It’s hard to not be impressed with self-described (or perhaps it was Tom Ellis-described) “Human Caffeine”, the lovely Aimee Garcia, with whom we recently had the chance to talk on the phone about all things Lucifer, as Season 5A is set to drop this week. While we knew that Lucifer would be on the menu, we also spoke at length about her new production company with AJ Mendez, Scrappy Heart Productions, a little bit about the upcoming M.O.D.O.K., and of course, we had to call it back to Dexter, of which we are big fans. As Ella Lopez, a forensics investigator on Lucifer starting in season two, Garcia seems to fit so naturally into the Netflix series and she has quite a lot happening this season (and for her, this year it seems).
The following is a condensed and edited version of a spirited phone interview with the wonderful Aimee Garcia.
Brief Take: This season has so much going on. Did you have a good time filming it?
Aimee Garcia: It was a blast. Everything from a 1940’s mob boss, to a very intense scene in which Ella is fighting for her life, to singing and dancing, to getting to have a crisis of self and finally have a love interest. It was so much fun! I think we found our stride as a show and I think the writers keep outdoing themselves. I don’t know how they keep coming up with these stories, but it was an absolute blast! I think that it’s going to be one of our best seasons yet.
BT: What is it about this group that you genuinely like these people?
AG: I think that it’s just the vibe of…it starts at the top, right? It starts from our showrunners, Joe (Henderson) and Ildy (Modrovich) and it filters out. The writers room seems to be so much fun and they’re cracking jokes and they’re very supportive and it just starts Day 1. My first day, Tom (Ellis) and Lauren (German) were extremely professional and generous and said: “Hey, this is your close-up, if you need anything from us, let us know”, and to walk into that kind of environment and then you pay it forward, so when Inbar (Lavi) came on board, we all welcomed her with open arms and said: “Look, we want you to do your best work”. And you do your best work when you’re the most comfortable, I think it’s just learned behaviour, you pay it forward and it’s a lot of fun in between takes with singing and dancing and I’m lucky enough to have very lighthearted scenes, so I come in with fresh legs off the bench, ready and excited to play. But I would say that I think it just starts from the top. Joe and Ildy, our showrunners, are exemplary leaders and they really set the tone.
BT: You appear in a lot of interesting projects. Which ones have led you nicely into Lucifer?
AG: Well I loved Dexter, working with Michael C. Hall was such a treat and he singlehandedly made me a better actor. He is a triple threat – he can sing, dance, act. Right after Dexter he did Broadway, he’s just a consummate professional. I loved doing RoboCop, I learned so much from Michael Keaton and Gary Oldman, I could not have asked for a better position in which to be than the actor’s actor that is Gary Oldman, who is just such a chameleon that he’s unrecognizable: The Fifth Element, The Professional, he’s a complete chameleon, which I feel is so rare these days. And then Michael Keaton, who is way too charming for his own good and can make anything funny and was always reading the newspaper to keep up with current events and just has this effervescent, light-heartedness that he would bring to any line he delivered. Gary and I would be like: “Well, how did you do that?” “How does he make the most dull line funny?” And so it was like the best acting school ever. And also going back, I would have to say The Trauma, which was Peter Berg’s show with Cliff Curtis. I mean Cliff Curtis, he’s an actor from New Zealand and he’s fantastic. I think that he even joked that every time he acts with someone, they use that person’s clip for the movie like in Training Day and in Whale Rider and in Blow and he’s like: “Yeah! Johnny Depp, they use that clip, and Whale Rider, they use that clip, and for Training Day, for Ethan Hawke they use that clip” and he made me a better actor. He is so talented, so that I think, and doing a year of Trauma, a helicopter military veteran and representing women in the military, that was such an honour and I really feel like I grew as an actor there. And George Lopez! I really feel like I got my comedic chops from that and now that it’s 2020, you do say that I’ve had a very, very lucky career in which nothing just sprouted overnight.
It was one line and then two lines and now I’m at the point in which I really want to create the change I want to see in media, so I partnered up with AJ Mendez, who at one point was the number one female wrestler in the world and wrote a New York Times bestseller ‘Crazy is my Superpower’, and I said: “Hey, do you want to just create diverse heroes that we didn’t have as kids?”. And so we did, like I feel like I needed to take it one step further in wanting to play these professional Latinas on tv. I love when the fans are like: “Oh my gosh, I want to be in STEM too now, because of her” and teachers will come up and be like: “Hey, we play Ella Lopez in our class and it inspires young girls to engage science”, and that’s so fantastic. I thought: “AJ and I just started a production company and keep creating the change that we want to see, so that we can write American stories from a Latinx perspective and create tons of Ella Lopezes and create the next Latina Buffy”, and I feel like that’s where my heart is. I love The Avengers and I look around and see the majority of the people there, just Latinx American families and I’m like: “Oh, we have one: Zoe Saldana”, and I was like: “These are Galaxy heroes, we can have tons of Latino heroes saving the world”. I feel like that instinctually is what is currently happening, is I’ve gone from doing all this acting work to writing eight hours a day and just frankly telling the stories that I didn’t have growing up.
