[Editor’s note: The following contains spoilers through the Season 5 finale of Lucifer, “A Chance at a Happy Ending.”]
For only eight episodes of television, the second half of Lucifer packed in a lot. Not only did we finally get to spend some quality time with “Dad” AKA God (Dennis Haysbert), not only did we get the long-awaited musical episode (with a surprise appearance by Debbie Gibson!), and not only did we get one of the series’ best stand-alone episodes in “Daniel Espinoza: Naked and Afraid” — but we also saw Lucifer (Tom Ellis) fulfill a most surprising destiny: becoming God Himself.
As showrunners Joe Henderson and Ildy Modrovich have discussed before, Season 5 was of course originally thought to be the show’s final season, and the news that Netflix would be renewing it for a (this time for real) final sixth season came just as they were writing the finale. Their solution to that welcome problem: end Season 5 at the fifth act of the original series finale. “We decided that’s a pretty good cliffhanger,” Modrovich told Collider.
That final act of television became the basis for Season 6, but as Henderson explained “as much as we say Act 6 became Season 6, it also undersells Season 6, because we discovered a ton more story. There’s a bunch of stuff we weren’t going to tell that now we can’t imagine not telling. We thought, when we got to the end of Season 5, we told all the story we wanted to tell. And it wasn’t until we got to the end of season five that we had the perspective to see the story that we could tell with season six. Like, it’s just one of those happy accidents where you’re like, ‘No, we’ve told all the story … This is going to be all of the story we ever want to tell,’ but then you get there, and the characters are telling us, ‘No, we’ve got one more, one more journey to go on.'”
Added Modrovich, “The ending for the characters is what we took from that aspect. But getting there was where all the rest of the story came from, if that makes sense. We took the same ending for our characters, but stretched it out in the best way…”
“Almost all of them. And some changed a little bit,” Henderson said.
“Yeah. Mainly Lucifer,” Modrovich agreed.
What exactly they mean by that isn’t clear, but Season 6 wrapped production in March, so now it’s just a matter of waiting for the conclusion of post-production and Netflix choosing a release date. In the meantime, let’s dig into the season that aired — why it’s so much fun to torture “poor Dan,” casting Dennis Haysbert, what made the musical episode such a challenging accomplishment, Henderson’s surprise cameo in the finale. We also get into a few more hints as to what’s to come in Season 6, and as a bonus, Henderson and Moldovich reveal the movie idea they have that’s also a crossover with another Lucifer-adjacent project: The forthcoming Netflix adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s The Sandman, which will star Gwendoline Christie as that series’ version of the Lord of Hell.
Collider: There are tons of details I want to ask about, but I’ll start with basically something I just kept saying over and over again as I was watching the screeners, which was, “Poor Dan.” My “Poor Dan”-ing started much earlier than the prank episode [“Daniel Espinoza: Naked and Afraid”], but then it just got more and more frequent.
MODROVICH: It was kind of a beat-up-on-Dan season, in a way. But you know, he is the perfect character to do this to. You empathize with him, you love to tease him. Because even though he sort of is Bad Dan, there’s an odd, like, enjoyment that feel like he has, underneath it all? I don’t know if it’s the actor coming through, or the character that is Dan. But I’ve never had so much fun just, like, screwing with somebody.
What went into the decision behind Dan’s death?
HENDERSON: Well, toward the end of Season 5, we really wanted to hit on some of the consequences. A sense of, you know, for all the fun and games, like, souls are at stake. And for Lucifer to have to make the decision to face it, one of the things we really wanted to drive home was the import of it, the danger of it. Also, the sense of injustice, the sense that something needs to be fixed, needs to be changed.
Dan’s in Hell, and one of the things we really wanted to hit this entire season and series is, Dan is a flawed but good guy. I guess that’s one of the reasons we like to watch him be tortured, but it’s also one of the reasons that he was perfect to be the character that dies and still goes to Hell. That’s not right, at least in Lucifer’s mind. And that was a really important piece of the story that we wanted to tell, that Lucifer senses that the world isn’t just. And he’s always felt that about himself. Now it can be represented in someone else, and that was an important thing for us to tell.
