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September 16, 2016

The Devil's Advocate

Lesley-Ann Brandt finds new worlds to conquer in Fox's Lucifer.

Melissa Byers
  • Fox
  • Fox
  • Fox
  • Fox
  • Fox

Lesley-Ann Brandt is one devil of a woman.

Co-starring in Fox’s Lucifer as Mazikeen, also called Maze, Lucifer’s (Tom Ellis) best friend and confidant, Brandt plays a demon from Hell who accompanies the devil as he takes a vacation from Hell and goes to -  where else - Los Angeles. 

Lucifer is based on a comic book series that first appeared in 1989, which is also, in turn, based on Biblical mythology.

“As far as mythology goes, Maze is the daughter of Lilith, who is said to be the mother of all demons, and she is a character that is actually prevalent in the comic books, Brandt says. "It was a very progressive comic book at the time because it explored things like gay characters and transvestite characters and ideas of free will and humanity.

"So, with our show, while we don’t take ourselves too seriously, we definitely bring up these themes with the addition of a lot of humor around it. My character, in the comic books, as I am in the show, is the devil’s best friend and sort of his confidant. I play the devil’s advocate in the first season, trying to get him back to where he belongs, which is in Hell, according to me and his brother.

"But I loved my character so much. I did research her in the comic books.”

Brandt is proud to be part of a cast that contains several strong women characters. “She’s [Mazikeen] very strong. She’s a leader. She’s bisexual as well, so I loved that she’s a character who’s known by the people in the comic book world, and who she is is as relevant today.

"It’s a great time for women in general, but I think particularly in film and television. You have all these beautiful, amazing talented actresses taking leads and creating shows and showrunning shows and directing.

"Women are still playing catch-up in a lot of ways. I’m now starting to see more female directors, but my first few years, I was only ever directed by men. Which is not a bad thing, but there are certain scenes and certain work filtered through the eye of a female that I think is just different.

"It’s crazy. I came to L.A. the end of 2010, and even in that short space of time I’ve seen such change in content and roles, even just for me, what I was able to go out for, what pilots are being produced, how many of them are written by women, for women, with really interesting, strong female characters.

"But even looking at television now, with Jane the Virgin and How To Get Away With Murder, I mean, Shonda Rhimes is just killing it over at ABC. But then you have Sarah Paulson in a really male-dominated story, (The People v O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story) shining, just absolutely stunning in her performance. I love that.

"It’s what I love about our show, actually. It’s a very pro-woman show. So we introduced two beautiful actresses, Tricia Helfer and Aimee Garcia, who bring their own strengths to the characters this year, and I love that. I think all the female characters learn a lot from one another.”

Although the show is titled Lucifer and is essentially his story, the female characters are equally strong and important. “I think that’s one of the things that really drew me to the show and to this role.

"Take the supernatural aspect out of it, and Maze is a character who knows who she is and knows what she wants, and even if she has much to learn, as far as fitting in on Earth and learning about humans and finding her own humanity, to the core of who she is, her point of view is very clear and never wavers,” Brandt says.

Finding the humanity of the characters is a central theme in the show, as is finding one’s place in a new world. Brandt enjoys exploring these themes, especially as she has experienced similar quests in her own life.

Born in South Africa, she moved with her family to New Zealand, and then to America on her own. She brings all of her experience to bear on her character.

“In the first season I’m bound to my vow to Lucifer, and I stay by him. And I think you’ll see these two characters go apart and come back together because they’re just so connected. They have history, and I think there’s genuine care between the two of them.

"But in season two, Maze is trying to figure out how she makes a home. And I drew on a lot of my own experiences as I emigrated from Capetown to New Zealand and lived there with my family, and then I moved to America and to Los Angeles by myself about seven years ago.

"I remember being that South African kid trying to fit into New Zealand and into a different culture and people not understanding my accent and my sense of humor and having to learn all of that. And I used a lot of that with Maze.

"This season, she stumbles trying to figure out how to make friends, the simplest things. There’s something uniquely childlike about her. She’s experiencing a lot of firsts, which I think is very interesting to explore as an actor. She’s very layered. It’s fascinating.“

Brandt is no longer alone in Los Angeles, however. In September of 2015, she married fellow actor Chris Payne Gilbert, who will join her on Lucifer in the second season. Even so, the two won’t share much screen time.

