Talking Lucifer with Tricia Helfer

Image for Talking Lucifer with Tricia Helfer

There are few actresses who have made the kind of first impression that Tricia Helfer did as the Cylon Number Six in the opening sequence of the Battlestar Galactica reboot. Now the actress is getting to have a very different kind of impact on Lucifer. Cast as the mother of Tom Ellis' Lucifer Morningstar and D.B. Woodside's Amenadiel, and the ex-wife of God, she has escaped from her prison in Hell to be reunited with her boys and is intent on bringing a bit of the underworld to Earth.

In this exclusive conversation, Helfer previews her character, Charlotte, and the story arc that will be playing out throughout the second season of Lucifer.

There was something funny about the Lucifer season premiere where Lucifer and Amenadiel is carrying on, "Mom is such a scary bad ass!" and suddenly she shows up, she's you, and the first words out of your mouth are, "Lucifer, I need your help." Not what you'd expect.

And you definitely get to know more about mom in the second episode, that’s for sure. She’s set up to be a bit worrisome, isn’t she?

Just a little. One thing we're wondering is how strange it is for Tom Ellis to call you "mom."

It certainly took a time or two to get used to it, I think. Obviously when you're playing a character, you're going into it with your thoughts and your feelings about the character and everything, so you're expecting him to call you mom, but there was a giggle or two.


So what was the appeal of playing the Devil's mother?

I thought the show was really fun! The first season, I was surprised when I watched it at how funny it was. Then, when they did have these heavier moments, I was drawn in by it, and obviously, I think Tom and the whole team do a great job. I sat down with the showrunners prior to signing on and, again, as you said, in the first episode there’s not necessarily a lot to go on in terms of what this character is really going to be like, and for me to play. I sat down with them, and when they told me what they had planned, I think I was grinning ear to ear in the room, and immediately said, “This sounds like a lot of fun to play; definitely count me in!”

They kept to their word: Mom has been extremely fun to play, because she’s layered. She’s definitely set up as if she’s hell-bent on revenge, and there is that side to her that we’re starting to see come out later in the season, but she’s also a mom at the end of the day. A mom that loves her kids, loves her sons, and wants to be with them. She’s been banished down to hell for a very long time, and she wants to make up for lost time and set the record straight. There’s been a lot of miscommunication between them.


What a strange situation; sitting there saying, “Your father’s been lying to you about me,” and instead of being a divorced parent, your father’s God! It’s just so odd.

It is, and there was a little bit of trepidation at the very beginning of all this in my mindset about I’m about to play the mother of angels, and the Devil and God’s ex-wife. I’m, like, “Wait a second! What do I have to relate this to?” Then, you sit back and you think about it. One of the things that’s interesting about the show is, yes, you are talking about the Devil, and God, and angels, but there’s still a family dysfunctional drama going on, and we get to see sides of Lucifer and Amenadiel that you might not get to see if mom wasn't there.

From the first season and continuing in the second season, Lucifer definitely has some “daddy issues.” So does Amenadiel, and they have “mommy issues” as well, and now that mom is there, in front of them, they can’t escape the issues as much. You can’t push them aside and just keep going on, because she’s in front of your face, talking to you, wanting to deal with you, and wanting to either move on like nothing happened, and you won’t let it, or you have to dig in and discuss it. Definitely, with the introduction of mom, we are going to get to see more of the family dynamics for sure. If God and the Devil have issues, how can the rest of us not?

What's your take on this character?

She is the supreme goddess in many ways. She’s this celestial being and she detests humanity. In the second episode you’ll find out a lot of what the story is, and why mom doesn’t like Earth or humans, and why Lucifer thinks she abandoned him, and so forth. Also, she had an idyllic life! She loved her family, she loved her life and it was all taken away from her. She wants that back. It's family issues, just on a massive, grand scale. They don't know any different. That was their life, this is their life, they are these beings.

The fun part of mom is she does dislike humanity and she does blame them for a lot of her troubles, but there's a lot of comedy involved in the fact that she is in an earthly skin sac, as she calls it. She’s not happy to be in human form, and she is not happy to be having to deal with humans on a daily basis. In the first season, to some extent, it was how Maze and Amenadiel and Lucifer were getting used to, in many ways, being in L.A., and now mom is having to adjust to being in L.A., and being in human form. There are some missteps along the way, and there’s some things that she learns. She obviously knows about humanity, she’s not completely ignorant, but then there’s certain things that would never have been in her realm of knowing, because it’s too miniscule. But being on Earth and being in L.A. it's not miniscule anymore, because you're faced with it every day. So it’s been a lot of fun for me to play this, and there is sort of an awkwardness and an innocence to her, even though she is not innocent at all. She definitely has a plan, she has an agenda, but it’s going to take a few episodes for her to get her swagger back, so to speak.


How would you describe her arc this season?

I don’t know the full arc, because I haven’t read past episode eight, but I have my ideas of where it’s going. She definitely, in the first part, is getting used to her surroundings, and used to figuring things out, and she definitely wants to work toward getting what was taken from her back. Through the mid-part of the season, we do see her agenda start to form and find out what that is, and I think, with that, we will find a darker side to mom. She's not shy and while she’s not “evil,” per se, humans mean nothing to her. She sort of looks at them as insects.

As an actress, what kind of journey has your career been on from Battlestar Galactica to Lucifer?

It’s been a lot of fun, it’s been a lot of hard work, and I feel fortunate that I’ve managed to keep working and getting to play all different types of characters. It’s been at times frustrating, but every career is and everybody’s journey is, so I definitely feel fortunate to have been lucky enough to keep working. This has been a really nice job to step into, because the character is a lot of fun, where I do get to play maternal and bad ass and funny and quirky. Mom really is quite layered. Also, every show has a learning curve, of finding the right tone, and some shows do it quicker than others. Everybody is just so lovely here. I sound like a broken record to some extent, because I keep saying this about everyone, but it really is a good group of people, and that’s not always the case, you know? Not every group of people gels together well. I had that on Battlestar, too. Battlestar became a family very quickly, and that’s what Lucifer has, so it’s an enjoyable place to work as well and a good group of people.


Does working in the sci-fi or fantasy genres allow you as an actress to have opportunities that maybe a straight drama wouldn't?

Yes, because you’re dealing with the “what-if” and you’re dealing with the exaggerated, right? Your constraints may not be the same as if you were dealing with a straight human drama, because your parameters are different. With that, there’s also the challenge, or the risk, of taking it too harebrained, isn't there? Unless it really is insane fantasy, with funny-headed creatures and all these types of things, then yes, of course, you can go bigger and whatever, but with Lucifer things have to be grounded to some extent, because you still are down in L.A., and you’re dealing with angels and demons and so forth. But not funny-headed creatures, and magical creatures, and things like that. They’re still in human form, they have strengths and powers and so forth, but they’re not shape-shifters or something like that. It's a show that has a unique tone, and they do it well. They've managed to find the right mix of procedural case of the week, and then draw in the bigger family story, and Lucifer's story. There isn't really anything like it on television right now.

Read Empire's exclusive interviews with Lucifer star Tom Ellis: Season One and Season Two