BT: Do you feel as though your work on Lucifer inspired your production company or are they separate pursuits?
AG: I feel like one inspired the other. As Ella on Lucifer, I was lucky enough to go all over the world to all these Comic-Cons and meet fans face-to-face. They would ask: “What are you doing next? What’s next for you?” and they were like: “We love Ella, we love Jamie on Dexter and we love AJ, she has her own action figures and stuff”, and I was like “You know what? Let’s just answer that by saying that we’re telling more stories about which they keep asking us.” So GLOW and the Babyface came about because they were like: “Well, AJ’s a badass, she grew up homeless and ended up being the number one female wrestler in the world, do you want to write GLOW?”. And she was like: “Aimee’s my writing partner”, so we did that and then one thing led to another and they asked to do Dungeons and Dragons, so we were able to create this badass female Viking, based on a real life article, actually, of this woman who was a Viking and had a huge scar on her face and had a hero’s burial. We thought: “Wait a second! Not only men fought, women fought too, this is so cool“, so let’s create this character, and we created Runa and they loved it. And then with GLOW, I was like: “You know what? Let’s highlight a really cool relationship that we don’t get to see on the show as much between a Muslim woman and a Mexican woman, and they approved it and it was great. They were like: “We loved it”, and I was like: “Oh my God, I feel like it kind of came from the fans themselves”, which felt so good, because they were like: “Please, can you do like a Buffy, or can you do this?” and I thought: “How cool would it be to create like a 16-year-old badass Buffy, who’s diverse”, and so it really has been so organic and fun. Universal just approached us last week and it’s been great, like I really feel like I can’t wait to just pay it forward, I can’t wait to write these really inclusive stories, whether you’re Black, white, Latin, whatever, I think the best stories are universal. We’re all the same. We all want the same thing – our family to be healthy, and to laugh and to be loved, and to have the most fun we can while we’re here. I just feel like it’s such a cool opportunity to kind of extend it, but I would say it happened really organically, from going all over the world and seeing these fervent fans ask what’s next.
BT: What can you say about M.O.D.O.K.?
AG: M.O.D.O.K. is actually in the Iron Man universe and he’s this oddball character, he’s a super villain and in this series, written by Jordan Blum, who’s insanely talented, and also written by, I think Patton Oswalt, who stars as M.O.D.O.K. wrote some of it as well, but what is so cool about it, I don’t know how much I’m allowed to say, but this super villain and this show, which will I think come out on Hulu, I think by the end of the year, hopefully, is so humanizing, like all M.O.D.O.K. wants to do is destroy the world, but then you meet his family and it’s so much fun, because what happens when a super villain can’t be a super villain? His hands are tied because the world has changed, so it’s a really fun, ridiculous show, that I actually just found out that I think that my character Jodie, who plays M.O.D.O.K’s wife and I play the mom of Ben Schwartz and Melissa Fumero, from Brooklyn Nine-Nine and I think it’s one of Marvel’s first biracial families.
BT: What do you like about the fact Lucifer has diversity present but doesn’t really makes it the focus of the show and the fact that last season of the show was the number one trending series on Netflix?
AG: It feels so great. You nailed it when you said we are just such a universal show, it’s a show about love, it’s a show about redemption, it’s a show about forgiveness. If the Devil can strive for forgiveness, then so can we. And I think that it’s just one of those shows in which you’re laughing and then you’re crying and then you’re throwing things at your computer, and then you’re watching it again. It’s just so unexpected, right? It’s such a cheeky show, it’s a crime solving devil. That sounds ridiculous, [laughs] but I think that the writers do such a good job at humanizing these characters in which you see yourself in them. And you’re right, we’re very inclusive, we’re all sorts of ethnicities and all sorts of sexual orientations and family dynamics and I think it’s very timely, and again the fans are the ones that singlehandedly brought us back. We were D.O.A., we were cancelled by Fox, and for people to vote with their phones all over the world and start a movement that ended up getting this little show that could an extra three seasons, you feel so honoured. It was so cool to come back for work and know that the people voted, that people all over the world, Brazil and Europe and Australia and Canada and New Zealand and India, Dubai. I just had a Virtual Con and this kid from Singapore was like “It’s three or four in the morning but I love your show and I want to meet you”, and I thought: “Wow! This show has such a global reach”, and to know that people went out of their way and took their time to champion for the show to get picked up, it’s such an honour. I feel that we owe it to the fans to put our best foot forward and really give them the best stories that we can because they championed for us, so essentially they are our bosses, they are the people that made this happen. I call them our little Angels because it’s cool to organically come back, because all around the world demanded it.
