Lucifer star, boss talk tackling race in powerful season 4 episode
EW chats with star D.B. Woodside and co-showrunner Joe Henderson about season 4 episode 8, which sees Amenadiel confront racism
Warning: This post contains spoilers from Lucifer season 4, which was released on Netflix last Wednesday. Read at your own risk!
Lucifer used one of its season 4 episodes to tackle race in America, something it has never done before.
In the season’s eighth episode, titled “Super Bad Boyfriend,” the angel Amenadiel (D.B. Woodside), who is expecting a baby with Dr. Linda (Rachael Harris), wonders what fatherhood would be like and ends up mentoring a young black boy named Caleb (Denny Love), who is involved in Lucifer (Tom Ellis) and Chloe’s (Lauren German) latest case. Through this friendship, Amenadiel receives a sobering look at what it’s like to be black in America, something he’s never to confront before because race isn’t a thing in the Silver City, and it makes him question whether or not he wants to raise his son here.
“That was a great episode to do,” Woodside tells EW. “It was, I think, definitely one of my favorites.”
Woodside’s been eager to attempt a timely story like this ever since season 1 when he and Ellis were cast as brothers. Through conversations with Woodside and watching the rise of racist and bigoted rhetoric in the country, the writers recognized that Linda’s pregnancy opened them up to attempt something like this in the new season.
“What we realized as we wrote the season is that we needed to twin in it with a moment where it would affect Amenadiel the most, where it would be the biggest gut-punch,” says co-showrunner Joe Henderson. “What we ended up realizing is tying it to the son, tying it to this idea of Amenadiel having a new family for the first time and that idea of, sure, he knew what racism was, he knew about humanity from a 10,000-foot-high perspective but actually experiencing it at this moment where he’s so emotionally vulnerable because he’s having to take care of someone so vulnerable.”
Henderson continues, “Everyone sort of felt like we wanted to say something [in reaction to the current climate], and the question was, can we still find a story that would fit within our language? We found this and got really excited because it both speaks to where our characters are but hopefully lets us say something. I grew up on Star Trek: The Next Generation. All of those racial metaphors that existed in that, I think, made a difference. I think part of the responsibility of fantasy is to, in any small way, address them.”
Naturally, Woodside was excited when the writers approached him with this idea; however, he was also somewhat nervous, too. “Because I’m the only African-American cast-mate, you always feel an extraordinary amount of responsibility when dealing with storylines that pertain to race relations in our country, especially since they’re more obvious to more people now,” says Woodside. “There’s absolutely nothing new in this episode or nothing new in the country that we don’t live with every day since the day of our birth. It’s sad, but true.”
The writers were very open to hearing some of his concerns, which eased some of that fear. “I tend to be one of those actors that [doesn’t] like to say a lot to the writers. I just kind of feel like my job is to do what I do. But, when it comes to topics like race, I do feel like I have that responsibility. So what was most concerning to me was dialogue and how these two characters talk to each other. And that it didn’t turn into some kind of white savior storyline,” says the actor.
At one point in the hour, two cops arrest Caleb for a crime he didn’t commit. While one of them aggressively forces Caleb to the ground, the other pulls his gun on Amenadiel, who has done nothing and simply asks to call his friends in the LAPD to sort everything out. The situation almost escalates past the point of no return, but luckily Dan (Kevin Alejandro), a detective, arrives and defuses the situation.
Unnecessarily hostile encounters with the police like this was nothing new for Woodside, who says he has been pulled over for no other reason than the cops think he’s driving too nice of a car. In incidents like that, though, the most astonishing and unsettling thing is when they suddenly start treating him differently when they realize he’s a television actor.
“That’s not okay with me. You shouldn’t all of a sudden treat me better just because you realize I’m one of those characters on your favorite television show. I should be treated the same way regardless,” he says. “So, yeah, [that scene] definitely brought up a lot of stuff. But I was just so happy that [director Claudia Yarmy] was the one guiding that ship.”
As the episode ends, Amenadiel makes the decision that he no longer wants to raise his son here and resolves to take him back to the Silver City. Again, that impulse was rather familiar to Woodside, a father, too. “There’s not a day that goes by now where I don’t see the kinds of things that my daughter has to deal with in this city. Being in Los Angeles, it’s difficult to explain to someone that’s white how we grow up,” he says. “[Amenadiel] wanted to protect his son. He wanted to make sure his son was gonna grow up in a place where something like [his skin color] wouldn’t be looked at.”
Ultimately, though, Amenadiel does the right thing and remains on Earth with his son and Linda. “He then realized that wasn’t fair to do, and that there is an advantage to those of us that can straddle more than one world,” he says. “We can lear something from everybody, so I love that he eventually made the right call.”
If Netflix does renew Lucifer for a fifth season, Woodside hopes the show continues to dig deeper into this topic. “The child is gonna be challenged in this world, and I think [Amenadiel] can never go backwards. He now know that when he’s here on Earth, he is looked at as different.”
All 10 episodes of Lucifer season 4 are available to stream now on Netflix.