The 25-year-old stars in Netflix’s new series as Tyler Locke, the eldest of three children who unlock a host of wonders and nightmares after moving into their late father’s ancestral home in Massachusetts. The magic and mayhem is centred around several magical keys hidden in the house, which bestow various powers, such as the ability to unlock someone’s memories or walk through a door to anywhere in the world.
The show is based on the hit IDW comic series by artist Gabriel Rodriguez and writer Joe Hill, which blends fantasy and a coming-of-age tale with the horrors one might expect from Hill’s father, Stephen King.
Jessup is best-known for supporting performances in the TNT sci-fi series Falling Skies and ABC’s American Crime, but steps up in Locke & Key as Tyler, the guilt-ridden protector of his younger siblings.
Global News sat down with Jessup on a chilly morning in Toronto to talk about Keyhouse, comics, chemistry and the one key he’d like to see his character use in a possible second season.
Global News: It’s been a few weeks now since Locke & Key debuted on Netflix. What’s the reaction been like?
Connor Jessup: This show entered my life a long time ago, and for so long it was like a private plaything. It was this thing that only the 30 of us in the cast knew about, and it felt really intimate. And then suddenly at the stroke of midnight, it went everywhere on Netflix.
It was almost jarring, but it’s been really exciting. People are saying nice things. My mom liked it. My cousins liked it, so it’s been nice.
GN: The show is based on beloved comics by writer Joe Hill and artist Gabriel Rodriguez. How did you engage with the comics when you got this role?
CJ: I read the first two or three scripts and then went back and binge-read all of the comics for the first time. I really liked the comics and the way the show was remixing elements from the comics. It wasn’t just a straight adaptation. It really excited me.
The comics exist for me like they do for the writers on the show. It’s this emotional and thematic underpinning for everything. Joe (Hill) and Gabe (Rodriguez) give us a lot of freedom to do our own thing.
GN: This is the first successful adaptation of Locke & Key but there were two earlier versions that didn’t work out. Fox shot a pilot in 2011 and Hulu did one in 2018 before Netflix took over. Do you think about that history when you sign on for a show?
CJ: We all knew that this was something that people loved, and we knew that it had been a really long road. For me, it’s been a year and a bit, but for Joe and Gabe, they started the comics 15 years ago. And for at least 10 years they’ve been working on getting it adapted, so this is the end of a much longer and more difficult process for them. It’s moving to all of us who worked on this version to get to be a part of the final one.
GN: Joe and Gabe both have cameos in the show. Were they around a lot during the shoot?
CJ: Joe came by a few times as executive producer on the show. He also co-wrote the pilot episode, so he was very heavily involved. He was so supportive and so enthusiastic. It’s almost like having a fan on set, and he wanted people who knew the comics to be the most surprised by the show. He was really urging our directors and writers to expand and develop and twist the story.
GN: What was the on-set chemistry like?
CJ: You either find yourself by chance with people that you just really care about and like, or you don’t, or it’s a mixed bag. And in this case, we all loved each other. I spent most of my time with Emilia Jones, who plays my sister Kinsey and Jackson Robert Scott, who plays my brother Bode and Darby Stanchfield, who plays our mom. And really, the four of us are at the centre of most things that happen on the show, and I immediately felt so attached to them.
I’m used to being the kid on a show, and this was one of my first times being the older brother, being the senior figure in the family. At first I was puffing out my chest and feeling like I’m going to help all these kids work, and they were so much more capable and articulate and mature and talented than I expected. I was playing catch-up the whole time. It was just really fun.
GN: And you got to shoot in Canada. The outdoor scenes were filmed in Lunenberg, N.S., and the house and a lot of the other footage was shot in your hometown of Toronto. What was that like?
CJ: I haven’t shot at home in about 10 years, and I got to sleep in my own bed and see my mom and friends between days, and have my clothes. Do people live like this? It was so nice.
Shooting takes up a lot of real estate in your mind, and when you’re away doing it it’s the only thing you can talk about. So it was nice to be reminded that I am a human outside of work, and that’s how home helped.
GN: Were there any moments in the shoot that stood out for you?
CJ: Episode 7 is like a climax. So much tension and emotion is building up and the stakes are really high for my character, Tyler. He’s carrying so much guilt and regret because of the death of his dad, and in that episode he is freed from that guilt. And he goes through a real catharsis. And for me, I felt the same. I really felt that relief.
Sometimes acting just feels like work, and sometimes you get lucky and you feel it — it affects you, and that episode did that for me.
GN: There are a lot of magic keys in this show. You’ve said your favourite is the Ghost Key, which turns you into a ghost. But what about keys we haven’t seen? What key would you like to see if the show gets renewed for Season 2?
CJ: There are so many keys in the comics that aren’t in the show, and there are new keys in the show that aren’t in the comics. There’s a couple of keys in the comics that we haven’t seen that I love. There is a key that turns you into a giant. Especially in those comics, the key turns Tyler into a giant. And I love the idea.
In A Wrinkle in Time, there’s an insane sequence where Oprah is 80 feet tall and she’s holding the other characters in the palm of her hand. And I got so much joy out of imagining Oprah on a green-screen stage looking at a little marker on her hand, talking to imaginary people. I would like to do that.
Also, it’s not a key that exists in the comics, but I’ve always wondered what a Dream Key would do.
which key do *you* covet? pic.twitter.com/YJ2bhRtPSD
— Locke & Key (@lockekeynetflix) February 17, 2020
GN: Netflix hasn’t announced a second season yet, but the showrunners have said they’re writing it. Season 1 ended with a curveball that we didn’t see in the comics. Where do you hope things go?
CJ: A lot of season 1 is built around pre-existing plotting, but the way we ended it sets us off on a course that is so different from the comics. There’s a lot of material from the comics that will probably make it into a Season 2, but the plotting going forward will have to be original.
The comics also take place over a relatively condensed period of time, whereas with TV if we go multiple years, we’ll get older, so at least some time will have to pass. And one of the rules in this world is that when you become an adult, you start to forget the magic. And if we keep going, I think eventually we’ll have to confront that idea. So I hope we get there.
GN: What’s next for you? You’ve appeared in smaller series and films in the past, but you’ve now just showed up in everyone’s living room.
CJ: I was a really small part of this independent movie last year called White Lie. It’s still in the middle of its release and it’s difficult for small movies out there, but this movie is so beautiful and I just really hope people go see it.
‘Locke & Key‘ is now available for streaming on Netflix Canada.
[This interview has been edited and condensed.]
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