Lucas Aaron Johnson is a fictional character from the BBC soap opera EastEnders, played by Don Gilet. He made his first on-screen appearance on 3 April 2008. Lucas is introduced as a reformed drug addict and criminal-cum-preacher and estranged father of established character Chelsea Fox. He has a son, Jordan, and goes on to marry Chelsea's mother, Denise. Gilet has described Lucas as having "Jekyll and Hyde" aspects to his character. Despite his religious convictions, Lucas leaves his ex-wife Trina to die, murders Denise's ex-husband Owen, drowns his son's dog, Sugar, and strangles Denise and locks her in a basement while allowing her family to believe she has killed herself, killing another woman to use as Denise's supposed body. This multi-faceted personality was further explored in the BBC Three special EastEnders: The Two Faces of Lucas. The character also appears in the spin-off series EastEnders: E20. He departed from EastEnders on 30 July 2010 at the conclusion of his storyline. Lucas made a previously unannounced appearance on 1 January 2016 before making a temporary return later in the year, departing again on 10 March 2016.
Lucas is the estranged father of Chelsea Fox (Tiana Benjamin), introduced when she tracks him down and discovers that he is a preacher. Lucas explains that he was seventeen when Chelsea was born and abandoned her and her mother Denise Fox (Diane Parish) as he could not cope with fatherhood. He became a drug addict but overcame his addiction and joined the church. Chelsea reluctantly agrees to give Lucas a chance, but is unhappy to learn he has a teenage son, Jordan (Michael-Joel David Stuart). Lucas comes to Chelsea's aid when she develops a drug habit but Denise is furious to see him and tells him to stay away. Denise eventually forgives Lucas and they rekindle their relationship, becoming engaged.
Jordan reveals that Lucas is still married to his mother, Trina Johnson (Sharon Duncan Brewster), though Lucas explains they are separated as she abandoned Jordan after he was born prematurely and addicted to heroin. Trina repeatedly tries to come between Lucas and Denise. She eventually agrees to a divorce, planning to move to Walford to be with Jordan. Lucas and Trina have sex, and during an argument, Lucas pushes her away and unintentionally causes her throat to be impaled on a rake. He leaves her to die, making it appear that she died in an accident while taking drugs. The coroner subsequently gives a verdict of accidental death.
Denise's ex-husband, Owen Turner (Lee Ross), suspects Lucas was involved in Trina's death and confronts him on his wedding day. When Owen threatens to go to the police, Lucas strangles him to death. He marries Denise and buries Owen's body in Albert Square, under a tree planted in Trina's memory. When Jordan's dog, Sugar, starts sniffing around the tree, Lucas disposes of her at a nearby canal, telling his family that she ran away. Jordan is later hospitalised after being attacked by Ben Mitchell (Charlie Jones) and Lucas blames himself, leading to him suffering a breakdown. He meets a woman named Jade (Niamh Webb) in a bar and takes her to a secluded area, where he forces her to kneel and pray. Denise becomes suspicious after finding deep scratch marks on his neck, so Lucas takes her to visit Jade, who reveals that Lucas baptised her and washed away her sins. She says it will help her give up her alcohol dependence and get her daughter back. Denise tells Lucas that she is proud of what he has done.
Owen's body is discovered when Trina's tree is accidentally broken. Lucas confesses to Denise, claiming he killed him in self-defence. Denise is horrified but urges Lucas not to tell the police. He later admits that he could have saved Trina's life but chose not to, claiming that he will go to the police and tell them everything. Instead, he takes Denise to a canal, intending to baptise her. When Denise refuses to submit to God, he strangles her and fakes her suicide. Lucas murders a prostitute, Gemma (Rita Balogun), who resembles Denise, and places her body in the canal. He implicates Denise in Trina and Owen's murders, while keeping her prisoner in the basement of the empty house next door. Lucas gradually realises that his actions were wrong and allows Denise to escape. He attempts to take his family hostage, but they escape and Lucas is arrested. In his jail cell, he scratches religious messages on the wall with his finger nails, causing them to bleed. He writes "sorry" in his blood, and hands his bible to an officer, saying he will not need it where he is going. In February 2011, Denise watches as Lucas is sentenced (off-screen) to life imprisonment. She celebrates her divorce from him, but does consider visiting him in January 2013 when he sends her a visiting order.
