The following contains spoilers for Lucifer Season 5, particularly Ella Lopez’s journey in the season. Tread carefully!
It’s hard to have a talk with an actress like Aimee Garcia, who plays a role most Latinas don’t get – or didn’t get before her – and someone I have personally discussed what being latina in Hollywood means before, and not start the conversation with this very same topic.
Mostly because, no matter how many times it’s been said, reality remains: latinos are underrepresented, and undervalued, not just in Hollywood, but in the United States of America in general. Part of it comes from ignorance – there’s a big confusion as to what being latino means, and the intersectionality of a term that is not meant to define a race, but an ethnicity, is lost on so many.
But then there’s Ella. When she was first introduced, at the start of season 2, there was something about her that reminded me of a character that shaped my childhood, Dana Scully. Garcia herself brings up this exact same point, as we discuss why Ella means so much to her, and so many others.
“63% of women working in STEM cite Dana Scully as their inspiration,” she points out, numbers that are not at all surprising to me. So, “I feel orgullo,” she shares. “I have so much pride and I really feel representation matters.”
“I have girls coming up to me saying I love science, I’m gonna study science.” And “we need more latina scientists.”
More women like Ella Lopez.
Garcia also shared why her character meant so much to her: “I love that she’s smart, I love that she’s a woman of faith, I love that she’s funny and a really good person and unapologetically herself, she’s a total nerd, you know, she’s not like, a sexy latina character.”
Not a stereotype.
“She’s just a normal, All-American girl who came from poverty, but she’s the smartest person in the room and I think she’s a very relatable character, because we all have a little dork inside of us.”
When she says all, Aimee means not just all of you reading, but me – and her. The day we had this talk she’d spent the morning catching up on Harley Quinn, and confessed to watching Stranger Things more times than she should admit, being in the middle of a Buffy re-watch, and loving from The Twilight Zone, to Guardians of the Galaxy.
This means she’s a fan, and as one, she understands fans. “The fans are everything. I’m a fan, I geek out all the time. Ella is a geek, she’s a fan.”
It’s part of what makes Ella such an engaging character, and what makes us really connect to her. This only takes us back to why it’s important that she represents a group of people that do not often get the kind of representation Ella Lopez is – and even now that they’ve started to, are only represented in their whitest expression.
We clearly still have a long way to go.
“No one looked like me when I was a kid,” she tells me, and that has clearly pushed her to “keep representing and making it better for the next generation.”
Though there’s so much left to be done, she’s already made a difference. Characters like Netflix’s own Ashley Garcia or Disney+’s Elena Cañero-Reed, would have been unthinkable a few years ago. Something like GLOW vs the Babyface, Aimee’s own “latina Buffy,” would also have been. And for these realities to become possible we need more people willing to, like Aimee puts it “do my (their) small part in creating the change I (we) wanna see in media.”
“Hopefully it’s getting better,” she continued. “There should be many Ella Lopez, more latina characters, and especially more non stereotypical latina characters.”
With some luck, those characters can also, from now, start to look less like what the US thinks latinos should look like, and more like, well …what latinos actually look like.
“Ella is so smart, but she’s also pretty guarded and we don’t really see that until this season,” Aimee shared, as we got into the nitty gritty of a season that saw Ella both fall in love, and be betrayed. “She finally makes a decision to let herself fall, and anyone who’s ever been in love knows that it’s terrifying, and you feel a complete loss of control. You’re like …my heart is walking outside my body.”
For Ella, this trusting in others, this allowing herself to be vulnerable, is a new experience. “She is so used to dealing with things herself, the only girl in a family of boys, she grew up super poor, you know, her abuelita, with the chancla…”
There was a visceral reaction from my part at this point in the interview. Being latina means understanding about abuelitas and chanclas. Funnily enough, at this point, Aimee paused her deep dive into Ella’s character in Lucifer Season 5 to share how serious she takes that authenticity.
“I’m always asking like, can we say abuelita, can we add this, can we add that, can we use the Spanish,” she shared, while also defaulting to Spanish at times, as she answered me, because that’s also a thing we sometimes we do when we know the person we’re talking to is…well, one of us.
Personally, I know I appreciate it. Latinos are anything but a monolith, but these things still help foster a sense of connection with the character.
Her storyline in season 5 also helps a lot. Ella, is, after all, “a woman in science, which is obviously still male dominated, so she’s a fighter. She’s scrappy.” But she isn’t just that. She’s also “super unapologetically herself,” which is why it’s cool to see her “find someone who can cosplay Star Trek with her, and speak Klingon to, see her fall for this guy.”
What’s not so cool is to see her “get completely sideswiped.”
That being said, isn’t what we love about Ella perfectly exemplified in the way she deals with it? “What I love about that is she just got completely sideswiped, she just got this emotional bomb dropped on her, but she picks herself up, takes a deep breath and fights, she fights to help her friend.”
“Even when it looks the darkest and she is completely heartbroken, she still keeps a little bit of that heart to help a friend in need.”
She’ll break down later.
“You see who this character is when it really comes down to it. Who are you in the darkest hour? Are you the person who fights and survives, or are you the person who gives up and feels sorry for herself?”
Kevin Alejandro directed the eight episode of season 5 of Lucifer, titled “Spoiler Alert,” the one featuring Ella’s most emotional scenes, and Garcia shared she feels she’s done “some of my best work being directed by him.”
This entire season, however, might have been some of the best of Ella, who not only got an emotional romantic arc, but also got to have deeper relationships with Maze, Lucifer and Chloe.
“I love that about the show, the characters are so great that any relationship is just so fun to see, any combination.”
For example, “Ella and Maze are like, polar opposites, but Ella sees through the toughness and she’s like just “you do you.” I think it’s so sweet, like Maze is the coolest, sexiest demon ever, and she’s obviously searching for a soul and wants to feel like she belongs, and Ella just comes in and drops her nugget of knowledge and is like: no, I see you.”
The problem there, of course, is that Maze doesn’t see herself. But that’s a story for another article.
“With Lucifer, it really solidifies that relationship of like brother and sister. We’ve seen in previous episodes people come in and try to take advantage of her, and Lucifer be like don’t ever do that again, so even behind Ella’s back, Lucifer has her back.”
As if that weren’t enough, Ella also gets more of a chance to bond with Chloe this season, and they sort of become “almost like sisters, and best friends.”
This speaks to the kind of character the writers have created in Ella Lopez, because she’s all of those things we mentioned before, with all that entails, but she’s also the kind of character that helps keep the storyline going, and makes other characters realize things.
“Ella comes across as …she just gets things. Ella will say one line, and then you’ll notice that whatever Ella says sticks to people, and their behavior changes because of what Ella says sometimes. Ella plants these seeds. I love that the writers give that to her.”
To put it in clearer terms, Ella, even though she still isn’t in on the secret of Lucifer’s real identity, is the character that helps other characters see themselves.
“I find that really sweet,” Garcia noted, “that even though they’ll tease her and she’s like a little puppy dog, I think that they respect her enough to …trust her and actually change their behavior because of some little thing Ella said.”
And hopefully, in Lucifer season 5, part B, Ella will get to learn the secret everyone else is now in on, not just because she deserves it, but because those relationships she’s cultivated would probably make her find a few choice words for Daddy Dearest, and I’d pay good money to see that.
“We could all use a friend like Ella. She will light day your day, she will fight for you till the end.”
Even against, you now, God himself. That’s who our Ella is. And that’s exactly why we love her.
Lucifer Season 5 is available to stream on Netflix.