Speaking to Lesley-Ann Brandt from the series Lucifer is not at all a devil-ish experience. She calls right on time on her way from the gym, and even pulls over to make sure that we can hear each other a little better. In fact, what is so remarkable about Brandt is how open she is to express her feelings and beliefs, after recently attending the opening of the Los Angeles LGBT Center as well as attending her first ClexaCon this past weekend. In addition, she shared exclusively with Brief Take what viewers, both first-timers and long-time fans, should anticipate from her character Mazikeen for this upcoming season of Lucifer.
The following is a condensed and edited version of our interview with the lovely Lesley-Ann Brandt.
Brief Take: The #SaveLucifer campaign working out must have been an incredible experience.
Lesley-Ann Brandt: Absolutely! These kinds of things don’t happen in our industry. But I think that it speaks to the times, the way that people view content now is so different and being able to have an ownership in content they watch and the shows that they want to see. The fans worked so hard to make sure that their voices were being heard, and even though we didn’t fit in the network model, they were finding ways to do it worldwide, so it makes sense for us to be on a streaming service. Particularly on Netflix, the biggest streaming service in the world, because we were on Netflix in a lot of countries already, and given the freedom that we have now, we obviously don’t want to lose our core audience or change the show so dramatically, that it’s no longer the show with which the fans fell in love—that being said, we do have some leeway to push boundaries. I just think that people are going to be really excited and I’m so happy for the fans, because they get to see the fruits of their labor and their tweeting and speaking up and will get to see that now.
BT: And you now have a platform to explore the many sides of Mazikeen this season.
LAB: And that’s the thing about our show, in a weird way, even though we’re a light-hearted show that doesn’t take itself too seriously at times, which I think is part of the charm, that we have real, honest, human moments that really affect people. We see that when we go to the fan conventions – people come up and say “Oh my God, that scene in which you…” I had this Dad who came up to me in Australia, and he said “the scene in which Maze goes trick-or-treating, it touched me in such a way as a Dad, because I’m a Dad who struggles with these demons and I’ve always been scared to kind of share that with my kids. But when you unveil your demon face and went trick-or-treating, I think that no matter what are my demons, my kids are going to love me”. I mean… [gasps] Tears, down my face, the whole time. To have this scene resonate with a Dad in that way is crazy and so important for our writers to know, you know that what we do matters. So yeah, I’m excited too that on the other side of the coin, I do get to be a little more demonic, which is fun too.
BT: How do you feel when you’re playing your character?
LAB: What’s so great about our show is that we’re a show about humanity, but we have the worst character ever and the man responsible for all the bad in the world. In season 1, the focus for Mazikeen was to return back home, right? And in season 2, it’s “I can’t go home now, so how do I make her feel like home”, and then in season 3, it was all about relationships, and in season 4, it’s about a relationship. It’s about finding love, and so it’s very human – my approach to her. In fact, I drew on my experiences an immigrant, leaving South Africa for New Zealand. It took me a good couple of years to make New Zealand feel like home, I was almost 18, it was a tough age to emigrate and to leave all your friends behind. You know, very much like Mazikeen in that first season, in which she was like “No one gets me, no one understands me”, like no one in New Zealand could understand my South African accent, it was tough. So I just really drew on those life experiences. And I’m a very feisty person in real life, so that part of it I accessed easily too. I’m a very physical person, too – I work out, I do most of my stunts, like 90% of them. I enjoy that part of her. And then the approach to her is just very human.
BT: What can you say about working with this tremendous ensemble?
LAB: Our unit, like what we have on our show, is so rare in our industry, sadly. We’re in a sense, like we have a “no asshole” policy, and I think that this really stems from the producers, because they are so protective of that fact. We all genuinely love each other. We’re in each other’s lives, both on-screen and off-screen. We’re at birthday parties and kids events and weddings, and we have Tom’s wedding coming up and that is to be protected in our industry. And our producers do a wonderful job, so when they are hiring people to come in, they obviously are looking at the talent, but I think that they are also making sure that whoever we hire isn’t going to rock the boat. We’re so grateful. I get to go and play with my family when I go to work. They were so incredibly supportive when I came back to work six weeks after having my baby. And I was so happy that I didn’t have to say goodbye to people who I loved and that I think are wonderful, beautiful human beings and that are also incredibly talented and elevate the writing and make going to work a lot of fun. While we come from different backgrounds, what we all are is kind and loving and progressive and wanting to do the best job that we can on our show and be the best sort of people that we can be while doing the show.
BT: What do you expect from your first ClexaCon?
LAB: When I started this role, I had no idea that Maze would become this loved LGBTQ character. It’s funny, one of the original strips in the comic book, in the source material, one of the things that made me really interested to play her is this iconic picture kissing another girl, a barmaid that she falls in love with in the comic book. She’s in The Silver City and she’s giving the crowd the finger, and I was like “Wow”. These comic books came out in, I don’t know, the nineties, very progressive for its time, very controversial, so going to an event where a character like mine is celebrated by women in the community, it always feels so great to have people express what the character means to them. I get a lot of letters from young girls, or just younger kids who say “your character inspires me to feel confident”, or in “being more like myself”, and I always say that those are the days that I am grateful to get to do what I do for a living, when I have those sorts of fan interactions and I am looking forward to meeting them.