“He plays Chloe’s (Lauren German) father from the past. So, what he will bring is a little bit more backstory to Chloe’s character. I think the show has really highlighted the fact that [Chloe’s] father has been a huge influence in her life and in her decision to be a detective. So this season we go into a little bit more of that side of her story.

"It’s great to work with Chris. We actually met in acting class. We were assigned a scene together. So we’ve worked together before, albeit in a classroom situation. And we work very closely together in our work, so I’m just so happy he gets to be a part of this show. He’s like family when he comes down here anyway. “

Having a two-actor family can be challenging, but Brandt and her husband are working to make sure that theirs works. “I got really lucky. People always warned me when I first came to L.A. 'Don’t date actors.'  But he and I are cut from a very similar cloth

"He’s from the East coast. He’s got a good 10-11 years on me as far as experience and everything goes, He kicked around in New York and did a lot of theater, so he comes with this wealth of knowledge. He worked with [acting coach] Larry Moss and works with Nancy Banks now. He’s an incredibly detailed, nuanced artist.

"It’s sort of effortless, to be honest. We’re both actors who love what we do. But our family is really important to us too, so we don’t allow the business of the other side of it to overwhelm us or dictate how we walk this earth or the kinds of relationships we have. So, we’re very similar in that way. And I think that really helps.

"And having someone understand. We shoot our show in Vancouver, and there are periods when we’re away from each other. So to have someone who understands that is great. I think it can be very difficult if you’re in a relationship with someone who isn’t used to [an actor’s life]. Actors form these really close intense relationships very quickly. You sort of have to.

"You’re shooting a show and you’re working on relationships and to have someone understand that and to know that and what that means is a real blessing. At times it can be a very selfish art form, but our relationship is more important than that, so we’ve been very fortunate in that we’ve figured out a way to have our goals as actors and do our work, and still nourish a relationship.

"We got married last year. We [had] our first year anniversary on September 1, and I was in the middle of filming episode three. I basically had to go, take a week off, get married and then come back and film a big fight scene. So it was like, ‘I love you, honey. I gotta go beat up an angel.’”

Another relationship that Brandt is cultivating is the one with fans of the show.

Since Lucifer is both an otherworldly story and is based on a comic book, it is a natural for appearances at fan gatherings such as ComicCon. Brandt and many of her fellow cast members already have followings in those venues from earlier shows, and they all recognize the uniqueness of the kinds of relationships actors develop with fans.

“It’s been really humbling, actually. I was on a show, Spartacus, and it’s sort of a very similar audience in that it’s the genre show with fans that are so loyal and will follow you no matter what.

"Most of our cast has a following like that. D.B. (Woodside) has Buffy, Tricia, of course, has Battlestar, I have Spartacus, and I did Gotham, and Lauren has her Chicago P.D. fans. Kevin Alejandro  has his True Blood fans. 

"The first season, you’re going 'Please watch our show, please support us, please stay with us every week,' and they did. It was only because of those fans that we get to do this again. So to go again this year with the second season was so great.

"And it’s so humbling. People [at ComicCon] were dressed up as our characters. It’s why it’s important for me, because we are loosely based on the comic - we don’t follow it verbatim - that I try as an actor to pay homage to Maze in the comic book as much as I can.  Maybe it’s some wardrobe pieces, the iconic sort of wardrobe pieces that we try to bring in, certainly her personality.

"And it’s important, because those fans are the ones who are tuning in and buying your DVD sets and watching your movies when you do movies on your hiatus. It’s pretty incredible, actually, to have a room full of people be just so excited about something you’ve created.

"And it’s so competitive now, We’re all vying for the exact same audience. There’s so much content. So, for a mid-season show, I think we were number two for Fox last year, it’s just pretty awesome. And then to premiere in mid season and to get a pick up, it’s no easy feat.

"We’re very aware of that. It’s why we go to those sorts of events. Hopefully the fans feel how grateful we are for their support.“

For more on Lucifer, click here.

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