Filming back-to-back seasons was a unique opportunity for the cast of Locke & Key

Based on an acclaimed and beloved cartoon series, and after a decade of failed adaptations, Netflix’s “Locke & Key” always had incredibly high expectations to live up to. The comic, by Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez, mixes Stephen King with Lovecraft, resulting in a creepy, bizarre, magical, emotional coming-of-age story.

It follows the Locke children, who move back to their ancestral home after their father’s murder and find a set of magical keys that grant special abilities such as turning into a ghost or becoming super strong. Things aren’t all fun and games; The Lockes also accidentally unleash an ancient demon bent on destroying their family, who will stop at nothing to obtain the keys.

From the start, the biggest sin the Netflix adaptation committed was drastically changing the tone of the story from more horror-centric to whimsical fantasy. The show became less Lovecraft or Stephen King and more “Harry Potter”, meaning that darker elements of the story are downplayed, gruesome deaths are kind of swept under the rug, and instead we spend more time with the characters just hanging out between attacks .

But one thing that Netflix nailed on “Locke & Key” was certainly the casting, with the actors of the Locke family, especially the children – Connor Jessup, Emilia Jones and Jackson Robert Scott – embodying the characters. This became especially true in the last two seasons, where the characters feel like they just stepped out of the comic book. After the first season of “Locke & Key” adapted about half of the comic fairly faithfully, the show quickly began mixing the source material with original ideas. There are new villains, new keys, new allies, new horrors and tears. And because seasons 2 and 3 were shot back to back, the actors were given a unique opportunity to fully embody their characters.

“It’s like a different skin”

Speaking to Collider, Jessup compared the experience of playing Joe Locke in Season 1 to “buying[ing] a new pair of jeans and it barely fits and like it’s not quite right,” while the back-to-back experience in seasons 2 and 3 was like wearing the same jeans after they’d been worn in:

“By the end of Season 3, especially, I felt like this character was just fleshed out. I felt like I understood him more intuitively. In Season 1, there was so much thought in every episode and every scene about, ‘Where is he now?’ What is he thinking about? What does he worry about? Where does he come from? Why does he say this? It was really present. In Season 2 and even more so in Season 3, a lot of it just felt more natural. It was just there and it was obvious, and it didn’t take a whole bunch of digging to find it.”

Stanchfield agrees that shooting back-to-back made it easier to slip into the characters’ roles “like a second skin” in the final season:

“To get to create with people that I like, both personally and professionally, I feel like you can go deeper, in a way. Nina Locke’s heart, for me, is not just something that I wear, but I found it through these people. That’s what made it special for me.”

The final season takes the characters to places beyond what the cartoon imagines, and the actors make it seem effortless, like they’ve been playing them for 10 years instead of just a handful.

“Locke & Key” is streaming on Netflix.

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