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Real estate agents maintain it's all about location, location, location. In Netflix's upcoming TV series Locke & Key — premiering on February 7 — that special place refers to an ancestral home housing mysteries, magical objects, and a malevolent evil.
Based on the comic book of the same name by creators Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez, Locke & Key finds the Locke family — mom Nina (Darby Stanchfield) and her three kids, Tyler (Connor Jessup), Kinsey (Emilia Jones) and Bode (Jackson Robert Scott) — moving to Massachusetts after the murder of patriarch Rendell (Bill Heck).
The three siblings soon discover their new dwelling, aptly called Keyhouse, lives up to its name. Various keys have been hidden inside the majestic manor's walls. These mystical artifacts bestow their users with incredible powers. The grieving Lockes must not only cope with loss and tragedy, but protect the keys from Dodge (Laysla De Oliveira), a seductive demon who will stop at nothing to obtain them for her own nefarious purposes.
"These kids are so messed up from what they witnessed," Jessup explains to SYFY WIRE on the Toronto set of Locke & Key last summer. "One of the worst things that could ever happen to you happened to them. They witnessed, firsthand, the death of their dad. Because they are different ages, they are dealing with it in different ways. Bode, it's hard to tell how much he has processed or not processed or is aware of. Kinsey has gone from being this fun-loving, adventurous person and totally shut down. Tyler is trying to keep up appearances. He's trying to pretend everything is okay. His trauma is quieter and more internal... This trauma has sort of pulled them apart.
"When we find them at the beginning of the show, they are together, but they don't really overlap," Jessup continues. "They don't really understand each other. There are constant miscommunication and misunderstanding between them, especially Tyler and Kinsey, who were best friends and can now barely stand the sight of each other. Everything they do drives each other crazy. So, other than our individual journeys, one of the most important paths of the show is how that three-way relationship heals."
Jones explains that the keys represent freedom from that trauma... but maybe not in a good way.
"Kinsey loves the keys because they help her escape from the hell she was living in after her father died," she says. "She uses them to help herself, but, actually, she slowly realizes towards the end of the season that maybe it wasn't such a good idea because of some events that happen. Using the music box, it comes from a place where I'm trying to protect her friend, Scot. But it wasn't the best idea."
Early on, Tyler and Kinsey are unaware of Dodge's existence or the threat she poses. Only Bode has encountered Dodge. She tricked the youngest Locke into freeing her from the bottom of a well.
"Tyler is wary about the magic on its own terms," Jessup says. "The keys are just these weird, strange, fun tools. There's not really a mortal danger to them that we know of at that point. Bode knows about Dodge from the beginning, but we don't really believe him. But, when it's proved beyond belief that there's this possible devious demon after these keys, it raises the stakes for Tyler and Kinsey 20-fold. Suddenly, these things that were strange become deeply, truly dangerous.
"That's a turning point in the series tonally," he adds. "We realize we have a fight on our hands. As the show goes on, it becomes almost like a war. We find ourselves playing chess with this monster that we know nothing about. We don't know who she is, what she is, where she came from, why she wants these keys… We are kind of in the dark."
A tour of the Locke & Key soundstages reveals an enormous kitchen. In one episode, Dodge ignites a fire here. The catch? Magic and even supernatural beings are invisible to adults.
"Nina sees the fire, but I don't see Dodge walking through," Stanchfield offers. "I don't know how it was started. It's very much like in the comic books where the kids see something and the mom walks in. 'Oh, hey kids. What's happening?' There are things that Dodge will do — whether it's the stress that she's bringing to the kids or the amount of danger and the way she's threatening them and also things she's doing in the house — Nina sees, but she can't process it. She sees it, she either forgets it or she just doesn't understand it.
"The way that adults forget is it [the memories] almost evaporates," she says. "It's almost like a hangover. It's there and it slowly leaves and then it's gone. When Nina is confronted with magic, she sees it and reacts to it in our show, but then forgets right then or the next day. And there's a couple of different ways she forgets. As an actor, that's incredibly delicious to play. This is a bit of a teaser. But, like in the comic books, if an adult is using any sort of mind-altering substance like a drug or alcohol, then they can retain the memory. It's the one way they can see and know what's going on."
Jessup and Jones hope viewers will embrace the show's rich characters and their emotional complexities, along with the battle between good and evil. But let's face facts. The series is called Locke & Key. So, which of those fantastical items stand out for the cast?
"It might be the one that I use, the one that my character is the most familiar with on the show, which is the Mending Key," Stanchfield offers. "It's also the one in the comic books she is most familiar with. I love the idea of having a key that can fix things."
Jones says, "I love all of the keys, but personally if I had to use a key, I would love to use the Head Key. It would be super-helpful just to put my lines in there. Say, I was going for a film or TV show and had to know Russian… Or, the Music Box. That would be great."
"When we started shooting, my answer was the Anywhere Key," Jessup concludes. "It's by far the most convenient one. I'm deeply lazy and hate flying. But, in terms of bang for your buck, the Ghost Key is the best one. You turn into a ghost. You can fly. You are invisible. You can talk to the dead. It's kind of like a three-in-one key. So, as long as someone is minding your body, you are in good shape."