Claudia Yarmy has directed some of your favorite episodes of Lucifer, including an important Deckerstar moment. She recently took some time to talk about her approach to directing an episode, whether she has any more episodes coming up, and how she feels about the series.
Music In the Dark: How do you approach the look of a Lucifer episode to begin your planning process?
Claudia Yarmy: First, I’ll read the script to get a sense of the overall tone. Is it a lighter episode? Darker? Suspenseful? Comedic? More emotional? That gives me direction in how I will use the camera to visually tell the story. What I love about Lucifer is that it has all of those elements, but each episode may lean in more to one particular tone.
MItD: I’ve seen some interviews where Tom Ellis has talked about the actors having more input than they might on another show due to some behind the scenes changes after the pilot, and then the cast talked about having more freedom with Netflix. As a director, having directed episodes for both Fox and Netflix, did you notice a difference in creative freedom or collaboration? What was the collaborative process between director and actor on Lucifer?
CY: On a show where the actors know their characters so well, then they definitely have input, which is great! I believe the actor/director relationship should be a collaborative one and thats exactly what we have on Lucifer. I may have a vision, but it’s important and respectful to see what each actor has brought to the table as well. Most of the time it’s fantastic as all the actors on Lucifer are very committed to their characters. Other times, if it’s not quite what I envisioned or not hitting tonally, then that is when I get to collaborate with them. Each actor should always be able to trust their Director, especially when asked for a particular performance, and it’s important that I build that trust with them from the very beginning. Lucifer definitely is a respectful, creative and positive working environment. As for the difference between Fox and Netflix, the only thing was being able to show a little nudity or use foul/strong language. Even though that was an option to do on Netflix, the producers never wanted to change the integrity or tone of the show just because they had the freedom to.
MItD: You have directed some major episodes, such as “Quintessential Deckerstar” where you have major plot and emotional development with Chloe and Lucifer, as well as the gut punch moment with Charlotte, and “Super Bad Boyfriend” with the timely storyline about race and the police. When you know an episode is particularly important, whether to the story or current events, does that change how you approach it? Particularly with Charlotte’s death scene, how did you approach that visually to give it such impact and closure for the character? (Was that scene filmed at Cathy’s Corner in Griffith Park? Did you have any input in choosing the location?)
CY: I always approach each storyline with importance and care, and tell the story I’ve been given by the writer while blending in my vision and interpretation of it. “Quintessential Deckerstar” was pivotal in Lucifer and Chloe’s relationship. In the scene when Lucifer realizes Chloe chooses to be with him and tells her that he is the devil, I kept it intimate without any fancy camera moves because it was really about these two people who loved each other and I wanted to stay close with them, allowing the audience to “be with them” as well.
Charlottes death was such an emotional scene on many levels, because there was also the moment when Amenadiel gets his wings back and can fly Charlotte to heaven. I wanted to crush the audiences hearts when she dies and then fill the audiences hearts when Amenadiel’s wings appear. Again, staying close with Charlotte and Amenadiel brings the audience there with them, experiencing this raw moment when they both realize that Charlotte has sacrificed her life to save another. The reveal of Amenadiels wings was clearly meant to be powerful and that camera move was thought up collaborating with the extremely talented Christian Sebaldt who was the cinematographer. Tricia, DB and I put a lot into that scene, rehearsals and fine tuning all the emotional beats. I adore them. But on the night we shot it I knew how focused and connected they were and so I asked them to let go, forget everything we discussed and just be present with each other….They knew what they were doing and they were marvelous. That was filmed at Cathy’s Corner in Griffith Park. I definitely get to have input in picking the location. We had talked about that spot in prep as well as we wanted a private yet beautiful spot for all of this to take place.
“Super Bad Boyfriend” was quite precious to me. It was the first episode of Lucifer to touch on the subject of racial injustice and racial police brutality. DB and I collaborated walking the fine line that was Amenadiel experiencing this – for the first time. Although Amenadiel is a black man, he is an angel who is naive to many things on earth and had never been in a situation like this. It was important to me that I did not defuse what happened to Caleb but rather to show the reality of what this inexcusable violence was and how it impacted both of them. Amenadiels eyes were sadly open to what the world was that his son was going to be born into and DB crushed that performance. This was one of those times that it was extremely important that DB trusted me. Denny Love, who played Caleb, gave such an honest and beautiful performance. I’ve been quite lucky to have been paired with Ildy Modrovich and Jason Ning a few times and these were stand out scripts of theirs.
MItD: Did you have a favorite episode to work on? If so, why?
CY: Honestly, picking a favorite episode that I have directed on Lucifer is tough! I have such strong relationships with each one. “Candy Morningstar”, which was my first ever episode on the show, has a very special place in my heart. And getting Lindsey Gort for the role of Candy was such a gift.
MItD: Is there a particular scene you’re especially proud of? Conversely, was there a scene that was particularly challenging to film?
CY: A scene I’m proud of you’ll have to wait to see in season 6. But I will say that in “Super Bad Boyfriend”, I felt proud of the sequence starting from when Amenadiel finds Caleb killed, through to Amenadiel saying, “Earth is no place to raise my son” and he walks away, alone into the night. A scene that was challenging to film, but I’m also proud of, is the fight sequence between Lucifer and his twin brother, Michael in “Diablo”. That took a lot of planning as Tom Ellis plays both characters. We had a specific shooting order that had us shooting in specific directions around the room in order to have Tom be able to change back and forth between the characters. We had stunt doubles as well as an actor who read either Lucifer’s dialogue or Michael’s depending on who’s coverage we were shooting. All the planning done ahead of time helped us facilitate getting it done smoothly and in a timely manner. Jeff Schwartz, the 1st AD, was a huge part of organizing the order of how we shot it, as well as our super talented Cinematographer, Tom Camarda, and our phenomenal fight coordinator, Vlad Rimburg.
MItD: Do you have any stories about crazy moments on set where things went wrong or something unexpected happened and it ended up turning out well for the episode?
CY: A crazy story would be when we were shooting the scene in “Quintessential Deckerstar” when Charlotte dies. We got through the first part of that sequence up to when Charlotte gets shot, and then a huge fog rolled in. It was literally a wall of fog that you could barely see through. We couldn’t continue shooting when Amenadiel gets his wings back because it would not match. So we jumped to the final montage scene when Lucifer, Chloe and Dan arrive and made the decision to not look towards the view and make it work with the fog. I thought it came out beautiful. We came back a week later and finished shooting it, making sure we had perfect view and no fog.
MItD: Do you have any favorite stories about working with any of the cast members?
CY: This cast is truly a pleasure to work with. They are professional, committed and a lot of fun. It’s too hard to pick a favorite story, I’ve had such an incredible time working with all of them. I will, however, say that DB and I have a special bond and we really love working together. I’ve been so lucky to have two episodes that are strong Amenadiel stories. (One is coming up in season six). We’ve shared tears and a lot of laughter, it’s a family there. It was very emotional for me when I wrapped my very last episode in season 6, knowing it was the last time I’d be working with this wonderful group of people.
MItD: You probably can’t answer this one, but IMDb lists you directing a season 6 episode. I know it’s sometimes inaccurate, so can you confirm if you are directing any season six episodes, or if you directed any season 5B, and if so, is there anything you’re allowed to say about it?
CY: I did not direct in 5B but did in season six. I was fortunate to be paired with Ildy again and, oh, what a story it is!! Can’t wait for you to see it! And of course you know….no spoilers!
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