The Fox series LUCIFER has been burning up our screens with Tricia Helfer pulling double-duty as Lucifer’s manipulative mother who was sent into another dimension last season, leaving a very bewildered woman behind. While Season 2 introduced the most bad-ass mom in Heaven or Hell, Season 3 has been quite a roller-coaster for the mere mortal known as Charlotte, who still does not remember exactly what happened to her in the four months that her body was occupied by Lucifer’s mom. Charlotte just knows one thing clearly: she never wants to go to Hell again and has vowed to be a better person to ensure that does not happen. In an exclusive interview, Tricia Helfer talks about portraying the many incarnations of Charlotte and shares a bit about a new series she is developing that will give her chance to embrace an even darker character likely headed straight to Hell.
The intermingling of the stand alone episodes this season in LUCIFER has been interesting as it means we got to see some cool and unexpected interactions between the characters — some of which we never would have expected — and it keeps us guessing what is going on with Charlotte. Plus, in the last episode, it was fascinating to see who Charlotte was before they all actually became intertwined in each others’ lives.
TRICIA: It was funny because when we were shooting that — obviously that was last year, we hadn’t shot any of this year yet— there was a lot of discussion of like, “Okay, they haven’t met Charlotte. They had only met Mum.” They know Charlotte as a high powered attorney, but when she comes back this season, she’s a little discombobulated because she doesn’t know what is happening. Mark Tonderai directed that episode and it was my first time working with him and he said, “Okay, let’s do it three different ways: let’s just like soften her up, then make her more a sharp bitch attorney, and make her somewhere in the middle, and then just see where it goes.” We shot the scene a couple of different ways.
How is that for you? You had so many variations of the same character to play — so many different layers — in a very short amount of time. Was confusing or was that exciting?
TRICIA: It was exciting. It can certainly get confusing, but from BATTLESTAR [GALACTICA], I had the experience of playing a lot of different characters. It was funny because I heard from the writers room that Mark Tonderai, the director, was like, “I’m not going to cut in between. Cool? I’m just going to yell out: the bitch, the nice one, the whatever.” And I would go back and put my props back in place and they’d just keep the cameras rolling and we’d just go back into it again. Some of the writers were like, “That was wild because it is like watching a class — like it’s just you changing into the next person without even cutting.” But it wasn’t an emotional scene. It’s just a different mentality going into that scene. I think they kind of ended up kind of editing some of it together. Luckily, they sent me that scene before we started filming the rest of the season. So I kind of had an idea of what they had in mind for that character when we picked up where her had been during the four months blackout and not knowing what was going on.
When we meet Charlotte after she returns, it seems like she’s a bit shattered and that she doesn’t have a sense of self anymore — even though she had a strong sense of who she was before that four months happened. So this season, she seems like a strong woman who is trying to figure out who she is again, as well as decide who she wants to be.
TRICIA: She still doesn’t know what happened. She has an idea, but she doesn’t really believe it and she goes, “Okay, if that is even a possibility, I’m going to try and be better.” Then in the next couple of episodes, she seems like she has everything under control — and what’s coming up next — that we’re about to start shooting — really throws her for a loop again. So for Charlotte, it’s like a roller coaster. Then she’s floating, like she’s doing okay, and then the bomb drops. Again. Towards the last part of this season, it really starts ramping up again with her identity and her figuring out more. What she figures out and what really happens — like she gets to meet Amenadiel — I haven’t worked with D.B. this season yet. It was so bizarre — last season I was working with Tom and D.B. almost exclusively — and this season I am barely working with Tom and D.B. So towards the end of the season, that’s going to ramp back up again and I get to work with “my boys” that are no longer “my boys” anymore. I’m excited about what’s coming. It’s really definitely been a big “identity” year for her. Even though she’s not really part of the group — she’s not really part of of it even with Charlotte becoming a D.A. — there’s only bits and pieces where she fits in.
She must instinctively sense and feel that there is some connection still there, as they all were such a big part of her life for those missing couple of months.s
TRICIA: Yes. I mean have you ever not remembered — even if it’s been a night of drinking or maybe amnesia or whatever — where you just really have no idea? For somebody like her, that is — her mind is her tool — it’s deeply disturbing for her.
Charlotte is a fascinating character. I mean the show is kind of frothy and fun, yet what she went through has made her connected to them and she must want to figure out why that is.
TRICIA: Yes. Exactly. I think the few episodes coming up are fairly light and she’s in a floating stage where she’s like, “Okay, I’m just going to go with it.” And then what we’re about to shoot, that changes.
That’s exciting. Are you getting to work with Tom Welling a little bit?
TRICIA: Not much. I’ve had one scene with him so far, which I think is the episode that’s coming up next. It’s kind of fun. You know, the thing between Ella and Charlotte — Charlotte wanted to kind of latch onto Ella because she’s always happy and she’s always good. There’s stuff that happens with Ella and Pierce, and we see Charlotte stand up to that. I really enjoyed shooting that scene because it was like, here’s this woman that you don’t think of as like a good, warm woman, but she had Ella’s back. I think it’s the next episode.
LUCIFER is surprisingly a female-empowering show. It takes female characters and empowers them, and that’s always fun as a female watching the show. One could think, “Oh, it’s all about the [male characters]. But it’s not. This is really a woman focused show so all the male characters kind of support what the women are doing. Even Lucifer. He thinks the world revolves around him, but everything he does is in support of the women in his life.
