suit: John Varvatos / t-shirt: Mercer-Market
Actor: Tom Ellis
Los Angeles, CA
Photography: Rainer Hosch
Realization: Deborah Ferguson
Interview by Jaimie Kourt
To get to know you a little bit, can you tell us three interesting things about yourself and three things that are mundane?
I grew up the son of a baptist pastor, I have 3 sisters one of whom is my twin and I played the french horn to a high standard in my teenage years. Mundane things are I like to lounge around in a onesy wearing my ugg boots. I like watching ALL sport. I’ve never watched The Godfather.
What does a 24-hour day in your life look like when you’re not working?
A typical non-working day is wake up and take my daughters to school. Go to the gym. Meet a friend for lunch or cook something tasty that takes a few hours whilst listening to music. Pick daughters up and spend the evening with them and then watch TV or do any home work/reading etc.
What kind of things were you into as a kid? Were you destined to become an actor? Did you know any actors? How did you realize that performing was an actual profession?
When I was a kid, I was obsessed with sport. I still am to a certain degree. Music was a big part of my life as my mum was a music teacher and that often got in the way of my sporting pursuits but I always thought I would end up working in sport somehow and pursued that for most of my formative years at school. Acting was something that came relatively late. I was 17 and not enjoying one of my subjects (17th century history) and was told I could drop it if I took another subject in its place. My previous English teacher was running the theatre studies course and came to me and said “I have 12 girls and 1 boy in my group. I need boys and I think you’d enjoy it” I did the math and although my reasons for going were not entirely subject based, I soon caught the acting bug and really started to enjoy the classes. I got the lead role that same year in the school play and after one of the performances the mum of a classmate of mine who used to be an actress said “I really think you should think about doing this.” She helped me prepare my audition speeches for drama school and I got a place at the Royal Scottish Academy of music and drama that year at the age of 18.
You have three young daughters. What traits do you see in them that no question, come down directly from you?
I think my daughters have all shown some form of performing! My youngest is hilarious and has an amazing sense of humour. She’s very sociable and talks to everyone which is very much what I was like as a kid.
Daughters are good at poking fun at their dads (at least in my family). What do your girls tease you about?
My daughters like to poke fun at my dancing. They’re just jealous.
London is your “home” home, and you shot LUCIFER in Vancouver and LA. What is your favorite London neighborhood? Favorite music venue? A must-see for tourists? Secret hangout if you’d be so kind to divulge?
I love London for so many reasons. It’s like a series of small villages all linked up so theres so much to do. I think for sheer attractiveness and the fact it has the heath right next to it, Hampstead is my favourite part. It’s like being in a dickens novel walking around some of the streets there. My favourite venue for music is probably the roundhouse in Camden. I’ve seen some great gigs there but I was lucky enough to see James Brown there a few weeks before he died. It’s to this day the best gig I’ve ever been to. I think walking around the west end and across Waterloo Bridge to the South Bank is the best way to see London. It’s stunningly beautiful down by the river. My favourite little hang out is a restaurant in the area of crouch end in North London. The food and the vibe is amazing.
Where have you traveled that you feel has great style, ambience, aesthetics, appeal?
Morocco is a place I have both travelled and worked in and it is a beautiful country. The mystique and charm of the Arabic world mixed with the style and chic of France give it a magical feel, especially around sunset.
What do you find to be the best thing about America/Americans? What is the weirdest thing about us that you might never wrap your brain around?
What I love about America is the sense of optimism and general positivity I have encountered there. It feels like a place where things are possible and it’s ok to dream. There’s a directness about Americans that a lot of Brits find it hard to get their head around but I love it. I’ll never get my head around the fact that I come from a country where free health care is available to everyone. The fact it isn’t in America is something I find hard to understand. That and Gun laws are perplexing to me.
You have worked in a lot of comedies (No Angels was one of my most beloved British shows!!) and you are an adept comedian, with great timing, demeanor and flair. So, are you funny in “real” life? Do you tell jokes, make wry observations? Do you think it necessary to be a humorous person, in order to make audiences laugh in your work?
Certainly in life I like to make puns. I don’t know why but I always have. Whether they are funny or not is a matter of some debate! Humour has always been a big part of me. I love laughing and enjoy making people laugh. As a live performer, it’s like an instant gratification when a joke lands and the audience laughs. I think having a sense of fun is important in all drama not only in comedy. If I think of some of my favourite actors like Tom Hanks, Robin Williams, Ken Branagh, Mark Rylance, they all have a certain childlike sense of fun. Humour can be very disarming. If you can make someone laugh then it’s easier to make them cry.
