Video Interview: Carlton Cuse & Meredith Averill Talk Locke & Key Season 2 & Adapting for TV

Locke & KeyRecently Netflix released the second season of its series Locke & Key. In the second season, the Locke family are put to the test as demon Gabe (Griffin Gluck) seeks to forge his own keys and turn the whole town against them.

Being based on a comic series, the show runners of Locke & Key have had to decide what to pull from the source material and what to add and adapt. Showrunners Carlton Cuse and Meredith Averill talked to SciFi Vision during a recent roundtable interview about their process. “It’s not a super didactic process,” said Cuse, “It’s a much more intuitive one. Meredith and I obviously have read the comics multiple times and have digested this rich and wonderful world that Joe [Hill] and Gabriel [Rodriguez] have created. Then, we are telling our story and we know that there are certain things that we both loved in the comic books, and we want to see those things at various points, but how and when that happens, it's kind of more organic how that unfolds…So, it's something that's organically evolved as we make the episodes and as we think about what we're going to do next.”

Both Cuse and Averill agreed that that process is a very collaborative one between the two of them and Hill and Rodriguez.

Cuse also told the site that he doesn’t feel that there was anything from the original story that they wanted to adapt that they had to leave out. “I don't think we feel like we missed anything. I think that certainly in season two and season three, the stuff that we really liked and responded to in the comics that fit in to the way our story was unfolding, we stuck it in there. The comics are their own thing and they're fantastic, but I think that we've utilized them [well] for our storytelling.”

Averill agreed. “In terms of the stories of the comics, I feel like we've mined and continue to mine in season three the stories that we really love and responded to.” 

“There were some keys that we actively felt worked better in the comic and wouldn't have maybe translated as well to the screen,” Averill also said. “…There were elements like with the Head Key that we obviously adapted. In the comic when you put the key in someone's neck, literally the top of their head, a lid comes off, which in the comic makes for this incredible splash panel, but to translate that for TV would be a bit grotesque. You could do it, but we chose to find our own way to do that.”

During the interview, we also asked the showrunners what the inside of their own heads would look like if someone used the Head Key. “My favorite quote is [by] David Milch who used to say, ‘My brain is a dangerous playground,’ said Cuse, “I don't know; I wouldn't really want to use the Head Key on myself. I'm not really at that particular point of self reflection right now. I'm good staying locked out.”

Averill told the site that she thought the inside of her head would look like it was designed by Tim Burton.

During the interview, the two revealed more about how far in advance they are working each season, if they could ever foresee a Locke & Key/Sandman crossover on Netflix, and more. For more, watch our portion of the interview and read the full transcript below, and be sure to check out the series. Season two is currently streaming on Netflix, with season three on the way.



Zoom Interview
Locke & Key
Carlton Cuse and Meredith Averill

October 14, 2021

QUESTION: 
  
…Joe and Gabriel have spoken so well about working together with you guys and that you have been such a great team and that you're actually influencing what they do with their Locke & Key series in the future. While you guys have been influenced by them, what do you think about the news that through Locke & Key, you're helping to create some new ideas in their head?

MEREDITH AVERILL:
   
That's amazing. Yeah, it's been an amazing collaboration. They're incredible, and we feel so lucky to have had that source material to pull from and also that they're so supportive of any changes that we've made, and are also very involved and reading the scripts and giving notes. It's rare and lucky to have stumbled upon a collaboration like  Carlton I have, and also that we have with Joe and Gabriel. It's such a rich world to be able to pull from, and it's incredible to hear that they're also inspired by new things that we're doing. It's just an awesome, awesome thing.

SCIFI VISION:   
Can you talk about how you make the decision of what to pull from the comic versus what to add of your own stuff and how decided to spread it across [three] seasons? How do you balance that?

CARLTON CUSE:   
It's not a super didactic process; it's a much more intuitive one. Meredith and I obviously have read the comics multiple times and have digested this rich and wonderful world that Joe and Gabriel have created. Then, we are telling our story and we know that there are certain things that we both loved in the comic books, and we want to see those things at various points, but how and when that happens, it's kind of more organic how that unfolds. We're just telling our story, and then we'll be like, "Oh, this would be a great place to introduce that key, or this key. Or maybe we'll make up a new key here. This particular character turn would be really fun in the context of this other thing that we're doing that we've invented." So, it's something that's organically evolved as we make the episodes and as we think about what we're going to do next. And just to reiterate, as Meredith said, the collaboration with Joe and Gabriel has been great, and they've been incredibly generous in allowing us to make the show its own thing and have collaborated and participated with us in this new iteration of that story.

