Laysla De Oliveira was an easy call for whom Brief Take was looking to interview for the upcoming Netflix series Locke & Key. We really admire her as a performer, for one thing, and spoke to her at the Whistler Film Festival for Acquainted, in Toronto on the red carpet for Acquainted again, and this time, chatted with the soon to be breakout star on the phone from her home in Los Angeles.
In terms of the series, well, Laysla De Oliveira’s Dodge is a demon dead set on revenge on the Locke family that moves into Keyhouse Manor. It’s an incredible series and a transformative role, in a year which saw De Oliveira appearing in Atom Egoyan’s Guest of Honour, Vincenzo Natali’s In The Tall Grass, Code 8 with Robbie Amell, all of which we have seen and enjoyed. Get ready to soon see the mesmerizing De Oliveira everywhere.
The following is a condensed and edited version of a fantastic chat with Laysla De Oliveira.
Brief Take: This series is such a game-changer and we binge watched as many episodes as we could before speaking with you. Have you watched it yet?
Laysla De Oliveira: Yeah, I’ve seen a little bit. I dub my voice in Portuguese, so it’s been…yeah! I love that I get to do that with Netflix. That’s been so life-changing for me, first of all, because my family in Brazil gets to see me with my actual voice and I come from very humble beginnings, so I don’t think that my Grandma can actually read, so in order for her to watch something, she can’t actually…it has to be dubbed. It’s nice to get to dub myself but I got to see some of my stuff and it’s so crazy because we don’t see…I did a lot of green screen [chuckles], so it’s so cool when you actually get to see it all come together and see how everything works, it’s such a special show. I’m so honoured that I got to be a part of it and that Carlton [Cuse] and Meredith [Averill] trusted me with it and yeah, that I got to be a part of the whole experience.
BT: Can you set up Locke & Key a little bit?
LDO: Of course! Locke & Key is about a family whose father has passed away and they move back to his ancestral home, only to find out that there are a bunch of magical keys there and that there’s a demon, played by yours truly, who will stop at nothing to get them. It’s a great show, it explores the elements of family drama, there’s the gritty side and there’s a lot of mystery and sprinkles of horror. It’s a show that you can watch with your entire family and have a really great time, and hopefully be hooked.
BT: Keyhouse Manor looks incredible.
BT: Yeah! Can you describe the filming locations a little bit?
LDO: So the exterior of the house they built in Hamilton and we did a lot of that, and the interior was actually inside the studio. We were at Cinespace in Toronto.
BT: Right beside Handmaid’s Tale?
LDO: Yeah, we were right beside Handmaid’s Tale, which by the way, is my favourite show ever and I did not know that they were shooting there as well, so I think that I had my first fitting and I went to the restroom and I came out and a Handmaid came out as well, and I was like: “What’s happening here?“. [laughs] I was so excited, so whenever I could, I would not creepily watch them [laughs] do their thing, and we were right beside them too, which was really nice. The Studio is so big, they did such a great job. And the well was at the same space as the exterior of the house, and then the interior we did in the studio, there was a lot of back and forth in terms of exterior and interior and we have two units going most of the time, so we were working pretty hard, which is great, it paid off.
BT: Did you know that Dodge was going to be gender swapped in the series?
LDO: When I read for it, I was told that Dodge was going to be a woman. I never really asked Carlton and Meredith about it, but I was so happy that it would be a woman and I would get to do it. So I was like: I’m not going to ask any questions here [chuckles] and rock the boat, but I do like that they played with that because you’ve seen it and there are fun things that you can use your “woman power” to do and I love that they explore that.
BT: Your costumes on the show are fabulous. How did that element contribute to your crafting Dodge?
LDO: Costume was everything. I went through a lot of fittings and when you put on that first outfit – the dress that they already had, they built the one for the pilot, because it was an exact replica of the dress in the graphic novel, which I thought was so beautiful and amazing and well done, and then I went to a number of fittings and when we finally get close to what is actually Dodge and what feels like Dodge is so magical and it comes to life. [laughs] The outfits were actually one of my favourite part, I would be excited every week for what I got to wear. I remember this one day that they were like: “Oh we’re so sorry, but you have to go to a fitting one day this weekend at Yves Saint Laurent” and I was like: “Ahhhh! This is such a dream come true”. Because I love clothes, but that’s a big part of her, she is this demon that really strives in looking great and feeling great, and she really explores that to the highest possible degree, and that is obviously so much fun to play.