If all the characters you have played could sit down in a room together, what would be a through line you could draw between them? Would they have any common ground? Would certain ones be friends and others enemies?
If I think of all the characters I’ve played, there seems to be a part of my career where I’ve played mainly wholesome roles and then a part where the characters I’ve played are of a more dubious nature! I think Gary in Miranda would be friends with most people. Rush and Lucifer would probably have a good night out! I’ve played a LOT of doctors I suppose I could have my own medical convention.
It’s interesting. In the series RUSH, your character seemed to be learning about his own conscience. And perhaps, in LUCIFER, your character might be arriving to this same questioning of his self-knowledge. Do you think every role, every character is dealing with some element of their conscience?
I think all people and therefore characters are ultimately guided by their conscience. Their choice as to whether they listen to it or not becomes the question. There is a lot of drama to be had in someone fighting their own conscience. The other interesting thing is that people’s consciences are formed differently and so what is wrong for some people is right for others. Conflict occurs and therefore drama.
So carrying on, if the title of the show isn’t a spoiler in itself, you play a character called Lucifer Morningstar. LM is, for all intents, exactly who his name would suggest. And now he is living in current day Los Angeles. How does LA inform this show’s story?
LA is very important to this story. Not only is it the city of angels but it is a place people go to reinvent themselves which, whether he realises it or not, Lucifer is doing. There’s a certain ‘Noir’ feel to Hollywood at night and driving around it in Lucifers car during the pilot shoot gave me a real sense of how our show would look and feel.
When taking on a role like this, do you look at this guy as a regular person–a real human being?
I looked at him as someone who is an angelic being with human problems. Everything he is feeling and experiencing is in effect new so that was a good starting point. Being able to empathise with the character is important because if I can’t find some redemption in him then I can’t expect our audience too!
Playing the devil, do you think he is a bad guy? Would he consider himself to be a bad guy? Where has he come from- his upbringing?
I think Lucifer is at a point where he is doubting whether he is in fact intrinsically evil or whether he is just fulfilling the role his father gave him. He has huge dad issues which become apparent as the season unfolds. His belief that people should take responsibility for their own actions isn’t such a bad idea!
You come from a family whose tradition is steeped in religion- Your father, sister and uncle are all clergy??? Given this, do you think you have a different read on Lucifer Morningstar then perhaps other actors who don’t have this same relationship with religion may?
I didn’t base my choices on anything other than the script and the original comic book. Even though I grew up in a religious family, the devil or hell were never anything we talked about. My family were more focused on the peace, understanding, kindness and forgiveness side of Christianity, which I’m grateful for.
What is the concept of Lucifer to you? Does Lucifer equal the devil? And to you, what does this phenomena even mean?
It’s something I don’t give a lot of thought to. I guess to me the devil is a character who’s had lots of different guises over the years but ultimately he is always there to represent evil. Like many things, it started from a time where people were guided by fear and (ironically) lack of knowledge and needed to find answers to the ultimate question of ‘Why?’ and has stuck around over time because, unfortunately, some humans will always do bad things to each other and their surroundings.
You and your cast were guests at Comic-Con last year. Why has this event become so vital for mainstream entertainment, where as in its beginning, it was really just a comic book expo?
Comi-Con was amazing and it was my first time there. There’s something joyous about a shared interest on a mass level and walking around the streets outside the convention centre, seeing all these people dressed up was so infectious and uplifting. It’s the real fans who don’t care about anything other than celebrating the shows that are there. It was certainly a unique experience watching the lucifer pilot with about 3000 people. The way it was received was so encouraging and put a real spring in our steps going into production on the first season.
What has been your most amusing/curious fan interaction?
A fan once asked if she could lick my face whilst her boyfriend took a photo of me. I didn’t want to but her boyfriend was like “Go on Tom, lick her face!” I didn’t.
Who do you look toward and go to for style advice?
I tend to play it pretty safe on the style front. I love a well fitted suit for a special occasion but I’m usually in jeans and a fitted t-shirt. Burberry makes great suits and my favourite clothing possession is my Ferragamo leather jacket but I’ve never had a thing for jewelry. The nice thing about my job is that I get dressed-up, so dressing down is my priority when I’m not working!