Passionate fans save devil detective 'Lucifer' from cancellation


Tom Ellis plays the titular role on 'Lucifer'. Photo: Handout

When the fantasy series Lucifer premiered in 2016, several Christian groups called for it to be cancelled or boycotted, outraged that the devil himself was the protagonist - and that he was portrayed handsome, charming and not exactly evil.

Based on a DC Comics character created by Neil Gaiman for The Sandman graphic novels, the story revolves around the angel known as Lucifer Morningstar - played by Tom Ellis - who is so bored of ruling Hell that he packs up and moves to Los Angeles to run a nightclub.

When he is not indulging in earthly pleasures, Lucifer helps local police officers such as detective Chloe Decker (Lauren German) solve crimes. And he gradually starts developing human emotions - including some complicated ones for Chloe.

But Ellis and the creators say their series - which has been the most-watched show on Netflix in the United States since it debuted its fifth season on Aug 21 - is really about redemption and good triumphing over evil rather than eliciting sympathy for the devil.

In an email interview, writer-producer Joe Henderson says he thinks this is why the early furore among some Christians - which ironically helped publicise the show - eventually died down.

"I think a lot of the reason is because people actually watched the show and saw we weren't what they assumed we were.

"We're a show about redemption and good winning out - what's more Christian than those ideas? I know so many people of faith who have discovered and grown to love the show over the years."

Ellis agrees. "Most of our religious critics surfaced before we even aired, which to me suggests a lot more about those people than it does our show.

"I grew up in the church and never once worried that we were doing something wrong or blasphemous," says the 41-year-old British actor.

His favourite fan feedback is "from people of faith who have managed to take something positive from watching it".

And Lucifer's fans are a passionate bunch.

After middling reviews and ratings for its first three seasons, the show was cancelled by Fox, the American network it originally aired on.

But the fan outcry and resulting #SaveLucifer social media campaign prompted Netflix to acquire it and make a fourth season.

The streaming service has now renewed the popular title for a sixth, which will be its last.

Ildy Modrovich, another writer and producer, recalls how stunned the cast and crew were when fans rallied to save the series.

"The surprise was that people were actually watching. I mean, getting cancelled is usually a sign that maybe you're not exactly killing it," she says.

"So when the Save Lucifer campaign happened, we were shocked and thrilled. We had no idea we had such a lovely fan base out there, it was the fact that they organised and banded together that made us aware."

Ellis was stunned too. "I've worked in this industry for 20 years and I have never experienced anything like that before.

"But to be honest, Fox did us a huge favour because the show has really come into its own on Netflix. And our fans now feel like shareholders in the show, which is lovely."

And for the actor, the most important elements of the series have little to do with its biblical origins.

"I never got bogged down in the whole devil side of things. I tried to approach Lucifer as I would any other character, which means having to find some empathy for him.

"To me, he was just a hurt son who was labelled by his dad and, as a result, no one understood him."

But the show never takes itself too seriously, Ellis adds.

"I've always thought the humour and the heart of Lucifer is the reason the show works. It has a knowingness about it that lets the audience in on the joke and means we are able to get away with the things we do.

"That coupled with how much we end up caring about our characters means our audience is laughing one minute and crying the next, which is just the kind of storytelling I love." – The Straits Times/Asia News Network

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