When a life of fire, brimstone and burning souls got a bit too boring, Lucifer Morningstar moved to LA and opened a nightclub, tooling around in a vintage convertible with FALLIN vanity plates while occasionally cashing in IOUs for favors he granted. But the murder of a woman he knew outside his club leads him to a side gig in which his powers of persuasion and eliciting confessions are valuable assets: assisting the LAPD in solving crimes.
It’s an ironic hobby for the Prince of Darkness, and it’s just as surprising to learn that the Welshman who plays him comes from a family of pastors. Tom Ellis never had any intention of following in his father’s footsteps, however, and made a beeline for the British stage, segueing to film and television in the U.K. before starring in the USA series Rush in 2014.
Now, with the premiere of Lucifer tonight on FOX (9/8c), he weighs in on his Mephistophelean role and his own devilish side.
“Everyone has a certain perception of the Devil, a sort of gravity they assume comes with this, and I try to strip away all of that and make what he’s going through as human as possible.”
What kind of research does one do to play the Devil?
I took the original pilot script as my basic source material, because there is so much out there, so many different versions of who the Devil is. Tom Kapinos wrote the original pilot and it was for me a blueprint for the character. I knew exactly what I wanted to do with it because it was there on the page. That’s where it started.
Your dad, uncle and sister are in the clergy. Did you worry about breaking the news to them?
No. In fact, it didn’t land on me what that meant in terms of taking it on as a role. I just saw it as a really fun character and a fun script that had loads of potential to carry on. For me, it was just a very obvious choice. I really wanted to do it. I grew up on the very human side of Christianity; the messages in the household I grew up in were about peace, love and being understanding of everybody, which I think is quite cool. With regard to this, they’re all super excited I’m doing it, and I love that.
Did you read the graphic novels Lucifer is based on?
Actually, Neil Gaiman contacted me to say he’d seen the pilot, and he sent them to me and I read them. To have his blessing was really nice, that we weren’t bastardizing it, or whatever.
What did you like about this premise?
It’s fun. We’re using the character to tell a new story. It’s not some big theological debate. Everyone feels like they have a certain perception of the Devil, a sort of gravity that people assume comes with this, and I try to strip away all of that and make what he’s going through as human as possible. Lucifer himself says, “Am I the Devil because I’m intrinsically evil, or am I the Devil because dear old dad decided I was?” and that’s kind of the crux of where we find him in the show. I’ve had the most fun playing this part. I enjoy the responsibility of leading the show. And there’s a real fun in playing characters with a certain moral ambiguity.
Dr. Rush was rather devilish too. Is there something about you that’s drawn to bad boys?
It’s funny, my career in the U.K. is not based around that at all. It’s completely different, wholesome. I come to America and I’m someone else!
Why do you think women love bad boys so much?
I think it’s about wanting to change them. It’s the ultimate challenge. There’s something sexy about that.
You have three daughters…
Yes, they’re 10, 7 and 3. I’ve got three sisters as well, that’s been the dynamic of my life. Certainly I think it’s helped my understanding of women, as much as you can do. Maybe there’s a sensitivity that I have that wouldn’t have been the same if I’d had three brothers.
What do your daughters think of Lucifer?
They hate it. Not because I’m playing the Devil but the way I talk in the show. It’s a very heightened British accent, not my normal speaking voice. They hated it equally when I did Rush last year with an American accent.
Do you wish you could have any of Lucifer’s powers?
I’d love to have the power to make people tell the truth.
So what’s the most devilish thing about you?
I like to drive quite fast.
Get any tickets?
I’ve had a few in my life.
Photo courtesy of FOX.