I knew, because I would like to know [laughs].
AX: Did you want Season 5 to be the final season of LUCIFER, or did Netflix say, “This is your final season”?
HENDERSON: Netflix said, “This is the final season.” But they gave us a nice heads-up, and they let us know it was coming. Honestly, I’m just so grateful to be able to know when this show is going to end, and be able to write to that. We knew that it was probably going to be five or six [seasons]. I think some people would have loved six; some of us are very happy with five being the number that we’re wrapping it up, to end on a high note. So it was not our choice, but we’re extremely happy about it. We went through this difficult sadness and heartbreak and all that, but ultimately, what we realized is, for one, we’re a miracle to just be on the air, to have gotten our first season, to have gotten our fourth season, and now to actually know we’re going to end it. And it’s funny, the number of show runners [of other series] who have come up to me and been jealous of actually knowing the show’s going to end. Because you have these shows where they just peter off, and you’re waiting, and you don’t know, and you don’t get to actually end the show on your own terms. You don’t get a chance to actually know that you’re telling the end, and wrap those stories to satisfying conclusion. So that I’m thrilled about. It’s obviously bittersweet, but a golden opportunity.
AX: If you had thought that Season 4 was the end, would you have still ended it that way, with Lucifer taking himself back to Hell to protect Chloe and the others from the demons?
HENDERSON: No. We would have ended it with elements of that, but we would have definitely given the fans a little bit more. We had a pretty good feeling, especially considering just how good the season was turning out, that we would get at least one more. So we went in also operating on the concept of, “Create a cliffhanger that demands you return.” It almost shot us in the foot in Season 3 [laughs], but it may have actually been one of the things that helped bring us back.
AX: As LUCIFER is now made for Netflix, which doesn’t have commercial breaks, why do the Season 4 episodes still have fade-to-black act breaks?
HENDERSON: We decided that, since Netflix would be streaming [the first] three seasons of the show, which had the commercial break format, we should maintain continuity. We did find some fun freedom in being able to play with where the act breaks would be in Season 4 – they became less about, “Come back after the break!” and more, “Something important has happened or changed.” But on top of that, we also found a sense of comfort from them – they’re a bit of the DNA of the show, so it was nice to keep them around.
AX: Has being on Netflix made it slightly easier to write dialogue, that people can now say “Sh**” when they would normally say “Sh**”?
HENDERSON: That does help, but it also becomes a dangerous toy. We’ve had to cut some sh**, because you get a new, pretty toy to play with, and suddenly, you’re like, “Oh, I’ve got to play with this toy, I want to put it everywhere.” That’s going to be your headline – “Joe wants to put sh** everywhere.” [laughs] You really have to make sure that you use the toy correctly, and you don’t overuse it. So it’s been very helpful in those moments where someone’s like, “Aw, crap,” and you’re like, “It’s not really an ‘Aw, crap’ moment.” But it also is a double-sided blade that we try to be very careful with. There are things that you save it for so that you earn it, and then it’s more real.
AX: Lucifer’s human therapist Linda, played by Rachael Harris, becomes pregnant by Lucifer’s angel brother Amenadiel, played by D.B. Woodside. They both think there has never been a half-human, half-angel baby before. There is actually a mythological term for half-human, half-angel offspring, which is Nephelim. Why did you decide to not refer to the Nephelim?
HENDERSON: [laughs] Not yet, at least. What we realized going in was that our show is all about taking very crazy things, and making them very intimate. So you’ve got angels and demons, but what you have is brothers and sisters and family. So one of the first things we wanted to do was bring it down, and playing with things like Nephelim felt like it might just get us away from that. And also, I liked the uniqueness, or at least the perceived uniqueness for them of this being a first-time thing. Because the effect that has on Linda, or at least the effect of her, “Oh, my God, I am unique in all creation,” that was such an interesting thing to be able to explore and play with. And also as it reflects Amenadiel’s journey, Amenadiel becoming so human in his desire, and it reflecting in his own body in a way that actually allowed him to get a woman pregnant we thought was very interesting.
AX: We see that baby Charlie looks like a normal human infant, but before he’s born, Linda and Amenadiel both wonder if he’ll have wings. Did you contemplate a flying baby at any point?
HENDERSON: Oh, yeah. Literally, the scene of Linda looking at the fan blades was us going, “Is this baby going to fly? What’s going to happen? Are there going to be wings?” We’ve had a lot of conversations about baby Charlie, and what on Earth he’s going to look like. But there were more a lot of jokes about the baby just suddenly fluttering out, like trying to get out of a window, and them trying to knock the baby down. So fun [laughs].
AX: Did you decide that that was just going to be too silly, or was it going to be too much of a visual effects hassle?
HENDERSON: More the silly. We wanted to focus on the emotion. Not to say we won’t get there in the future season, but so much of it was about Linda and Amenadiel and Maze’s experience in this, and going from this miracle of birth to this very terrifying experience. And also tying it into Amenadiel’s journey about where his child will be safe. There just really wasn’t room for humor.
AX: At what point did you feel that Chloe’s initially freaked-out reaction to learning the truth about Lucifer warranted a scolding from Maze? Maze said something to the effect of, “Linda knows the truth and she handled it much better.”
HENDERSON: Linda didn’t handle it as well as Maze might argue. But one of the things we really wanted to do is make sure that everyone’s reaction was different, and that everyone had a reaction. Chloe had the biggest reaction, because she had the biggest emotional connection. Linda was Lucifer’s therapist, so [she thought Lucifer] was a fascinating client who was clearly deluded, only to find out that he was really the Devil. For Chloe, this is the man she loves who is actually the Devil, and that we wanted to do greater due diligence to. I disagree with Maze, but Maze is a torturer, so of course that’s where she would go. And she was feeling hurt and betrayed, so that’s the wound that she would stick her finger in.
AX: Well, Linda didn’t go to Rome and nearly get Lucifer killed …
HENDERSON: Yes. But Linda wasn’t in love, and hadn’t been working alongside him for five years. And Linda’s not a detective. Linda had her own nervous breakdown [after seeing Lucifer’s true face – she subsequently got over it].
AX: Were you worried about Chloe having an extreme reaction by almost trying to exorcise Lucifer before she realized he was still the good person that she knows? You established, I think, that Chloe is Catholic, so it made sense she went to the Church, but …
HENDERSON: I don’t know that we’ve established she’s Catholic. We’ve established she went to a Catholic church and went to Rome. If while Linda was having her moment of doubt, and a kindly priest had come up to her and started whispering in her ear, I don’t know if things would have been that different. In a very vulnerable moment, the two women, one of them had a demon who was a very good friend find her in a vulnerable moment and talk her through it. The other one had a kind priest whispering in her ear, and later discovered that priest wasn’t as kind as she thought. So a lot of it is circumstance. And that was another intentional thing that we wanted to play with is, had things gone a different way, it might have been different. But Chloe’s a detective. She wanted to find the truth. Unfortunately, a different version of the truth found her.
Come back for Part 2 of our exclusive interview with Joe Henderson about all things LUCIFER.
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Article: LUCIFER: Exclusive interview with showrunner Joe Henderson on Season 4 and Netflix – Part 1