BT: You narrated a story in Full Throttle, Joe Hill’s story collection.
BT: And recently you were in In The Tall Grass and now Locke & Key. What is it about Joe Hill’s imagination that appeals to you?
LDO: These were all a lovely coincidence. I hope that I get invited to his Christmas dinner, I don’t know what’s next, it’s a joke I make always, but I just love how his stuff is so gritty and there is the horror-fantasy element, but there’s also something very real that speaks to people and I feel that people can see and which they can potentially relate to. I feel that Locke & Key really shows that you have this world that is…I don’t know, Harry Potter meets Stranger Things, if you will, but there is this family drama dynamic, they’re coping with loss and life and I love when sci-fi projects keep this very real element of life in them. That’s the stuff that I like to see, because I like to feel and I like when things resonate with people, so it’s nice to have a sense of escape but also to have something that grounds you as well. And I think he does a really good job with that and I think that he does a really good job as well in the graphic novel.
BT: As the villain of the show, you got along very well with the Locke family.
LDO: Of course. I mean we’re working about 12 hours together every day. I think that myself as Laysla, I love human relationships and I love people and I love spending time with them. I think that everyone on the show was so lovely and we were so happy that we were part of something that we thought was very special. It’s such a treat to work with Jackson [Robert Scott], he’s so much fun, and I think also it helps if you have that connection and you feel like you have a safe space, you give yourself more room to explore and try new things, and feel like you’re not going to be judged or you create a safe space for yourself. As for Dodge, I think her whole thing is to give people what they want so she can get what she wants, she can turn it on and off, it doesn’t matter, it’s about one thing only and that’s the keys. How she gets there, she’ll do whatever it takes.
BT: How much fun was it to film the scene in which you eat the entire breakfast menu in the diner?
LDO: [laughs] I want to say that was in the second episode or the pilot, because we shot scenes in block shots, we shot two episodes at once, but I had to have a spit bucket. I don’t know how much fun it was actually, I am glad that I tricked you into thinking it was fun. Usually when you do a take you do it many, many, many times. So by the end of that day, I couldn’t eat much of anything else. I think there’s a moment there in which I drink maple syrup, I don’t know if that made it, and I remember making the choice, they were like: “Yeah, go crazy!” and I remember grabbing the maple syrup to drink it and thinking: “Wow, this is a great acting choice which I am going to hate myself for, because I’m going to have to do this about 40 more times, or I don’t know, probably like 10 more times”, so [chuckles] that was a funny moment, but it was important I think to go all out. Meat world. That’s one thing to which I keep going back because that’s what Carlton said that really resonated with me. That’s what’s so much fun about Dodge which is that she really explores meat world…food, fashion, sex—everything that feels good.
BT: What do you think the ending of In The Tall Grass signifies, and how have you enjoyed the reach of Netflix?
LDO: Ah! I love it, because I feel like the more people watch, the more opportunities you get and if I can just keep doing what I love, that’s obviously a dream come true. I booked In the Tall Grass before I did Guest of Honour, that was like what I would say is my first big “yes” and I was so humbled by the entire experience. Vincenzo (Natali) was such a dream to work with, and I got to explore real human emotions, which is such a treat and also so different from…the fact that I got to work with Netflix again for a completely different character is such a dream come true and show both sides of myself. It’s kind of how these things work: I was in Toronto shooting Tall Grass and while I was there, Atom asked to meet with me and I ended up doing Guest of Honour as well. For In The Tall Grass, we actually fought with each…Avery (Whitted) Harrison (Gilbertson) and myself, we all had our different…such as if he’s dead or alive at the end, because I was like: “Okay”, we actually fought amongst each other [laughs] about what was the theory. I think Vincenzo would laugh and nod at us, because I don’t think that there is one answer. My question, which I always feel is: “Okay, well, if he sort of sacrificed himself, then we’re not even in the grass in the first place, right? So does that mean that he’s still alive?”. But I don’t know. That’s what I think, but I don’t know. There’s the other theory that there’s still a sacrifice that needs to have to happen, so he is potentially dead. That I don’t know yet. I think that there needs to be a sequel so we can figure it out. [laughs]
BT: In that spirit, what would you say to a season 2 of Locke & Key?
