Before you ask, yes, Kevin Alejandro knows that Detective Dan Espinoza isn’t the warmest character on Lucifer, but the complexity of playing such a character attracted Alejandro to the role and he embraces the humanity of Dan. The Netflix series recently shared Season 5A with the fans of the series, who Alejandro praises with great frequency, and who are smart enough to tell that Alejandro the actor is a lot different than Dan, or as he is sometimes known, Detective Douche. In addition, Alejandro directed his second episode of the series and it’s a technically complex episode, he also co-directed a short film, and best of all, as we recently hopped on a Zoom video, a discussion of long-ago shows inspired Alejandro to show off his collection of seat backs from those shows, including Ugly Betty.
The following is a condensed and edited transcription of a Zoom video interview with the enthusiastic Kevin Alejandro of Lucifer.
Brief Take: You must have known from the beginning that this was a very special show.
Kevin Alejandro: Absolutely. Absolutely. I knew because I had never seen anything like it. I didn’t know it would take off, though. I was like: “Ooooh, this one’s going to be interesting. I’m not sure how it’s going to take off, but I love it”. I wasn’t sure how the audience would feel mixing the celestial life with the formula of a detective show. Because you’re right, I have played a lot of detectives and they’ve all been your traditional sort of…in that environment. I wasn’t sure how the worlds would mix, all I knew is that I wanted to be a part of it. And boy, I was glad I was given the opportunity to do so.
BT: This season is pretty fantastic. What was it like when you were making it?
KA: We were coming into this season thinking it was our last. So it was written that way, it was acted that way, it was produced that way, the whole crew, it was lit that way, like we were going to go out with a bang. So everything that you see has 110 per cent from each individual involved in the show. We didn’t get the surprise call until literally right before the very end, to the point that they had to rewrite the ending to leave room for a Season 6. And we wanted to go out big, we wanted to go out hard, so that’s what you’re getting. You’re getting that birth up to that big ending that we’re going to do.
BT: And that was your episode that you directed. What did that feel like for you?
KA: You know, it’s amazing, man. This one had a lot of pressure on it because when I had gotten approved to direct that episode that I knew that were going to be split into 5A and 5B, and I knew that it had that sort of cliffhanger midseason finale title on it. Within that, there’s sort of a psychological pressure that’s put on to yourself, because you want to end it in such a way that the audience is going to go [raises voice] “Oh gosh! What are they going to do now?”. So there was that added pressure, but it was something that I was so excited to get. I’m very lucky that Joe (Henderson) and Ildy (Modrovich) and everybody involved in making those decisions stood in my corner and approved a new director like that with that big a responsibility. I got to reveal one of the biggest reveals our show has ever seen, so I’m very fortunate. I feel like I got to direct a really good fight scene in there which I personally think is one of the biggest our show has ever seen, and with that came the nerves, but also the utmost trust with everyone involved to make that happen. From our stunt team to our lighting team to our writers to our actors, everyone showed up for me and I showed up the best that I knew how for everyone, and I think that together we developed a really, really awesome midseason finale.
BT: What did it feel like when you were the number one trending topic all day when the previous season was released and you were having a party to celebrate?
KA: Oh my gosh, it’s surreal. You only see those things and then to be part of that entity that is doing that, it’s almost like a dream, man, like you don’t quite know how to process it other than to celebrate with a bunch of shots of tequila. [laughs] That’s what I did. [laughs]
BT: What are your favourite on-screen moments from the series?
KA: For Dan, in particular, I think some of those moments are coming, they’re in this new season. Audiences really get a chance to get to know a little bit more about this guy and where he comes from and just how wounded he is really. So those moments are yet to come within this season, but I love every moment that I get to, [chuckles] this is going to sound weird, but I love every moment in which I get to be the butt of Lucifer’s jokes. [laughs] Like there’s a balance there, like: “ughhh”, there’s always a reaction that he gives, so those moments really show his silly side but flip it on its head, with something emotional and something true and something honest, so I’m lucky, I have one of the most well-balanced characters I think on the show.
BT: Do you now feel comfortable embracing the moniker of Detective Douche?
KA: It’s funny, when I heard Tom (Ellis) say it at a table read for the first time, and just the way he said it, I was immediately like: [slaps table] That’s going to stick. That’s going to stick! I know it! And it did and I love it and it’s like a term of endearment for me. It’s funny that a word that sort of has a negative connotation can put such a smile on my face.
BT: What is it like acting with and directing Tom Ellis as Lucifer and Tom Ellis as Michael?
KA: Well, first of all, Tom is one of my favourite actors and he’s a big reason why I wanted to be part of Lucifer as well. From the moment I saw the pilot and saw that he was involved, I was like: “Yeah. I’m in. I love this guy”. And he hasn’t steered me in the opposite direction at all. In fact, just higher up that mountain. Especially from a director’s perspective, we’ll talk from that angle, watching him play both those characters…it’s hard for any actor. But watching him do it in such a way and being privy to just a small part of his process and what he goes through, not only as a peer or a colleague but as a friend, having conversations about what he’s going through to do it, really just makes me respect him even more. But with that said, as actors and as artists, we all want to be challenged to that level, right? Otherwise, why do it? So it was really cool to sit back from that perspective and watch him be challenged and watch him…maybe not be afraid of a choice, maybe not knowing which is the right one, but [smacks hands together] invest in it, and either A) That was the right choice, or B) fail, and go to the next choice. Because that’s what it’s all about, it’s about always willing to take a jump and take a stab at something, and if it works, fantastic, and if it doesn’t, what didn’t work and what will? And Tom is really great at that. He’s not afraid to take a chance. And so I think his way of thinking, like that from the very beginning, is not being afraid to take a chance, is not being afraid to fall flat, and not being able to deliver a joke at its fullest and it doesn’t land, is that dynamic that’s helped shape the mentality of the whole show, is that it encourages all of us to want to take a risk and also, to be okay to make the wrong choice. I think that Tom has a really big influence on the dynamic of our show because he leads with that confidence.
