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Interview: Connor Jessup Talks Season One of ‘Locke & Key’

February 24, 2020Ben MK

After debuting to positive reviews earlier this month, Locke & Key has fast become Netflix's latest binge-worthy series. Revolving around the supernatural goings-on in the sleepy town of Matheson, the show follows the Locke family — mother Nina (Darby Stanchfield) and her three children, Tyler (Connor Jessup), Kinsey (Emilia Jones) and Bode (Jackson Robert Scott) — after they move into their ancestral home — the mysterious Key House — following the tragic death of patriarch Rendell (Bill Heck). What comes next, however, is anything but your typical family drama, as the four must contend with the ruthless Dodge (Laysla De Oliveira), who will stop at nothing to uncover the secrets of Key House and use them for her own nefarious agenda.

I sat down with star Connor Jessup to chat about everything from his work on the show to his love of Japanese Manga, as well as his ambitious plans to make a virtual reality film.

Locke & Key is, of course, based on the IDW comic book series of the same name by Joe Hill. Are you a fan of the genre? Is that what drew you to this project?

Jessup: Yes and no. I knew about the comics but I hadn't read them before the show came into my life, so I read them all afterwards and loved them on their own terms. I am genuinely a fan now. As a kid, I was deep in fantasy land. I loved Harry Potter and His Dark Materials and Narnia and all of that, and that was my life. So it wasn't so much horror, it was more fantasy. And weirdly, for whatever reason, I have less of a relationship with American comics; I know more about Japanese manga. But I am very much into this. I mean, I'm a geek, so to get to be part of something like this that has such a following and is so beautiful and strong and moving really meant a lot to me. It was really exciting.

What are some of your favorite manga titles?

Jessup: My favorite manga is a series called Mushishi, which is by Yuki Urushibara. It's one of the most beautiful pieces of anything I've ever read — it's stunning. I'm also a big fan of a series called Monster. I'm a big fan of Fullmetal Alchemist. There's literally hundreds, I could go on and on and on. But that was really my teenage passion, I have a lot of different T-shirts at home. [laughs]

Aside from reading up on the source material, how did you prepare for your role?

Jessup: Honestly, it's one of these things where I feel like I have to make up a more interesting answer. Truth is if the writing is good, which it was — both in our scripts and the comics, obviously — and the people you're working with are interesting, a lot of it is just doing boring homework. But when I read these scripts and when I read these comics, I felt like I understood Tyler, even though our show is different from the comics. Even though I'm very different from Tyler, I understood what he was feeling. He's feeling so lost and confused, he doesn't know how to feel, he doesn't know how to express what he's feeling — and I think everyone knows what that that is like, in one way or another. I definitely know that feeling, so I felt like I had a lot of points of entry for Tyler.

The show really thrives on the on-screen family dynamic you share with your co-stars. Can you tell me more about working with Darby, Emilia and Jackson?

Jessup: We got so lucky. It's always a gamble when you meet new people and a week later you have to pretend you've known them for 15 years or 20 years, that you have this whole history — this unsaid history — with people. It's hard to fake that; it's hard to just create that out of nothing. Sometimes you have to force it more than other times. And in this case, we got so lucky with the four of us, especially; we cared about each other so much. We really did.

Before we started, I knew that Emilia was 17 and that Jackson was 10, and I was 24 at the time, and I expected to be the older brother. And [I] quickly realized that they were so much more capable and articulate and mature — they were so far ahead of me, and I was playing catchup the whole time. which was just really exciting. I felt such a connection to them. If anything, it was like we spent most of the season bickering with each other on-screen and then just laughing with each other off-screen. So it was more fun off-screen than it was on-screen.

Of course, you're from Toronto, and the show was shot in and around Toronto, as well as Nova Scotia. Aside from the element of Canadian pride, what's the best part about filming in Canada?

Jessup: My bed. [laughs] I get to go home at night. In my mind, I had gotten so used to associating working with being away, cuz that's what I did for so long. And to be able to work on something and care about it and put in the hours, but then go home, sleep in your bed, see your friends, see your family, go to the stores and restaurants and movie theatres you like, it really helped me. It really made the experience special. And it reminded me of something I already knew, which is that we in Toronto have some of the best crews and people in the world. Our crew on the show was second to none.

Did you have a favorite or most memorable episode or scene to work on?

Jessup: I really have a place in my heart for episode seven, which is — not to spoil anything — the episode where a lot of the tension that’s been building in the first half of the season gets addressed and resolved. It's a real catharsis episode. It's different, structurally, than a lot of the other episodes — it's real-time, there's fewer characters, it's just very tense. And, for Tyler, he carries so much guilt over the course of the season — about the death of his father, the role that he played in that, how he feels that he's failing his family members — and in that episode, he's able to address a lot of that. And I was shooting for months and months and months getting to that point, so I also felt like I needed some catharsis. So, for me, those two weeks of shooting episode seven was the most memorable point of the whole show.

If or when season two does happen, where do you hope to see these characters headed in the future — especially given all the revelations that took place in the final few minutes of the season finale?

Jessup: It's so exciting, because, in a way, the twists that happen at the end of season one — beyond being just exciting on their own terms — are a major divergence from the plot of the comic. It's adding new elements that are unfamiliar, which means that, going forward, a lot of what we're gonna have to do is uncharted. We are taking these characters and these stories and this mythology in new directions, which is always really exciting as an actor — and, hopefully, really exciting as a viewer. So there's a lot of places it could go.

One thing I'm really excited for — I hope for — is the idea in this world that we establish that when you become an adult you start to forget magic. We know that Tyler is 17 when we find him at the beginning of the series, so it goes to follow that he's becoming an adult, he's getting older, he's not a kid anymore. And if the show goes long enough, I think we're gonna have to confront that idea one way or another. So I'm really excited to see how [the writers] choose to deal with that.

Last but not least, you're also a writer and director in your own right — what are you working on next?

Jessup: There's a few things I'm working on in different stages. One little thing that I'm really excited about is I'm in the very early stages of making a virtual reality movie, which is a totally new medium for me. But I'm very, very curious about that technology and the implications it has on narrative and on filmmaking, and where the line is between filmmaking and video games — all the different forms that it touches on. So I'm really excited to work on that. It's not really a specific genre, it's more of an experience. It's hard to classify it, and it's still early, but I hope it'll be something cool.

Season one of Locke & Key is now streaming on Netflix.

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