How Lucifer star-director Kevin Alejandro pulled off that epic finale showdown
Kevin Alejandro, who directed the midseason finale of Lucifer season 5, breaks down the climactic brawl ("It was a three-day monster") and reveals what the hardest shot of the episode was (Hint: It wasn't in the fight scene).
Warning: This article contains spoilers from the midseason finale of Lucifer season 5.
Lucifer's burgeoning family feud turned violent in season 5's midseason finale, "Spoiler Alert."
Lucifer's twin brother Michael (both played by Tom Ellis) spent most of the season using fear to manipulate everyone in Lucifer's life. First, he revealed that Lucifer has known where Mazikeen's (Lesley-Ann Brandt) mother Lilith has been this whole time, turning the demon, who was processing abandonment issues, against the stylish Devil. Then, he preyed on Amenadiel's (DB Woodside) well-documented concerns about raising baby Charlie in the real world, which climaxed with Amenadiel freezing time in the precinct because he was so scared of him growing up (Gotta love angelic self-realization).
This powder keg eventually exploded at the precinct in "Spoiler Alert." With time frozen, Maze attacked Lucifer for his betrayal and not even considering the possibility she could get a soul, and Amenadiel finally gave Michael what's been coming to him all season long. Directed by star Kevin Alejandro — who worked in conjunction with fight coordinator Vlad Rimburg and stunt coordinator John Medlen — the ensuing fight scene was one of the show's most impressive ones to date, especially because it required Ellis play both Lucifer and Michael. While the action was crisp and at times brutal, the emotional beats packed an even stronger punch (sorry, not sorry) — from Lucifer slamming Maze to the ground, to Michael distracting Lucifer and Amenadiel by throwing a demon blade at one of the frozen officers, and finally all three angels wing-ing out right before God's (Dennis Haysbert) dramatic entrance.
"For me, the trickiest part of those sequences was going in and out of the dramatic action," Ellis recently told EW. "You're doing little chunks and pieces of fighting, but you have to remember there's a packed scene as well. That's always hard for me – to find that point of tension we're at dramatically outside of the fighting."
To that end, EW chatted with Alejandro himself about executing such a complicated fight sequence, the most challenging shot of the episode (which wasn't in the fight), and more.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: You previously made your directorial debut on season 3’s “Once Upon a Time.” How did that experience compare to directing “Spoiler Alert”?
KEVIN ALEJANDRO: When I went into the first episode, I had never done anything at that level before. I’d only done short films. The second time around, I knew just a little bit more, which helped me. One of the biggest lessons I learned the first time was I don’t have to have all the answers, that I’m surrounded by a team of amazing professionals that are at the top of the game so [I can] trust they know what they’re doing and take their advice, let the show run itself, and worry about your actors and make sure they feel safe and comfortable.
What was your first reaction when you received the script and read the fight scene for the first time?
I said, “What the hell? How the heck am I supposed to do this?” [Laughs]. No, dude, I was actually super excited but scared because when you read it for the first time, you don’t really know how to do it just yet. Once we got into the prep and realization of the story, the first time I had to do was step out of the crazy fight-ness of it all and ask myself, “What is the story? Why is this happening? What are my characters going through? What needs to be achieved?” Once I looked at it from the actors’ perspectives — their emotions — all I had to do was trust that Vlad, our [fight] coordinator, and our entire stunt team was going to put together the most amazing fight. And they did.
It was a three-day monster to put this whole fight together. But once we all agreed what it was going to look like — You know, we took screenshots of everything we needed and it was just a big giant puzzle on a bunch of boards and we would just check off the list. “Okay, we got this shot. We got that.” It was a beast, but we freaking did it.
One thing that makes this fight so difficult is that you have Tom playing two characters, Lucifer and Michael. I imagine there must have been a lot of body double work.
We did it in such a way that on one day, we tried to shoot everything [with] Tom as Lucifer, and only shoot that stuff. Then the next day, Tom came back as Michael, so he didn’t have to worry about switching the characters on and off. That seemed to do us some justice as far as the scheduling goes. There were a couple overlaps where Tom [spent] half the day as Lucifer, and then came back after lunch and [did] everything as Michael. We were very specific about the types of shots that we needed so we weren’t overworking Tom, first of all. The challenge was that Tom had injured himself right before we started the big fight scene, and so he needed a few days of recovery. That actually gave us an additional few days to really, really hammer out the shooting plan. So, it was a blessing in disguise.
As you were prepping for the episode, what were some of the key emotional beats you zeroed in on?
I had to look at each [character] individually because they’re all going through something different. Maze is fighting from a place of, “I’ve been betrayed.” So I have to make sure that she stays true to that and that’s what she leads with — that she’s so broken because of the betrayal. Everyone is battling their own sense [of that], even if it’s self-betrayal. That was not difficult to do when you’re working with people like Tom, DB, and Lesley-Ann, who know their characters better than anyone, better than even the writers sometimes. You trust that everyone has done their work, and they did. Really, it was a matter of just being there for them if they had a question or if they felt stuck because they know who they are and they know what they want out of the scene.
What was the hardest shot of the entire sequence?
The most difficult one was the opening of that episode where Dan has shot Lucifer and it’s in slow-mo. That seems like it was so easy, but that was the hardest shot of the episode because we had to order a special piece of equipment that would keep the camera steady and move around it at the frame-rate that we wanted to get the desired effect. It was a piece of machinery that nobody had used yet, so it took us hours to figure how to work it so precisely because the shot was so specific. What started off to be, “That should be easy.”
That’s surprising because I definitely expected something in the fight would’ve been.
And it was that. We were like, “What the heck? Why is this so difficult?” Because you’re shooting at such a specific frame rate that’s so high, it’s picking up every movement [and] the actor can’t move. In that case, the actor was me, so we had to map everything out with a stand-in. But I’m slightly different from the stand-in as far as height or the way I’m hoping it, so they have to reconfigure it with me. It was a real jigsaw puzzle to put together.
One of the shots I really liked was Maze stepping through the broken glass and pushing the glass shards away. How did you pull that off?
That was super tricky, too. It was all special effects. Not Lucifer going through the glass, like all those stunts are real. We established rules: If Lucifer or a celestial is touching something that is frozen in time, then it moves. But the moment they’re no longer touching it, it sticks. So we had to be very specific about how we paid attention to those rules that we’d already set. So, that was a challenge.
Once all the glass was broken, our special effects guys had to go in and map out all those pieces of glass that you saw on-screen. Then, we digitally re-create them so that [Brandt] can walk out. We decided, “There should be glass here, so move your hand here. You move that out of way. You’ll step over this.” She actually set a lot of the rules for where the pieces of glass were, that she would step over and move. Then, the guys digitally threw them in there.
Dan is really going through it in this finale because he just found out Lucifer is actually the Devil. Was it hard for you to direct the episode and get in that headspace?
You know what? Directing can be pretty stressful, so I was already unwound. That was easy to step into. But one of the things I forgot when I directed the first time was, I got so into the directing of it that I kind of feel I didn’t do as much work on the acting part of it as I could have, or that I usually do. Luckily, I know the character inside and out that you couldn’t tell. This time, I was able to balance it out a lot more responsibly and give the amount of work that was necessary for both sides of the character.
The first eight episodes of Lucifer season 5 are available now on Netflix.