QUESTION:   
One of the focuses of season two is designing keys and making your own key. So, if you could design a key, what intention would you use it with?

MEREDITH AVERILL:   
It's funny, because it's a question that we asked our writers, and in fact, we had a whiteboard in our writers room that was just a list of wish fulfillment: what keys would you want to make? Some of them end up in the show, that's why I don't want to spoil too much…

Carlton CuseCARLTON CUSE:   
I mean, I think that, in a way, the answer to that question has ended up embedded in the show, because, as Meredith said, we did have those conversations, and I think all the stuff that we thought was delightful, we added into keys that we created, or Joe and Gabriel did the hard work before us. The Anywhere key, for instance, is a fantastic idea, which delights everybody particularly in this current age of nightmarish air travel. So, I feel like the keys that that we came up with and created and are part of the show are the answer to the question. Anything that we thought would be really cool, that would really latch on to that wish fulfillment quality of the keys, we tried to put it into a key and put it into the show.

MEREDITH AVERILL:   
I thought of one key that is not in the show that I would love, is a key that removes calories from french fries. Not in the show, that's a key I would like. I can't really see a storyline for that key in our show, but I can see a storyline for it in my own personal life. So, that would be a key I would like, the french fry key.

QUESTION:   
Currently, at comic book stores, there is a series called Locke & Key/Sandman, and with Sandman now appearing on Netflix, is there a potential chance that we could see a Locke & Key/Sandman crossover on the Netflix platform someday?

CARLTON CUSE:   
That is a very good question, and I think it's a question you'd have to ask Netflix. You know, Meredith and I love the world of Locke & Key, and I think it it's gonna be Netflix's call how long we get to explore that world and in what ways that Locke & Key can expand. I think the comic's gotten a lot of good reviews, and they're really interesting. Sure, I think there's a really cool adaptation to be had there.

QUESTION:   
…You're doing doing your own style, so how do you decide what horror elements [to use] or what particularly is enough horror?...This show's good for older teens, and you're not getting your audience too disturbed, even though a lot of this stuff is quite disturbing.

MEREDITH AVERILL:
   
When we first started talking about the adaptation, we both really liked the idea of leaning more into the fantasy elements of the comic, and slightly less away from the horror elements. I think that what came out of that is that you can still have these horror elements, but you're not lingering in them. They don't feel gratuitous. I don't know if you've had a chance to look at The Splattering trailer that we premiered online yesterday, but we included a clip at the end of it that is in season one, episode one, and it depicts Eden attacking a poor popcorn guy. I don't know how poor he is, this guy kind of had it coming, but that's an example of an element of horror that we include that we think is still in the vein of the show but is a nice pop of gore. You never want to go too far, lean too far into it or linger too far, where you’re alienating a portion of the audience. We love that this is a show that parents can watch with their kids - kids of a certain age, of course. But it always comes back to story, and if the story calls for a pop of horror, a pop of gore, we go for it. We never want to have a bit of horror or gore just for the sake of it, because for us, it's always about character and story. So, it's a tricky balance, but I think it's a balance that we've been able to find. And season two is darker than season one; season two does have a lot more of those horror elements, but we think it still has a good healthy balance of the fantasy and the family drama and the YA stories and the romance, and all of the things that we love and set up in season one still continue to season two. I think everything is just a bit darker.

SCIFI VISION:   
If someone were to use the Head Key on both of you, what would the inside of your mind look like, the way the memories were stored and everything? What would we find?

CARLTON CUSE:
   
Gosh, I don't know. I feel like if you're a writer, your brain is - my favorite quote is David Milch who used to say, “My brain is a dangerous playground.” I don't know; I wouldn't really want to use the Head Key on myself. I'm not really at that particular point of self reflection right now. I'm good staying locked out. 

MEREDITH AVERILL:   
I think I think mine would look like an anthropology that's been designed by Tim Burton. That's what I see. Yeah. 

QUESTION:   
…Do you plan out these seasons? Do you have a plan now in case Netflix gives [you] seasons four and five? Do you already have a game plan for that?...How many years in advance do you have planned if Netflix gives you as many seasons as you wanted?