LDO: Oh, I would love for there to be a season 2. I think that the show is so special and I hope that the audience likes it as much as we do and enjoys it as much as you have. I think that there’s much more material there as well to explore and the fact that they’re adding their own twist to it and making it their own world as well, I think it could go on and I think that it could be something really special. Also, it’s a show that the whole family can watch together, which is really nice, there’s something for everyone in there.
BT: Locke & Key is such an original series.
LDO: Yeah, I think so too. I think that the graphic novel is sometimes a little more on the “horror” side, but I think that we switch some things around, but I like that, because it becomes its own world. I’ve heard a lot of reviewers say that it’s a remix of the graphic novel and I completely agree with them. I think that if you go in knowing that and accepting that, if you’re a big fan of the graphic novels, then you will absolutely enjoy the ride. And if you haven’t read the graphic novel, you’ll absolutely fall in love and want to read everything. [laughs] I mean it’s our show and I’m obviously a little bit biased, but I think that it’s really special.
BT: What key would you choose if you could have any one in the world?
LDO: Ohhhh, well I would definitely take the Anywhere Key and I would use it at all times to never have to face the airport. [chuckles] I’d love to travel the world. I get to sometimes with work, but I want to continue doing that, there’s so many places that I still need to visit and explore. Usually when I have time off, I like to visit my family in Brazil, but I haven’t done that in a while. Yeah, I need to see more of the world and what’s out there. Whereas for Locke and Key, thankfully, we shot in Toronto, because I’m from Toronto originally, but sometimes when…like I’ve worked in South Africa before, which was such a beautiful experience, but it takes time to get into the routine of things so that you can do your job.
BT: Talk a little about how you mentioned that you had lived in Toronto, but then moved to L.A. and then you went right back to working in Toronto.
LDO: Yeah. [chuckles] I think some of these jobs, like for Locke & Key for example, I don’t think that they even knew that I was from Toronto until I showed up. [laughs] But I can only speak for myself and my experience. When I was in Toronto, I didn’t get enough auditions that I did here in L.A. and I moved out here for more opportunities. It’s just funny that the opportunities that I’ve gotten tend to be back home, which is really nice, I love going back home, but I do audition more out here. I’m not quite sure what that means, but that’s just what my experience has been. I think also because there are more auditions here, of course, things are being generated here and things happen a little bit faster, like when you audition, normally you get a callback and sometimes you meet the producers on the same day because they’re all out here. But because there are more things going on, I think the tool gets a little bit sharper too, it’s not one audition a week, it’s sometimes three in a day. And it’s great because you don’t let yourself get too attached to things and creates this freedom as an artist to just go and put your heart out there and see kind of what bounces back. So I think that when that energy is being explored and you’re not attaching yourself to that one audition, it generally happens that you end up getting more work. I kind of only started working when I moved out here, and I’m very happy about it, and I get to skip winters now.
BT: Which must be the best part.
LDO: Yeah! I might just stick to staying here and then stick to going to Toronto while I’m working.
BT: How have you enjoyed being able to show different sides of yourself in many different projects?
LDO: It’s been so great because it’s really pushed me. I think that I always felt more comfortable doing drama because as I said, I like feeling, but it was so great doing green screen for Locke & Key because that really taught me a lot. It actually can be quite challenging, plus if you can get really shy, you have to go outside of your comfort zone and scream and do demon voice and all that stuff, and there’s a lot of people watching you and you have a bunch of dots on your face, so you kind of look silly and you really have to let go. Also, a lot of the times you don’t really have a scene partner there, so it’s really hard to gauge how you’re doing sometimes, because it’s not an energy exchange, which acting is a lot of times, that’s what I love: I do scenes with people and giving energy and receiving, so that was a really interesting experience for me, but also super fun. I don’t want to give too much away, but there was a day in which on green screen that I was attached to the ceiling and having everyone down there and I’m basically kind of flying…that doesn’t give anything away [chuckles] but it’s basically super cool. Who gets to do that at work? It’s really great getting to develop all these different artistic sides of myself. I hope that I continue to get work that challenges me and is different, I like doing different things. People always ask me what is my dream role and I never know, because I know if I like it once I read it and how it makes me feel, and I just like to do different things. That’s my goal – is to always keep doing different things as much as I can, but I really fell in love with being bad, hopefully I get to be bad again soon. [laughs]
Locke & Key is now streaming on Netflix. Read our interview with Locke & Key’s Connor Jessup here