Tom Ellis Explains His Portrayal of the Devil in “Lucifer”
PEAK OF THE DEVIL. Tom Ellis is set to charm TV audiences the world over as he reprises his devilish role in a new season of “Lucifer”
Having proven himself through major roles in “EastEnders,” “Miranda” and the finale of the third series of “Doctor Who”, Welsh-actor Tom Ellis has long been a phenomenon in the British Isles. on the global stage, however, he is now known best for his portrayal of Lucifer Morningstar in “Lucifer.” His portrayal of a bored Devil running a nightclub in L.A. has mesmerized viewers and critics alike, with the second season of the show garnering high praise and including a sequel hook that has audiences clamoring for more. Fortunately, the wait is over as “Lucifer” season three starts airing early this October. So, be prepared to see Ellis’ devilishly charming good looks all the way through early 2018. and in the meantime, he shares added insight into the show and his life as an actor.
DA MAN: Hi, Tom; awesome to have you with us. How are you doing these days?
Tom Ellis: Pretty well, thank you. I’m knee deep in filming the third season of “Lucifer” so there’s not a lot of sleep, but I can’t complain.
DA MAN: So, this October, the third season of “Lucifer” starts airing. Do you still have fun playing the “Lord of Hell on Sabbatical in L.A.”?
Tom Ellis: So much fun. It basically feels like my dream job at the moment. And I’ve gotten so close with all of my colleagues, that sometimes it feels like I’m just going out to play with my friends every day.
DA MAN: If we could go back to the start for a bit, did you have any misgivings about playing Lucifer? And what was it that drew you to the role?
Tom Ellis: I didn’t have any misgivings about playing him. I tried to take the weight off of the whole “Devil” thing and just really look at the character on the page—and what I saw was a very complicated but fun man to play. I guess what really drew me to the role was the opportunity to play a character where there was both drama, comedy and action rolled into one. It made me laugh more than any script I read that pilot season.
DA MAN: The first season of “Lucifer” did well; the second season did great. What can fans and newcomers to the show expect from the third?
Tom Ellis: I think now that we have established so many characters in the show, our third season will see a lot of cross-pollinating of relationships. Characters that haven’t previously interacted as much will get a chance to. We also have four stand-alone episodes which are more like anthology episodes than the typical format of the show. They were really fun to film and I think our “Lucifer” fans are going to love them. We also have a new love triangle that I hope will be very compelling for the show’s fans.
DA MAN: Not many people know that “Lucifer” is based on a comic series. But a lot of people see being on a comic book adaptation as being a big deal for an actor’s career. Do you agree?
Tom Ellis: Funnily enough, I didn’t actually realize that the show was based off of a comic book until I read the press release announcing my casting. I guess that’s a bit shameful to admit. But I’m glad in a way, because it didn’t affect my choices going in to meet for the project, or give me any preconceived ideas of the character. But thankfully Neil Gaiman, the creator of the comic, forgave my ignorance and graciously sent me several copies of the books, so now I’m fully versed! I guess what makes a comic book show a bit different than another one would be that there’s already a fan base established. But, I think our show has brought in a lot of people beyond of the comic book world as well, so that’s exciting.
DA MAN: Today, with the show going strong and the audience loving it, what do you think about the backlash against the whole portraying-the-devil-in-a-sympathetic-light angle of “Lucifer” early on?
Tom Ellis: As I said when the initial backlash against “Lucifer” happened, I think it’s silly to judge something before watching it, and I think that mindset suggests more about those people than it does about the show. For me, this show is the ultimate redemption story. It’s essentially about the most irredeemable character in history trying to find his own humanity—and I think that’s a story worth telling.
DA MAN: By the way, how do you exactly put yourself in the shoes—and the head—of a character like “Lucifer”?
Tom Ellis: Honestly, music has always helped me get inside the head of characters that I’m creating. I love making playlists that suggest mood, tone or even just certain emotions. It’s sort of like a musical mood board. Music takes you somewhere instantly, to a place that’s beyond words.
DA MAN: Is there anything about this character that you somehow identify with?
Tom Ellis: Quite a lot. We all have things that we’re ashamed of, choices in our past. I think anyone who denies that would be lying. On a lighter note, he likes to seek the fun in life, which is something i’ve always done as well—maybe slightly too much at times. He also loves a pun, as do I.
DA MAN: On that note, will we see you take on any new characters anytime soon?
Tom Ellis: It’s hard to find time to do other projects with the “Lucifer” schedule because we film most of the year. But I did just do a cameo in a new Rebel Wilson comedy, which was a fun change for me.