TRICIA: [Laughs] Yes.
You have also done a lot of Hallmark films. I loved your latest Hallmark film SUN, SAND & ROMANCE.
TRICIA: I have and that one was with one of my old BATTLESTAR [GALACTICA] co-stars [Billy Campbell].
It’s got to be an interesting dichotomy from going from the Hallmark realm to going into the LUCIFER craziness. How does that feel for you?
TRICIA: It’s really about the character and the story. I realized there’s a market for what I watch personally, which is very dark and gritty. One of my shows that I’m producing — and it looks like it’s finally going to possibly get picked up this year — is about a female serial killer. I’m dying to play that role.
Wow, sounds like you’re going back to something like your earlier series, KILLER WOMEN.
TRICIA: [Laughs] But I’m on the bad side this time. I find that’s the fun part of acting — being able to play all these different roles. I enjoy shooting Hallmark films and they are nice family entertainment that you can watch with your children and know that it’s going to have a happy ending. And I have a lot of fans that love those movies and I have a fun time doing those. But then I’ll go off and play a role like the devil’s mom like in LUCIFER, or I’ll go off and play a serial killer.
Tell me a little bit about that role. How did that come about?
TRICIA: It’s a series called “Heartsick” by Chelsea Cain. It’s a series of six books and there are two more to go. Each is a national bestseller. I fell in love with the books and for the last few years have tried to get it going. It looks like it’s finally happening.
For what network?
TRICIA: We don’t know yet. We’ve got a studio involved and are going after show runners next.
How do you have time between LUCIFER and your Hallmark work?
TRICIA: Well, I have a producing partner and a good team who are very established in the business. It’s a really good story, but it’s dark. And when I kind of first went out with it, the timing wasn’t right. Like HANNIBAL was around and THE FOLLOWING was around. And now it seems like it’s more the right time.
And those were all male dominated shows. I think there’s an appetite for women-led drama right now. This is a good time.
TRICIA: Absolutely. A lot of our notes that we got were that the male executives were uncomfortable with the female being a serial killer. And it wasn’t like “Monster” with Aileen Wuornos, where you knew she had been abused. The story starts out [in “Heartsick”] that she is a serial killer that they think it is a man and she full on plays with that. They couldn’t find find her for years because they weren’t looking for a woman. She finally infiltrates the task force to get closer to the investigation. She’s incredibly bright and she manipulates everything around her. And there’s a love story between her and the lead detective. It’s a twisted love story. In the first book, she has been caught. So it’s interesting and very well written. Chelsea Cain is an amazing novelist. She has a series “Gone” right now with Chris Noth and it’s about child pedophilia. So it’s not about a female serial killer. Chelsea is an amazing writer.
We are at a precipice right now in the industry with #MeToo movement and they’re looking for material that is kind responds to that rage and that anger that women have boiling inside. So the timing for this kind of series is very good.
TRICIA: Yes. In Chelsea’s books, even though Gretchen is — as we find that in subsequent books that there was a foster family situation where some depravity went on —but we never really fully find out exactly if that forged her or if she was born that way and that helped mold her into who she was.
Like if there was an inclination to go down that dark path.
TRICIA: Inclination, even though I think with her, she was on that path.
TRICIA: But not all of them turn into serial killers. They turn into CEOs or whatever. They don’t all necessarily have a murderous gene, but there’s an empathy that is missing — you can tell I’ve done a lot of research on this — actually, they have found that they are missing part of their brain. They are missing part of their frontal lobe and it alters the way they view things. They view people as they should get a way to get ahead. They’re lacking empathy and lacking feeling. So they play at it. They actually study people to learn how to appear normal and appear that they can. When in reality they don’t. There’s no feeling there. I think that’s why some of them go off the deep-end. They are trying to find something that makes them better.
Typically, as viewers, we want to try to identify with a character. Have you found a way to identify a little bit with that character so that we will care what happens to her?
TRICIA: Chelsea’s fans love the fact that there is the twisted love affair between Archie (the lead detective) and Gretchen. They are not really together most of the time. There is actually a love connection and it’s always flirting the line of: is she just manipulating him or is this the first person that she actually felt love for?
Did you ever watch the British series called LUTHER?
That series has that character Alice, who is a serial killer but she always had a kinship or liking for Luther, which kind of bordered on love or obsession and the viewer was never quite sure which it was. “Heartsick” sounds a bit like that, so I am definitely interested in watching it.
TRICIA: [Laughs] Hey, I hope I get to be in it as well as be part of the production team.
How exciting! I mean not only working on all these other projects, but that you’ve got this possibly coming to fruition for you.
TRICIA: Yes. You want to create something and you want to keep moving forward, growing and changing, and trying different roles. That is why we do what we do.
And I look forward to seeing where that goes and what is next for Charlotte on LUCIFER.
TRICIA: Thanks. Hopefully, a few surprises.
To see what Charlotte does to help Ella out and where Charlotte ends up by the end of this season, be sure to tune in for an all new episode when LUCIFER returns with new episodes starting on January 15th at 8:00 p.m. on Fox. Then to find out more about bringing “Heartsick” to screen, be sure to follow Tricia on Twitter @trutriciahelfer on Twitter for updates.