BT: You all seem to genuinely like each other. How did you form that off-screen dynamic so well?
KA: That’s the reason that we still exist, because I think that it comes out on screen, that I think that you can tell that we genuinely want to be there and it…don’t get me wrong, we do love everybody and we do our work and we’re very inviting, but the moment that somebody shows up that’s the opposite of what we’ve created, you’re going to hear about it and you may not come back. Because it’s very important for us to create an atmosphere of which everyone wants to be a part. There’s a reason why our crew during a pandemic, will hold out from any other job, when money is important and there’s a reason that they’re like: “Nope there’s a chance Lucifer is coming back, I’m waiting for that”. Because we all love being there and we all love creating that, and that’s what important to us. And that in itself has influenced the way that the writers write, has influenced the way we react to each other as friends, the way we react to each other as characters, also, that sets a whole tone for what Lucifer is. And the audience has really contributed to this in such an amazing way, A. For saving us, and B. For always being on our side, no matter what is done, they are on our side and they’re going to stick with us to the very end, and we do it for them.
BT: What’s been your favourite fan encounter?
KA: My favourites are always the ones that dress like the character. I’ve seen some pretty good Dans out there. We have the best fans. And I’ve been fortunate to be part of some pretty cool shows. But I haven’t ever encountered a fanbase like the Lucifer fanbase. They just have our back and they are willing to set things aside and buy what we’re throwing down and buy what we’re selling, so to speak, because it’s a chance to escape. And it’s mostly the hugs that I get from those guys, like those are my favourite moments. Now, I don’t know how it’s going to be, but I love that interaction with our fans. And I hate calling them fans, because I want them to be my friends. But yeah, that’s what it is for me, those are my favourite interactions with those guys.
BT: You first directed the bonus episode of Season 3, featuring the voice of God. Was that Neil Gaiman?
KA: That was Neil Gaiman. Yep, Neil Gaiman’s the voice, the voice, the role of God and I wish I had everything to do with it, but I had nothing to do with it.
BT: But you directed it. So…
KA: But I directed it. Actually, Joe (Henderson) said it as a joke, I think he was like: “But wouldn’t it be funny if Neil Gaiman actually did it?”. And it was like: “Maybe I’ll send him an email”, and he said: “yes”. And it worked, and dude, I’m lucky. [laughs] I’m a lucky boy. To have all those guys championing me and to support my desire to take directing to whatever level it would allow me, and to have people in my corner saying: “Yeah, you can do it. Yeah, we’ll make this happen, we’ll be in your corner”, [sighs] I’m with the right group of folks at this point in my life and I will be really sad when it really comes to an end.
BT: You directed a short film called Adult Night with Leslie, your wife, and Lesley-Ann Brandt?
KA: My wife’s name is Leslie Ann and one of my close friends is named Lesley-Ann, so people with this name seem to be good people in my life. And it was super cool, Lesley-Ann Brandt and I discovered very early into our friendship and our on-screen relationship that there’s not a lot of inhibition or insecurity between us. That we feel safe with each other and willing to push each other to the next level and we enjoy that. We wanted an opportunity to do something outside of Lucifer and kind of flex another muscle that we don’t normally get to do, which is our comedic side. And that’s what Adult Night stemmed from – we wanted to do something together, my wife is a great director as well, so together, we co-directed it. The three of us, along with another couple of people, produced it together. And it’s doing really well, it’s won a couple of festivals, it’s going through the festival circuit right now, we’ll be showing at the New York Latino Film Festival, coming up we’re in Rincon, Puerto Rico, we’re in San Antonio, a couple more which we can’t talk about just yet, that haven’t announced it yet but we’ve gotten confirmed. So it’s doing its thing and that was just an opportunity for us to continue a relationship outside of Lucifer and see where else it can lead and to have fun with it.
BT: What has that friendship with Lesley-Ann Brandt meant to you in terms of your on-screen dynamic?
KA: Off-screen relationships are so important because you bring that energy into work, right? And with all of us, actually, you can actually see that it translates on-screen and I think that’s why our audience likes us even more, because I think that they can sort of subconsciously feel that we’re not just a bunch of bullshit people getting paid to do a job. It’s like: “Ughh, great I’ve got to…” No, it’s like [banging desk and raises voice]: “Let’s have some fun!” And that’s very important and I think that the moment that you find it, you hold on to it and you ride it to the very end because they’re rare, especially in our business, because sometimes it’s just: “let’s just get the job done”.
BT: You are also in the episodes that you direct. How do you enjoy directing yourself?
KA: I haven’t quite mastered that one yet. I know from the actor’s perspective, making choices and all that, the first time that I did it, I had another director watch me. Another director came in and did all the blocking and that stuff and then I always make sure that the performance is true and he had my back. And then this time around, Lesley-Ann Brandt actually watched a lot of my performances for me because we’re just so comfortable with each other and I trust her.
BT: Do you feel like this series is the result of the collective all working together to make the series better?
KA: A hundred per cent. If any of those elements that Lucifer has was weak, I don’t think that we would be as good of a show. And our audience and our fans are right at the top of that list. Without them, we don’t have a second life, we don’t have a first life. And we hear them, we hear what they want. We want to do this and we want to go out in such a way that our audience goes: “We did it together! [slams desk] What a fucking journey that was!” [slams desk again] We did it!” And we end on a happy note like that, this is what I want to happen. And Season 5 would have done that, now we get to do it in Season 6, so that again, man, is just a testament to our audience being in our corner.
Lucifer season 5 is now streaming on Netflix