DA MAN: How about revisiting old characters? For example, we’ve heard about the possibility of a return for “Miranda”…
Tom Ellis: I’ve always said that I would go back to “Miranda” if any more episodes were happening. It’s a huge part of my life and I love everyone involved in it. There are definitely discussions happening about the possibility of more episodes, but right now that’s literally all I know. So, everyone’s just going to have to bear with it.
DA MAN: What about in the long-term? What are some of the next big steps or milestones that you want to tackle?
Tom Ellis: I did a play three and a half years ago and it reminded me how much I love the theater. Since then, I’ve been really craving more of that. I see theater as rehab for acting; you return to the basics and remember why you fell in love with acting in the first place. So, I really hope to do more of that soon. I would also love to do more feature film work. But mainly variety is what I have always craved as an actor.
“We all have things that we’re ashamed of, choices in our past. I think anyone who denies that would be lying”
DA MAN: If we could go back again for a bit, what would you consider your breakout role? The one that really put you on the map, so to speak…
Tom Ellis: In the U.K. it was definitely “Miranda”. Being on that show changed all of our lives in a way none of us anticipated. But outside of the U.K. my big break, so to speak, was the U.S. show “Rush”. It was a great part, and I’ll always be sad that it didn’t go longer. But I definitely believe that show paved the way to “Lucifer.”
DA MAN: Personally, however, was there a role, a film project or even a single moment on set that made you go “Yes, this is what I’m going to be doing for the rest of my life”?
Tom Ellis: It was probably just the moment when I was first hired as a professional actor. Before that, I’d spent three years at drama school and it felt like such a big dream. You’re surrounded by the knowledge that most drama students don’t end up having careers as actors. So, getting that first job really made me believe that it was a tangible dream.
DA MAN: In your opinion, what does it take for an actor to succeed in this day and age? And on a related note, what do you believe is the key to your success?
Tom Ellis: First of all, it takes a lot of luck. The more I’ve worked, the more I’ve realized that so much of it is out of your hands when it comes to casting. But I honestly believe that the most you can do as an actor is work as hard as you can on the material that you have to get the jobs. It’s not about networking, it’s about preparation and investment. You get out of it what you put in to it. Coming to audition in america made me realize just how intense the level of competition is, so why not do the absolute most you can do?
DA MAN: What was the best piece of acting advice that you’ve ever heard?
Tom Ellis: It was from Mark Strong, and he told me: “Know what you’re in.”
DA MAN: And if somebody—say, a young aspiring actor—asks you for advice, what would you say?
Tom Ellis: I would say work hard and back yourself. When you’re auditioning, make specific choices and stick to them. Don’t get caught up in guessing what you think they would want.
DA MAN: Do you think that having a solid social media presence is important in your line of work?
Tom Ellis: The only reason I got on social media was because I was in my line of work. It’s not something that comes naturally to me or something I would have done otherwise. But it has turned out to be a great way to interact with fans. I do, however, think people care far too much about social media.
DA MAN: Now, we did peek at your Twitter account, and it seems that you’re not one to shy away from the occasional debate about current issues. What usually drives you to respond to things people Tweet?
Tom Ellis: Most people who know me know that i’m pretty tolerant, and I am generally good at ignoring rude people. However, the election of Donald Trump has changed all that. Globally, I don’t think it’s in anyone’s interest to ignore the danger and carelessness that he has brought to the world. He’s a bully, and that is something that I cannot tolerate in life, full stop.
DA MAN: Besides Twitter trolls, what else are your biggest pet peeves?
Tom Ellis: Bad drivers, drivers who text and drive. Which is most people in Los Angeles, unfortunately.
DA MAN: Conversely, what makes you happy?
Tom Ellis: Spending time with my children. They make me laugh from a place that no other person has made me laugh from. and also my fiancé, Meaghan. And beer.
DA MAN: Besides your work, what else are you genuinely passionate about?
Tom Ellis: I love sports. I’ll watch any kind, really, but I grew up as an avid football fan in the U.K.. I’m a massive Arsenal fan. I also love to play golf, but my handicap has suffered somewhat recently because I have no time to play.
DA MAN: In the future, what do you want to be remembered for the most?
Tom Ellis: I care most about what my children remember about me. I want to be someone who inspires them to be kind, loving and to pursue their dreams.
DA MAN: Last question: What is it that drives you to face each new day?
Tom Ellis: The fact that life is short.
Photography Mitchell Nguyen McCormack
Styling Suzi Rezler
Grooming Ericka Verrett
Styling Assistant Mark Weidner
Photography Assistant Zachary Kramer and Sean Kennedy
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