Talk to me about the process of casting Dennis Haysbert.
MODROVICH: I mean, it was kind of a no-brainer. I mean, wasn’t he our first choice, Joe?
HENDERSON: He was at the top … Yeah. He was like, we had a list, and on the list was Dennis Haysbert. It was like “Whoa, what if we could actually get him?” And then we’d talked to D.B. [Woodside], and D.B. was like, “Have you thought about Dennis?” And we’re like, yeah, actually, he’s at the top of our list. And then D.B.’s like, “Well, I already talked to him.” [Editor’s note: D.B. Woodside and Dennis Haysbert had previously worked together on 24.]
MODROVICH: Yeah, because we didn’t know if we could get him.
HENDERSON: Yeah, and so it this great kismet of, we had a list, and D.B. had that relationship.
MODROVICH: The reason it was such a short list is because we knew we wanted somebody who had this authority, you know, this kind of gravitas, but also this twinkle in his eyes. There’s this warmth and, you know, kind of joy for life. And that’s Dennis. He just is both of those things. And it’s hard to be both of those things.
HENDERSON: When we talked to him before he accepted the role, we just started having this beautiful conversation about faith and about the kind of stories we want to tell. And he just, he got the show. He understood that we’re a weirdly faith-affirming show. As much as we’re a show about the Devil solving crime in Los Angeles, we’re a show about redemption. And he got all of the themes, and he also saw the potential of what he could do with it, because you get to be funny. He gets to be silly. He gets to be very sincere. He gets to show, I think, a lot of the tools that he doesn’t usually get to show. Because people can just see President Palmer, but the guy is so multitalented, and it was important for us to showcase all of that this season.
MODROVICH: The first time I met him, first time we talked to him in person, we both ended up, like, getting all tearful about the character, about the show and I’m like, “Wow, we hit the jackpot,” in that very first conversation. Kind of kismet, all of it.
Something that I really enjoyed about his performance was that he just seemed really happy to be there.
MODROVICH: He did!
HENDERSON: By the way, not only was he happy to be there, but the whole cast and crew… He walked on set, and it was like, he’d been with the cast since Season 1. It was amazing. Everyone was like, so excited to see him. He has this warm, fatherly energy. It was like Dad visited set to see all of his kids. And it was amazing.
Randomly, while watching, there was a moment when I thought about the 30 Rock show-within-a-show, God Cop.
HENDERSON: Oh my God, I had forgotten about that.
MODROVICH: I don’t remember, what is it?
It’s this bit from when they’re trying to tank NBC, and Jack Donaghy stars as himself in a show called God Cop, who’s God, but he’s also a cop. And it’s meant to be a terrible procedural because his co-star is like, “Why is this happening? You know everything, why are we investigating this?”
MODROVICH: That’s so funny. We have this joke about Silver City PD, like, the spinoff of Lucifer.
That’s really funny. How long would episodes of Silver City PD be?
HENDERSON: It would be about two minutes, because you’d have God go, “Well, guess what? There’s no crime in Silver City, so everyone’s fine.”
Another major episode of the season is of course the musical — the show has of course never shied away from incorporating musical moments, but what about doing a full musical episode felt important to you?
MODROVICH: Well, you know, music heightens everything. And I think every time we’ve done anything musical on the show, it just resonates on a different level. But we also knew we didn’t want to just have people sing and dance, you know, arbitrarily. So we knew we were looking for a real story reason, because, you know, that was very important to us, that part. And so God not only causing it, but the twist that he was losing His powers, was like … When we found that we were giddy.
And that sort of bought the musical for us, you know, just because it wasn’t a frivolous, like, “Yay, this is fun!” It became kind of meaty. And I think that’s all what led to that final song in the musical, because it was all fun and games until that last song, where you really feel gutted. So I don’t know if that answers your question, but there you go.
Budget-wise, what kind of accommodations did you have to make to do it?
MODROVICH: Oh, we totally broke the bank. We did. It was. And we not only broke the bank, we broke production. All of the extra dancers that we had, and Brooke [Lipton], our choreographer, had to do five songs. We had rehearsal scheduled for all of our cast. We had recordings scheduled that we had to do, and we had to make sure we got the recording before we shot the scene. There were just extra costumes. It was quite an endeavor.