BT: Tell me about being an LGBTQIA ally and what that means to you.
LAB: I really got introduced to the LGBTQIA community in New Zealand, where I lived for 12 years. Where I lived in New Zealand on the North Island, in Auckland, I lived in an area that had a big gay community and it wasn’t even really a thing, like I just remember my friends and I love them. I’m lucky that I live in Los Angeles, a progressive and inclusive city for the most part. But when you get out of your bubble, it’s so weird, that I meet people who have issues or problems, or don’t care to understand and I’m like “What are you talking about?! These are your friends, like your hairdresser, or your make-up artists, or people who serve you in a department store. You’re fine to treat them with respect there, but in other parts of their life you actively work to disenfranchise them?? That makes no sense to me!”. And my son, I’m hoping, gets to be the generation that doesn’t have to deal with this shit. But while I’m around, all I can do is speak up and support and raise him in a way that means, not just inclusiveness and tolerance, but I want it to mean “normal”. I was saying at my interviews at the opening of the LGBTQ Center that I still smile when I see a gay couple, trans male, female, whatever, expressing their love and that’s amazing, and I love to see that, but I look forward to a time when I don’t have that reaction, like it’s normal and they are like any other couple.
BT: What are some shows that you are enjoying right now?
LAB: I’m a huge Game of Thrones fan [laughs] obviously, like everyone. I love, love, love Netflix documentaries, I’m a huge Netflix documentary watcher, I probably do like one or two a week, if I can. I just saw a really short one called Long Shot, it’s crazy, you should watch it, it’s on Netflix. The Handmaid’s Tale, I’m a huge fan. I love Santa Clarita Diet, again on Netflix, the stories are so inspiring, and they’re funny, they’re so funny. Ozark, I love Ozark. I also have a toddler, so it’s sort of all over the place, like whenever I can squeeze it in, but those are some of my faves right now.
BT: Speaking of standout shows, you gave a phenomenal performance on Spartacus.
LAB: Thank you, you’re so sweet! That was an incredibly hard decision, you know, I walked away from a hit show. And it was hard and then it wasn’t at the same time. A lot of people were like “Why did you walk away?” or “Why were you replaced?”, and I was like “I wasn’t replaced”. I decided that I was a local actor in New Zealand and I was part of a cast and I had gone over to the U.S. and gotten my work visa, which is like a golden ticket for actors, and my goal was to work in the States. Being very honest, I didn’t want to spend nine months in New Zealand. When I think about it now, when I got to America, I met Jonathan Littman and KristiAnne Reed, who are my Bruckheimer producers, and they cast me in a recurring role on CSI: New York. And now they are my Lucifer producers, so it all came full circle. When I went and auditioned for Mazikeen, they remembered me from the two episodes of CSI that I did, and they were like “We love you”, and now they’ve become my producers for my show that’s hopefully heading into its fifth season. So I know for fans it was very disappointing, and that was really tough, it was a tough decision. I’m very proud of the work I did there.
I’m still friends with Steven DeKnight, the showrunner. I’m so happy that he’s got a deal with Netflix now and he’s producing content for them. He’s so talented and I’m so happy to see him fly and do so well. And I’m in contact with Katrina Law and Erin Cummings, who played Sura, we’re still really good friends, she was just at my husband’s birthday party, so I’ve kept these friendships for life.
Andy (Whitfield)’s passing was so incredibly hard. I was happy that I was part of the original cast in those original two seasons, and also someone else got to play the character and portray her version of her, which is different to mine, and that’s amazing. Fans are going to like one or another, or be cool with both, but I was just happy that I got to be a part of Andy’s season.
BT: What’s something which fans should watch out for on this upcoming season of Lucifer?
LAB: I think that the fans are going to die by the finale. [laughs loudly] I mean the humour is there and it gets a lot cheekier and it gets dark at times, more so than we’ve been allowed to being on a network show before. But I’m really excited because it was work which I was very proud of and I am excited for our writers for having included it. So I’m excited that they get to finally watch it because you get the full ride of the roller coaster. For ten episodes … they’re not waiting for you to catch up at the beginning, they go back to back to back to back. So it’s like a double-edged sword, right? Like it’s not extended over weeks, but you get slammed for the full season, which is the way that I like to watch shows, to be honest.
BT: You’ve had so many milestones that you’ve reached with each season!
LAB: It’s like at this point, what am I going to do for season 5? It’s kind of crazy. I got married in season 1, I got pregnant in season 2, I had a baby in season 3, I bought a house season 4. I feel like I’ve grown up on the show. But that’s kind of my life, you know? My personal life and my professional life will both come up at the same time. If we get a season 5, which I hope!, I’m excited to see what I do next! [laughs] It’s been an interesting ride and I’m so grateful for my life, I really am.
Lucifer season 4 begins streaming on Netflix on May 8