Years later, after discovering Jordan has been in trouble with the police, Denise tells her daughter Libby Fox (Belinda Owusu) that she is going to visit Lucas in prison. She receives a visiting order but changes her mind. Lucas then calls Denise, asking why she did not visit him, and she tells him not to call her again, hanging up on him. However, one month later, jealous of all the couples around her and hoping to get help for Jordan, she contacts Lucas and tells him she is coming to visit him in prison. Lucas tells Denise that he has taken all responsibilities for his past actions, as he has been mentally ill and wanted to believe he was being guided by some spiritual being. Lucas admits to Denise that he is still in love with her, although she denies still being in love with him, and reveals that he is aware of Jordan being in trouble with the police. Lucas then encourages Denise to find him herself so she can help him. Denise later finds Jordan (now played by Joivan Wade) and convinces him and his son JJ Johnson (Zayden Kareem) to move in with her. Lucas then sends her flowers so Denise visits him in prison to tell him not to send her anything again and that she will no longer visit him. Lucas then asks Denise to ask Jordan to visit him, which she does. Initially, Jordan wants to visit Lucas to tell him to stay away from him, but Denise's friend Patrick Trueman (Rudolph Walker) convinces him not to, not wanting Lucas to try to control him like he did to Denise. Jordan eventually decides to visit Lucas, however, and he and Denise are persuaded to help Lucas get onto a scheme that would allow him to apply for jobs and be granted more visiting hours. After Denise gives a statement, his application is accepted, but Lucas and Jordan plan to use the scheme to help Lucas break out of prison. He uses Jordan to try and convince Denise to come with them, but when she learns what is happening, she alerts Libby who calls the police. Lucas and Jordan are both taken into custody. Denise and Patrick later visit Lucas in prison. Lucas declares that he needs Denise and she warns him never to contact her again.
Gilet's casting in the show was announced in January 2008, when the character was described as "attractive, charismatic, strong and forthright" and "just a dodgy geezer with a murky past." His profile on the official EastEnders website describes him as "an upstanding member of the community, a far cry from the youth he once was." Through the show's narrative, it is revealed that Lucas is a former drug addict and has gone on to become a preacher in a Christian church.
In February 2009, it was announced that Sharon Duncan Brewster had been cast as Lucas's estranged wife Trina. Entertainment website Digital Spy reported: "Trina arrives and surprises Lucas and she makes it very clear she wants to give things another go. Lucas tries to get rid of her but his secret is out when Patrick (Rudolph Walker) sees what's going on. Just how willing will Trina be to let her husband walk into the arms of another woman? And more importantly, will she divorce him to enable him to marry again?" Despite his connection with the church, in September 2009 Lucas attempts to cover up his involvement in Trina's death. Gilet told Soaplife magazine, "When he first appeared someone wrote in saying he was a good character, but somewhere down the line something was going to come unstuck. We've always known there was more to this do-gooder than meets the eye. Things are going to get a lot darker in the build-up to Christmas. [...] It's going to get very dark and I hope I can pull it off." Lucas went on to kill Denise's ex-husband Owen Turner (Lee Ross) when he came close to discovering how Lucas was involved in Trina's death. Gilet explained that although Lucas does not want people dead and has no malice in his heart, he sees killing as a way to stop things from happening. When the show's executive producer Diederick Santer was asked by Digital Spy what was lined up for Lucas in 2010, he said "He's got right on his side, hasn't he? Is the world a better place without Trina? Probably, yes. Is the world a better place without Owen? Well, I don't know about that, but he's not a particularly nice person... Lucas is doing the Lord's work and who knows what that's doing to his head maybe he'll kill again. Lucas's story is 'poised' and we're just trying to work out the exact timing of the long-term story. There's brilliant stuff in the pipeline — it's one for a slow burn really. We have Lucas who's a murderer. Will he murder again? Who's the next person to cross him? He's one dangerous man."
