[Editor’s note: The following contains some spoilers for Luther: The Fallen Sun.]The Netflix original movie Luther: The Fallen Sun continues the television saga of DCI John Luther (Idris Elba), now a disgraced detective who’s sitting behind bars. In order to track down a disturbed serial killer turning the shame of ordinary citizens into terror, Luther must break out of prison and pursue the man taunting him. That’s no easy task by far, when you’re cut off and viewed as a criminal yourself, forcing Luther to call on the small few he can trust for help.
During this 1-on-1 interview with Collider, Cynthia Erivo (who plays DCI Odette Raine) talked about the importance of playing a character that could be John Luther’s equal, why it’s always necessary to find some humor, what co-star Andy Serkis brought to his role as the villain, the story’s mother-daughter dynamic, and how her character would describe Luther, by the end of their journey. She also talked about how the Wicked movies, in which she’ll play Elphaba, will pay homage to the book and the Broadway show.
Collider: I’m a huge Luther fan. I’m very excited about the movie and was so thrilled that you’re in it. One of the things that I love most about your character is that she never fully gives in to Luther. His partners don’t typically fare very well alongside of him, and while your character is willing to listen to him when he’s making reasonable sense, she doesn’t fully give up her own agency and just follow him. Was that something that was important to you? Was that an aspect of this that you really liked and responded to?
CYNTHIA ERIVO: Yeah, I did because what it meant was that she was an individual who stood on her own. She has fully formed thoughts and ideas about how stuff should be done, and in that way, they’re equals. I loved that that’s how they set it up. It meant that there’s something that she could bring to Luther, the way that Luther could bring something to her. In a way, they end up working together with their own separate ideas. I love the idea that she didn’t give up everything and all of her own ideas, and just followed blindly. The friction that they have is really good.
Would you have still wanted to play her if she didn’t ultimately fare as well as she did and things didn’t quite turn out for her the way they did?
ERIVO: Probably not, just because it’s a less interesting thing to play. The thing that is interesting is the dynamic that they have, the fact that they are push-and-pull a lot of the time, the fact that she has to reckon with certain things on her own, and the fact that she does give him chase. She’s not necessarily being hunted, she’s a bit of a huntress herself. And I love that she also has a bit of danger added to her. I think that’s what pushed me in the direction towards her. She’s just a little bit different from the others I’ve seen.
There’s always been something interesting about John Luther, as a character, because he’s this detective who’s most brilliant at solving crimes when it comes to psychopaths and the absolute worst of humanity. What was it like to balance that out and to still find some bits of humor, even if they were small bits of humor?
ERIVO: It was really fun to work with Idris [Elba], in those moments where we get to work together and figure that out. Humor is always necessary. There’s even a little bit in the bunker. I think Idris put it in himself, and then we just ran with it, when Luther says, “This guy has been grinding his teeth. Isn’t that right, Raine?” And I was like, “Yeah, that’s what she said.” That was both of us having this little conversation between the two of us that wasn’t necessarily originally scripted, but was just something that we found. It made us chuckle a little bit and it brought light to that situation, which actually builds a little bit of tension. I loved that. I loved the idea that we could do that, in those situations. I loved the idea that we could solve these situations and solve these crimes with a touch of humor where we could.
I’m typically someone who’s good with watching movies and TV shows that are scary and dark because I can rationalize to myself that they’re movies and TV shows. But for some reason, Luther has always been different. The bad guys in Luther have always disturbed me, on a level that normally doesn’t get to me, and this movie is definitely no exception. What was it like to have Andy Serkis in the villain role for this?
ERIVO: It’s so crazy. He’s so good, and he’s petrifying as the character. He’s absolutely petrifying. At the outset, you don’t think he’s dangerous at all, and then he starts to speak and it’s still this really sweet and lovely voice that’s gentle. There’s no push-and-pull. There’s no yelling. It’s not that aggressive, at all. It just seeps in. And then, you meet Andy, and Andy is just lovely. Andy is the opposite of this character. He is the consummate human being, who is just sweetness and light. The idea that you have to reckon the person who’s playing him, who is just really lovely, and the character that he plays, who is just very dark, it’s a lot, but it’s also really thrilling to see it happen. It’s wonderful to see the transformation, to see him, even within the scene. When you finish the scene and the director yells, “Cut!,” and he’s back to being Andy. He’s incredible. How he does that is wild to me.
What was it like to also have the mother-daughter dynamic in the middle of this? It’s such a fascinating relationship, in the middle of this story.
ERIVO: Yeah. It was tough, but it was also the thing that allowed for Odette to become fierce in it. There’s a reason for her ferocity, and it’s also the key that unlocked it. So, I found it really important, but also the guiding light. That was the touchstone that we kept looking back to. There was always a reason for her behavior.
I have to I have to tell you that I’m excited that you’re doing Wicked. The first time that I saw Wicked was on Broadway, with Idina Menzel and Kristin Chenoweth, and I’ve seen it in Los Angeles, a couple of times since then. How do you feel the movies will compare to the stage show?
ERIVO: I don’t know that you can compare them. It’s like apples to oranges. The show is its own thing. The show is its own legend. I think this film is both an homage to the show and the book. We also get to create something really new and slightly different to what you’d be used to seeing. We’re lucky, in that we have the space to really fill the world and to really fill these characters. You’ll be able to get into the psyche of these women. You’ll get to know them more. You will live with them a lot more, and you’ll live with them a lot longer. I think it’s really special that we get to reintroduce these two women to you, in a slightly different way.
Do you get to do any new music for the movies?
ERIVO: I cannot tell you that. I cannot possibly tell you that. But I think you’ll be pleasantly pleased.
What has most surprised you, so far, about being a part of it? Is it something with the character exploration? Is it something with the partnership between these characters?
ERIVO: It’s a bit of both. The thing that I’m maybe the most surprised by, and I’ll say this about character exploration and the relationship that she has with Glinda, is that when you start to crack it open, you start to learn that these two women both have hurts of their own that they have to overcome, and they’ve been overcompensating by doing certain things to cover what they’re feeling. And I think because we have the space and room to deal with that, you get to see it more. You get to see their hearts a little bit more. And you realize that these two women are actually really alike. Yes, they’re very different. But actually, at their very core, they’re two very similar beings who have almost the same wants, but have very different ways of getting to them.
After everything that your character goes through in this film, she has a different understanding of John Luther, by the end of the film, than she had in the beginning. What words do you think she would describe him with, by the time that they part ways, at the end of the film, in comparison to how she maybe would have thought of him, in the beginning?
ERIVO: I think she would describe him as a hurting being who’s trying to fix the hurt, but doesn’t realize that he’s also hurting others, at the same time.
Luther: The Fallen Sun is available to stream at Netflix.