HENDERSON: I feel like the cast and crew would describe it as the most exhausting and invigorating episode we have done, because we were two-thirds through the season. Everyone’s already pretty tired. To come into this behemoth, where everyone has to be, when they’re not acting, you know, rehearsing and working on it. But also it’s a musical, and everyone loved it, and it was fun, and it was exciting. Instead of being like, “Oh, my God,” everyone just stepped up and enjoyed it. And I think that comes off on the screen.
Be as political about this answer as you like, but when you told the cast, “We’re going to do a full musical episode,” were there any people who were particularly excited about it and were there any people who were particularly unexcited about that?
MODROVICH: Yes. And yes.
HENDERSON: Here’s one thing I will say: it was fun to watch some people go from, “I’m not sure,” to like, “Well, I mean, if I was going to do it, it would be this,” to, “Oh my God, I can’t wait to do this.” Because our cast is multitalented. In every season, our goal, amongst everything else, is to show off what they’re all capable of, within their comfort level. It was so fun to show, I think, a number of actors who no one expected, or never knew had musical talent, dance talent, show off what they’re able to do.
MODROVICH: And also, it was really important for us … like, we didn’t want to make anybody feel uncomfortable or put on the spot. You know, we didn’t demand anybody to do anything at the beginning of the year. We said, “Who wants to sing and dance?” And some people said, “I want to both sing and dance,” or, “I just want to sing.” Or like, D.B.’s like, “I’d love to rap. I’ve always wanted to rap.” All right. We had everybody’s wishlist in front of us when we were breaking the episode. So, you know, we just wanted it to be fun and not a pain in the ass for anybody. That was important.
Of course. Are there plans for an album release? Because you already have the one official album, but there’s always room for more.
MODROVICH: Yes. The answer is yes. I think we can say that. [Editor’s note: The soundtrack is in fact available now.]
Also, I want to ask about getting your big cameo, who I actually didn’t recognize until I went back and looked over the credits.
HENDERSON: Are you talking about my cameo in the finale?
No, I was talking about Debbie Gibson.
HENDERSON: Oh. Debbie Gibson!
MODROVICH: Oh, I thought you were talking about Joe, when he gets his head cut off, did you know …
I didn’t know that was you, Joe.
HENDERSON: Well, I shaved my face, so I’m not that recognizable, but I think we saved $10,000 by having a bald-headed, shaved-face person [do it]. The crew actually suggested I do it. Because if someone doesn’t have hair on their face or head, you save money on the effects. So that’s how the sausage is made. But I did indeed do a stunt as a demon convict whose head got lobbed off. So that’s me. But I’ll let Ildy answer your actual question.
MODROVICH: Yeah, we can also talk about casting Debbie Gibson. She’s the best. It was kind of the same sort of thing as Dennis. Somebody said … I can’t remember who it was, Joe, do you? Somebody said they knew her.
HENDERSON: I don’t remember, actually.
MODROVICH: Oh, I know … It was Tom [Ellis]! Tom had some connection to Debbie, and I think maybe it was, I don’t know, an Instagram, I don’t know what it was. He’s like, “We should ask Debbie Gibson,” and we did. And I have to say, like, the same as Dennis, she was so game for anything we threw on her. She knew what song she was going to sing about an hour before she had to record it, and she just got in there and slayed it. She’s a total pro, and so fun. And a great actress, by the way. I did not know that, but she’s got very great comic timing.
So you had COVID come up during production on Season 5. At what point in making this season was production shut down?
HENDERSON: I’m glad you’ve asked that, because that means we did our jobs right. Basically, the entire final fight, we shot in September. It was post-COVID. It was that, and then it’s the scene where Lucifer pretends to be Michael. All of that was shot months later. Everything else was before COVID.
We were almost done and, you know, we were going to shoot the finale at Mt. Wilson Conservatory, which is this beautiful location in Los Angeles. And then we had to shut down, when we came back, because the wildfires were raging and we couldn’t go there anymore.