Gilet described Lucas as having "Jekyll and Hyde" aspects to his character, and tries to hide the darker side of his personality from Denise. Gilet commented: "Every actor enjoys playing a character who's flawed – but how long can Lucas continue to hide the dark side of himself before the cracks start to show? I think a lot of people reckon the clock might be ticking. This story has shocked some people! I was getting fan mail where people were saying what a nice guy he was – and, of course, now they know he's not." Gilet has called Lucas "a very good character to play because of his complexity", explaining: "I think that's partly because he's a guy who always strives to do the right thing but his path for doing that gets warped as time goes on. I think his heart started off in the right place but - partly because of his drug-addled years - he has a slightly warped outlook on life." Asked whether he felt Lucas was truly bad, Gilet replied:
Gilet has characterised Lucas as having a "carnal side" with which he is "constantly at odds", explaining: "There are times when that human and carnal side to him, the side that gives in to temptation, is going to come through. As time goes on, that strong moral side to him starts to chip away and this chink of darkness starts to show and unravel. It's a Pandora's box, in a way." Discussing Lucas's relationship with Denise, Gilet refuted the suggestion that Denise was a "token wife" deeming her more reliable than Trina and expanding: "He's found a woman who's strong-willed, strong-minded, a good mother to their shared child and to Libby (Belinda Owusu) and Jordan. It's kind of ideal and he's worked so hard for it. Nothing, but nothing, should stop that - he deserves to have this. It's one of these situations where he likes the idea that he's earned this relationship. That seems to be more of a priority than the pure love he has for her. He loves what he's earned and he's now this respectable person who wants to hold on to what he has by any means necessary." After Owen's body is discovered, Lucas confesses to Denise, and goes on to strangle her while quoting a line from the Bible. Complaints were received from viewers that Lucas's storyline was offensive to Christians. The BBC responded with a statement saying: "Lucas is certainly not intended to be representative of Christians. He is a very damaged and dangerous individual who has created a twisted version of the Christian 'faith' in his mind to hide behind and to convince himself that his actions are acceptable. As the story unfolds, we will see other characters questioning Lucas's claim to be a Christian. As Lucas has become increasingly unhinged, his obsession and reliance on the Bible and the scriptures has become increasingly frantic and desperate. This represents this character's emotional breakdown, and it is very clear that this is absolutely not normal behaviour. In episodes yet to broadcast, we will see the characters Grace [Olubunmi], Mercy [Olubunmi] and Dot [Branning] – all three of whom are Christians – question and discuss Lucas's frame of mind." It was confirmed that Gilet would depart from the show at the end of the storyline.
In June 2010, a decision was made to reshoot scenes planned months in advance involving Lucas picking up a prostitute named Jade (Niamh Webb) who he seemingly strangles after forcing her to pray for God's forgiveness. The decision to drop the prostitute link was made following the charging of Stephen Griffiths with the murder of three prostitutes in Bradford.
The BBC received 103 complaints from viewers after it was hinted that Lucas had killed Sugar the dog, compared to "a handful" following his murders of Trina and Owen. The BBC responded saying they do not condone the killing of dogs or people, but iterated that the behaviour was in keeping with the character, adding that "no animals were harmed in the making of this story."
The character was nominated in the "Smooth Criminal" and "Killer Secret" categories at the 2010 All About Soap Bubble Awards. In January 2011, Gilet was nominated for Serial Drama Performance at the 2011 National Television Awards for his portrayal of Lucas but did not make it through to the shortlist. He was also nominated at the British Soap Awards 2010 and 2011 for 'Villain of the Year'.