MEREDITH AVERILL:   
I think you learn so much by watching the prior season. I think after we finished season one, we were able to learn a lot by looking back and watching those episodes, and they helped inform story moving forward. So, I think while it can be beneficial to work that far ahead, I also think there's something to be said about taking a beat and learning and watching the season that you've just completed before getting too far down the line on a particular story. So, we've literally just finished filming season three a month ago, and we're in post on that right now. So, our heads are very much in season three at the moment, but these are characters and a world that we both love so much and there's much story, I think, to be mined for them. So, we would love the opportunity to be able to continue telling these stories, but as I said, right now we're just so heavily focused on on season three.

QUESTION:   
I love the idea that we're starting to explore in the season, a lot of the origins of keys and key making going back and forth between timelines. When you start looking at period elements of this season, were those a little bit more difficult to put together than elements that were contemporary that first season, switching back and forth between the two, because that’s new this season, compared to the first?

CARLTON CUSE:   
We wanted to explore the history of the mythology. I think people are really interested in where the keys come from, who used them before, who had them before? So, we wanted that to be part of our storytelling, which obviously necessitated going back to the past. And kudos to our production team for being able to realize that on a costume level, a set level, trying to figure out how do we take our contemporary version of Key House which, was made in the late 1800s and probably revised into the 1900s, how do we make that work for something that fits in colonial times? There was a lot of work that went into it to make it feel like there was continuity between the past and the present, but also make sure that the period stuff felt authentic. It was fun to do, and it was hard work, but I think the audience will feel very satisfied learning a lot of the stuff that they learn.

Meredith AverillMEREDITH AVERILL:
   
Yeah, it was also shot in the dead of winter. So, I think [there were] some challenging night shoots there, but it made for some really beautiful shots.

QUESTION:   
So this season, it seemed like there were definitely more production value, special effects and action. Can you tell us a little bit more about being able to explore the action and special effects elements to the season?

MEREDITH AVERILL:   
The challenge is always that you want to outdo yourself on every level - story, visual effects, everything - and so we just wanted to turn up the dial, and everything is so much more heightened this season. As I said, we lean more into the horror and a little bit more of the darker aspects of the show, and with that came these incredible visual effects like the spiders, one of them, and it was one of the more exciting ones, that sequence for us. So, yeah, I think everything is just so much more heightened, and again, with that comes our visual effects. I think, also, our music is awesome this season, and we've really just found ways to turn the dial up.

SCIFI VISION:  
 Has there been anything from the comics that you've wanted to put in [or] adapt that you haven't been able to, either for horror elements or maybe just you can't do it on television or something like that?

CARLTON CUSE:   
I don't think we feel like we missed anything. I think that certainly in season two and season three, the stuff that we really liked and responded to in the comics that fit in to the way our story was unfolding, we stuck it in there. The comics are their own thing, and they're fantastic, but I think that we've utilized them for our storytelling. Do you like we're missing anything, Meredith?

MEREDITH AVERILL:   
No. There were some keys that we actively felt worked better in the comic and wouldn't have maybe translated as well to the screen that we deliberately felt like, that's a key that we probably are not going to introduce because [of] the way that it translates better in the comic than on screen. Then, there were elements like with the Head Key that we obviously adapted. In the comic when you put the key in someone's neck, literally the top of their head, a lid comes off, which in the comic makes for this incredible splash panel, but to translate that for TV would be a bit grotesque. You could do it, but we chose to find our own way to do that. In terms of the stories of the comics, I feel like we've mined and continue to mine in season three the stories that we really love and responded to.

QUESTION:   
One of the fun parts of watching season one was looking for the Easter eggs that you put in. Are there any easter eggs that you can share with us for season two? And also, did Joe and Gabriel get a chance to make a cameo in season two like they did in season one?

CARLTON CUSE:   
It wasn't it possible for them to do a cameo in season two because of COVID. It just complicated everything. [and so the idea of just sort of, there was no] There's a certain frivolity to having a cameo that just doesn't align with all the COVID protocols. It wasn't really a necessary thing and Gabriel's across the world in Chile, and it just didn't work out. We've spent a lot of time collaborating with them; Gabriel was involved in designing keys for us and Joe read and did notes on the scripts and threw in his two cents on everything. So they're involved but we didn't get to that, we didn't have a chance to get them on screen.

MEREDITH AVERILL:   
Yeah, and in terms of Easter eggs, there are several Easter eggs in Key House that you will see play out in season three that have been planted, but I can't tell you what they are or they wouldn't be Easter eggs.

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