Connor Jessup and Darby Stanchfield in "Locke and Key". Picture: Netflix
Connor Jessup and Darby Stanchfield in "Locke and Key". Picture: Netflix

'Locke & Key’ finds a mother on a mission to survive

By Debashine Thangevelo Time of article published Feb 19, 2020

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Darby Stanchfield has been in a myriad popular TV shows ("Jericho", "NCSI" and "Mad Men"), cutting across genres, and in some lesser-known films. 

But her role as Abby Whelan, the chief of staff at the White House, in "Scandal", remains embedded in the minds of fans.

While this is a great compliment to the actress, the objective for any actor is to cultivate the same pull with all their roles.

And she is bound to do just that as Nina Locke in Netflix’s supernatural drama, "Locke & Key", which is receiving positive feedback from critics and fans. It is based on the comic book of the same name by Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodríguez.

Peeling back the layers of her character, Stanchfield says, “I don’t think Nina’s any one thing. Nina is the mother of the Locke family who went through the devastating event of losing their father, her husband, in a mysterious murder. Nina is both a strong woman and a strong mother, and she saves and protects the kids during this event. 

But then, in some ways, going forward in the series, they take care of her. Nina’s both very strong and a survivor, and yet, she has her cracks.

“In the comic book, Nina is described as a woman shattered beyond repair. She’s a little bit different in the series. She’s a little more together at the beginning, but you start to see these cracks, and she does shatter at a certain point. Which is fun to play as an actor.”

In the series, she is left devastated by the murder of her husband.

“Bill Heck, who plays Rendell, and I had these great conversations about who this family was, and we came up with this metaphor together: Rendell is like the shipbuilder, he builds this ship and everybody lives in this ship, and it’s something that’s allowed him to escape his haunted past and the regret he’s running from.

"He was the ideal father who took care of the kids and was the anchor of this family. And when Rendell gets murdered, it feels like the ship has sunk, and everybody’s on a life raft, and Nina’s trying to keep everybody together, but her life raft is sinking. Nina’s also a recovering alcoholic. Nina and Rendell are escaping a past or trying to rehab from a past. And they are a good team. When she loses Rendell, she feels like she’s sinking, or trying to keep everybody together in this ocean.”

She is the mother of three kids: Tyler (Connor Jessup), the eldest son, Kinsey (Emilia Jones), the middle child and only daughter, with Bode (Jackson Robert Scott) as the baby in the family.

The actress says, “For Nina, Tyler is the eldest and she looks to him for the most help, or he’s at least the one who she talks to in the most equal way. Yet he’s very shut down after the loss of his father.

"There’s a tension right from the beginning, right from the first episode. In the car, on the road trip to Matheson, Tyler doesn’t talk. He’s got his earphones on. He’s shut part of himself off, but she still expects his help in terms of taking care of the family, because she needs it. Kinsey doesn’t make friends as easily as Tyler. She’s not as popular or as likeable, but she’s very strong in her own way.

"Kinsey and Nina are the most alike. They’re both artists and they’re both very sensitive, and they both have this fire. They’re also at odds because Kinsey’s going through her own difficulties, having lost her dad and trying to find her place in this new school and this new world. She’s resentful that she has to start over in Matheson.

“Then there’s Bode, who is the easiest to relate to. Nina’s been sober for six years, so Bode is the one child who’s mostly seen her sober.”

On what makes this show fresh and different, she says, “I love fantasy and I love shows that have really good special effects. I was really excited to be a part of this. But this show also has a family and heart, and it’s grounded in relationships. Magic is just something that they discover in their normal, dysfunctional family life. I like that.”

The Keyhouse, with its countless rooms, is also a character in the series.

"Locke & Key" is a compelling watch despite it being an unsettling (and hair-raising) story.

"Locke & Key" is currently streaming on Netflix.

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