BT: It must be the best feeling to be there celebrating this show that has returned.
AG: It’s incredible. It really is winning the lottery in terms of just being teammates with everybody, it’s as much their show if not more than it is ours. It really feels like winning the lottery. I mean it’s so hard to get a show on the air, right? You could have a great show, it could be the wrong time, it might be ahead of its time, it might not have the right cast, it might have the right cast but not the right writers, it might have the right writers but the wrong network, there’s so many things that can go wrong, it’s such a difficult, uphill battle to get a show on the air. And then to keep a show on the air, the percentages are so low. It’s so hard, there’s so much competition, it’s so expensive, and to have this story just continue on going, I really think the Lucifer fans, what I love is that they’re so kind to each other. And I’m really proud of that, it’s a big family and I love how they are supportive of each other. One fan will say: “I lost my Mom today”, and another fan will say: “Hang in there. I just lost mine last year, you’re going to get through this, you’ll still feel her”, and I thought: “It’s so great”, I’m so proud of our fanbase for being so classy and so inclusive and so loving, because one of my favourite quotes is: “Never doubt that a few committed citizens can change the world”, and in fact, it’s the only thing that has ever. It’s a Margaret Mead quote and one ripple can prompt a whole wave, so I feel honoured, I feel very lucky, I feel very grateful and excited, because I think that they’re going to be in for a treat. You think 5A is good, just wait until 5B! You’ve got that musical episode going, [laughs] like you said, we have a Girl’s Night Out episode, we have a Film Noir episode, Ella’s going to be in one of the darkest scenes we’ve ever had, in which you would never expect, as you saw. You have Michael, you have Tom (Ellis) playing two characters, you have Deckerstar, which obviously the fans love, Ella’s such a Deckerstar ‘shipper, so you have everything you ever wanted, on a show to which you dedicated so much time. You’ve watched our show, that means you’ve given it [laughs] 80 hours of your life! And I feel like we owe it to you guys to bring it home in the best way, that makes people feel like they’re really satisfied with a story and characters that they love.
BT: How do you feel like you’ve grown through the character of Ella?
AG: I feel like Ella is a very relatable character in that her struggles are very earthly and universal. Struggling with faith, struggling with self, a lot of the fans have talked about how Ella’s line about God, in which she says “I don’t think it’s God’s job to stop the bad, I actually think he’s there to give us the strength to get through it”, and people wear that around their necks and make little necklaces of it and it’s very relatable. Especially when you look at the world today, there’s so much destruction and hate and separation and injustice and you wonder: How can there be a God if this is how the world is? There’s wildfires and social injustice, and I feel like lines of Ella’s like: “We need to make it better and we need to be strong enough to get through it, so that we can change it and make it better” are very inspiring. For me personally, I think that in a way, this character really was also one of the catalysts of taking it to the next level and saying: “Okay! It’s one thing to be disheartened about what’s going on, it’s another thing to do something about it”. I really feel like Ella’s positivity, in a way, has helped me get through this apocalyptic, end-of-the-world feeling time and has inspired me to create these diverse heroes and write a comic book about these 16 to 19-year-old heroes, like one’s Black, one’s Korean, one’s white and one’s Latina, and they’re like: “We’re the East Side Saints!” and that takes a light, like I need to be guided to write these things. If you’re too bummed to get out of bed, you can’t be inspired to create and tell stories. I think that Ella is also such a positive role model in that she’s in her own lane and for who she is, she’s also unapologetic. She hasn’t had a love interest until this season, total dork, smartest person in the room, has no filter, doesn’t know when to stop talking, she’s a major nerd and…she’s unapologetic about it. And I feel like hopefully that inspires people to just be themselves. It’s cool if you’re a dork, just embrace it. [laughs] I feel like in a way, Ella has helped me grow to be unapologetic about who I am. I’m not perfect and I hope to be a better version of myself, each day that goes by, and I feel like that’s a very Ella thing to do, which is to go on faith and trust that we’ll get through this and that the light will shine through, because that’s kind of what she is on the show. The show can get kind of dark, the stakes are very high and we have demons and angels and Hell and burning Hell and Goddesses and God and you have all these things. And death! Every episode, there’s a death and someone dies, [laughs] and Ella is this light. It’s very nice and it’s very contagious when you live with that character for four or five years, it really brings out your inner light. And you try to be that for the world, just like she is, because sometimes you have to see something to be it, right? How influenced are we by what we saw as kids? And you’re like: “Well, I can’t do it, but Iron Man can do it, so I’m going to be Iron Man and clean my room”, or whatever, I feel like representation really does matter. So going about that way, starting Scrappy Heart Productions, creating the change I want to see and bringing the light and lightheartedness to storytelling so that people feel less alone.
Lucifer season five is streaming tomorrow on Netflix