Interview: ‘Locke & Key’ Series Creators on Adapting a Hit Graphic Novel for Netflix

We talked to showrunners Meredith Averil and Carlton Cuse who are responsible for bringing the graphic novel to life.

Based on the acclaimed, best-selling graphic novels co-created by Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez, Locke & Key is a magical mystery that revolves around three siblings who move to their ancestral home after the murder of their father. They then discover magical keys that give them different powers and abilities.

Watch the full trailer:

At a roundtable interview, we talked to showrunners Meredith Averil and Carlton Cuse who are responsible for bringing the graphic novel to life. The showrunners talk about first learning about Locke & Key, how this new series will stand out from the rest of the murder fantasy shows out there, and the challenges they've encountered.

On finding out about Locke & Key.

Carlton Cuse: I read the comic when it came out in 2008 and I really loved it and thought it was exceptional and the genre felt really fresh. It didn't feel derivative of 20 other things which is really hard, especially in the haunted house fantasy house space. But it’s already been sold to some guy named Steven Spielberg, if you’ve ever heard of him. *laughs* And then it went through some development period with clutch of other producers. 

About four years ago, I was having a meeting with my agent and he said he was heading out to a meeting on Locke & Key. I was surprised when he said the rights have been reverted to Joe Hill and I told him how much I loved it. Joe Hill found out about it and he was a fan of some of the shows that I had done so we started down a development path together and had a few more twists and turns down the road — the project went through a period at Hulu and then finally ended up at Netflix.

Meredith [Averil] came on board and that was wonderful and really fortuitous, and a very important demarcation point. Taking a lot of the lessons that have been learned from the twists and turns of development, we sat down and read it off the show for Netflix. Netflix had expressed a really strong commitment to making this and with their support, efforts and resources, we really crafted the show that is what you've seen.

On some of the learning from The Haunting of the Hill House that showrunner Meredith Averil brought to Locke & Key.

Meredith Averil: Working on one haunted house show and jumping to another haunted house show, apparently this has become my brand, but there are some definite similarities between them.

The [Locke & Key] house is very much a character and we're dealing with this family that is coping with an immense amount of grief and guilt. Our show is much more on the fantasy aspect and it's a little lighter. [The Haunting of the] Hill House was certainly much much darker. But we do employ flashbacks to kind of inform our present story and also to have the surprising reveal about our character. Structurally, I would say that’s one thing that we brought over from that. There's also a way that I always like to tell stories in the nonlinear kind of fashion so that was always an exciting way for me to tell stories and something that we brought over that I loved.

On Locke & Key standing out from other murder fantasy series.

Carlton Cuse: I think what Joe [Hill] and Gabe [Rodriguez] did in the comic is very original and I think that even though we've remixed it, it still brings forth all these elements that were part of the reason I fell in love with this comic in 2008. It’s just a really cool, interesting story. It’s a little Harry Potter, a little Stranger Things, a little Chronicles of Narnia, but at least to us, it feels pretty original and fresh. For people who like this kind of genre storytelling, it would be a really enjoyable experience.

On the challenges faced by translating Locke & Key to the series.

Carlton Cuse: Some of the things that are most imaginative in the comic are the things that kind of kept us a little bit tied in the adaptation like the Head Key. In the comics, you literally can open up the top of someone's head and look inside and it's this sort of clockworks of incredible visual imagery that felt really extreme and tonally very hard to pull off so we had to imagine how we are going to translate the head key to television and do it in a way that we can afford to do on the sort of budget and schedule that we have for television.

It’s really wanting to really show these things that were special like the Head Key or the Shadow Key that were in the comics. Figuring out how to do them given our resources and maintaining the sort of total consistency that Meredith and I were going for the show, I think that was the challenge. 

On their favorite scene to bring to life.

Meredith Averil: For me, Carlton just touched on it — the Head Key. For all of the challenges that it presented in terms of trying to translate that into the film, it also was kind of creatively really exciting to be able to talk about in the room. In our adaptation of it, the key goes into the back of someone's neck, a literal door appears and you can actually walk inside your own brain so we got to have a lot of really creative discussions about it. Using the foundation of their personalities to build these really fantastic surreal worlds that visually I think are some of the most memorable scenes in our season.

Locke & Key premieres February 7 on Netflix. Stream it here


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