Thankfully Mt. Wilson is now as safe and secure after all of that, but it ended up being a blessing because the Coliseum was available. And it’s never available, because it’s usually being used. And there was also this big open space where we could set up our crew and space everyone out. So it ended up being just this wonderful circumstance to allow us to come back safely and well, while staging what, at the time was the biggest sequence we ever shot.
Gotcha. So looking back on Season 5, a number of characters did get some closure on long-running storylines, like Linda reuniting with her daughter. With Season 6, how much pressure did you feel to add new storylines for the characters who did wrap up stuff?
MODROVICH: Season 6, partly because of COVID, became a much more intimate season. But also because we knew we had done this kind of splashy Season 5B, with a lot of spectacle, we didn’t want to try to top ourselves and just be empty action. So we found the more intimate story for all of our characters, and a much more emotional one. We didn’t have to scrape to find stories for anybody. We just kind of dug to a deeper level with everybody.
HENDERSON: Yeah. And though it is by far probably the most intimate season we’ve done, it also has the most expensive episode we’ve ever made. So, we’ve still got plenty of spectacle.
Okay, you’ve got to tease a little bit about what you mean by that.
HENDERSON: If you think the Season 5 finale [was big], our Season 6 finale… cost us more. I’ll leave that to interpretation.
Is it another musical episode?
HENDERSON: Different kind of spectacle.
You’re going down to 10 episodes for Season 6. What about that feels like the right amount?
HENDERSON: So first, what happened is, they called us up. They’re like, “Can you do a Season 6? Do you have a story for Season 6?” And we basically said, “We’ll only do it if we find a story worthy.” And Ildy and I talked a bunch, and we got the room together, we all talk. And then we found a story, but it felt like 10 episodes. Sometimes you just get a sense of things. You’re like … There’s a certain amount of story to be told with a certain engine.
And we also just … we didn’t want to overstay our welcome. We wanted to make sure that Season 6 was tight and strong and focused, and 10 felt like the exact right number of episodes to let us still play a little bit, but also make sure we stuck the landing. Because that’s the thing we’ve been holding on to the entire time. “Let’s make sure that by deciding to go one more season, we don’t ruin this beautiful story that we’ve been telling, and not get the exact right end point that we want to get to.”
In talking about, you know, the last eight episodes as a whole, how specifically were you looking to examine the question of self-worth? Because it feels like a theme that’s coming up for literally everyone, but I wasn’t sure if that was intentional or if that was something that kind of just happened naturally.
HENDERSON: I mean, I think you’re hitting the nail on the head — the theme of the show is self-worth, self-love. So much of it is about worthiness, about redemption, and about loving yourself. To me that the stew that we live in, that we play in. And that’s very much what we were setting up for this, and that is what we’ll continue exploring in Season 6. To us, this isn’t a story about devils and demons and everything else. It’s a story about family, it’s a story about loving yourself and feeling your own sense of self-worth. Yeah, that’s there.
MODROVICH: Also, you know, there’s so much, also, that we explore with our characters about self-manifestation and how we feel about ourselves. I think Lucifer started the whole series blaming [others], and by the end, he’s really able to do the bravest thing, which is look at yourself and go, “What am I doing? How can I be better?” And I think all of the characters, like Joe said, they’re all doing that, because that’s what we all struggle with the most, is how we see ourselves.
To wrap things up, the next iteration of Lucifer we may see on screen is the version in the Netflix adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s The Sandman. When you first heard the news about Gwendolyn Christie getting cast as the character, what did you think?
HENDERSON: Amazing. Like, one thing, she’s an amazing actress. For another, she’ll bring a completely different tone to the character. And the character from Sandman is such a different character, I think casting someone who has just such a different energy… I think it’s just awesome. I’m dying to see the first picture of her in character. I could not be more happy.
I’m sure it’s going to have a wonderful suit involved.
HENDERSON: I hope so. I mean, I would like to watch the adventures of Gwendoline Christie and Tom Ellis both playing different versions of Lucifer on a road trip together.
MODROVICH: Yes! Movie.
Lucifer is streaming now on Netflix.
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Filmmakers, please stop doing this.
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