How the ‘Lucifer’ Team Pulled Off That Tom Ellis and Debbie Gibson Duet

·6-min read

SPOILER ALERT: Do not read if you have not yet watched “Bloody Celestial Karaoke Jam,” the 10th episode of the fifth season of “Lucifer,” streaming now on Netflix.

After seasons of one-off songs, the second half of the fifth season of “Lucifer” finally delivered a full-on musical episode.

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In the episode, the titular Lucifer (Tom Ellis) has to assist in solving a case while a baffling number of performances break out around him. So, when he and his partner, Chloe (Lauren German), attempt to interrogate a young suspect, he’s frustrated as the lights turn moody and the teen’s overbearing mother (guest star Debbie Gibson) breaks into the Police’s “Every Breath You Take.”

Unfortunately for Lucifer, his own father — God (Dennis Haysbert) — is also watching what’s going on from the viewing area in the next room. The camera swings between the two feuding families, utilizing lighting tricks and removing set pieces to make the transition feel seamless.

Sherwin Shilati
Director
“The scene takes place in an interrogation room, literally the tiniest set that we have on the show. I wanted to figure out how we [could] explore the depth of emotion of this moment and of the song in the smallest space possible. The idea of moving around these characters with the cameras wrapping around them during the number, that came to me because I wanted to create a sense of scope and emotion. And the viewing area, it’s been used in the show, but this was a great opportunity to connect the two spaces — not just stick a camera and point it toward the interrogation room and just have another camera getting a close-up on God. How do we flow from the interrogation into the viewing room and move back and forth? Let’s pull the walls off the set and do it in one shot.”

Tom Camarda
Director of photography
“[Utilizing] the mirror [connecting the rooms], that was something that I came up with, where I wanted to be able to see the overlay of Tom Ellis with his [on-screen] father, so there can be that moment where they line up and it’s a 50-50 image of the two of them. We couldn’t get [the right] mirror in time. Then I went to my key grip and we got some Mylar, and we applied it to the glass. What that does is allow you to see through it, still 50%, but it also reflects 50%. And as we made that transition around, we had to then dim up the lights at the right time. If you’re looking through the glass, you would just see the room that we’re in and Tom’s reflection. But as you dim up on the other side of the glass, now you would see his father. So we could play with that, fading in and out.”

Tom Ellis
Actor
“It was a strange one because it wasn’t the hardest to sing for me of all the songs but weirdly, it was the trickiest one in terms of [actually] singing it. It was in a strange part of my vocal register. But, ultimately, I just really enjoyed it, especially the way we staged it. The way that we did this song, it felt like being in a musical. The lyrics of the song were part of the scene and the scene was being acted out through the nature of the song, as if the song had been written for this.

“Because of what was going on behind the scenes, what’s so great about this particular scene is we could feel those lighting changes happen. It felt a lot more like being on stage than any of the other numbers. It felt like a live performance, it had that element. All these people doing things behind the scenes that were reliant on timing and the timing of the music; I was probably much more aware of things like lighting than I’ve ever been on set. And I was singing face-to-face with Debbie. I had a couple of ‘pinch me’ moments during that.”

“[Casting] Debbie Gibson was my idea. Debbie contacted me a few years ago when I did a show called ‘Rush,’ because we used her music and name-checked her a lot. She became a fan of the show, and we just started talking on Twitter. There was a few people we knew in common and then when this part came up in the musical episode, Ildy [Modrovich], who wrote it, [and I] were talking about songs and people who could come in and play this, and I said, ‘Why not ask Debbie? Debbie Gibson?’ [I contacted Debbie] and Debbie Gibson said yes to me. She was so up for it, it was great.

“I was really nervous the first couple of takes, because Debbie’s such a pro and so used to doing all those things. There were a couple of times I messed up the lyrics, and I was pretty angry with myself, but she was just great. It was one of those weird ones — when I first read the musical episode, out of all the songs, that was the one that that I probably responded to least, initially, but actually was the one that I got most gratification out of performing.”

Brooke Lipton
Choreographer
“The simplicity of it was really key and necessary to have. The two-way mirror, having that beauty of just feeling the essence of them, that was one of those really pretty moments where anything extra would have been a distraction from it. The beauty of two powerful singers in a room, the storyline, the beautiful lighting — as you feel the power of it, now just imagine six dancers dancing in the background. You lose, some – times, that beauty if it becomes a production. As somebody who loves dance more than anything, there’s a time and a place for it.”

Debbie Gibson
Actor
“It blended all my worlds: combining what I’ve done in TV movies with Broadway and pop. I love that it’s a normal mom suddenly going into a rock star world with the cool lighting and the track kicking in and Tom dueting. I definitely didn’t want to be Debbie Gibson singing ‘Every Breath You Take.’ It really was this surreal acting moment where I had to stay in character and just be singing to my [on-screen] son [and then] representing the God-Lucifer relationship, singing with Tom. I’ve never in my life worn a button-down shirt and a sweater vest on stage or in a music video. It was like, ‘Wow, I feel very un-rock and roll.’ However, as [the character] I felt extremely rock and roll in that moment.

“One thing I loved about singing that song is I think a lot of people know my young, chirpy, high voice. And I love using my lower register; I got to dig in on the lower register, which was super fun.

“[Singing face-to-face with Tom] was so surreal, and it’s every reason why I ever wanted to be in show business, because you get to play with people of Tom’s caliber, and Ildy, who wrote the script, and everybody surrounding the project. You’re just like, ‘Wow.’ When I was a little girl studying acting, singing, dancing, this is everything I ever wanted to do. It’s a powerful part of the song and the scene — and it’s fun. It’s an unusual pairing of people and I definitely got a kick out of that moment.”

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