When was the last time you saw a new female villain having a great time terrorizing people as she tries to achieve what she wants? I bet you can’t think of one. In Netflix’s fun, world-bending horror series, Locke & Key, Laysla De Oliveira has a ball as she hunts down keys to unlock every world she can get her hands on.
When De Oliveira’s Dodge enters the series, we hear her voice coming from the estate’s well house. Her voice is seductive and alluring, and she easily gains the trust of Jackson Robert Scott’s Bode, the youngest member of the Locke family. Once Dodge is able to escape the well house, nothing can contain her. De Oliveira gives her Dodge a confident slither and she will destroy anyone who gets in her way. There is a scene early on where she throws a kid towards a running subway that had my jaw on the floor.
De Oliveira’s star has been on the rise for the last few years. She was great in last year’s sweaty, claustrophobic sliver of a horror flick, In the Tall Grass, but her performance in Locke & Key proves that it’s much more fun to be a bad guy. Female villains don’t ever really get their due, and De Oliveira relished the chance to play such an assured antagonist. She joked at the top of the interview that people shouldn’t be scared of her (“People are very confused when they are meeting me now. I have friends who have children who are unsure of me—which I find hilarious”), but she wears the role like a glove.
Awards Daily: I hadn’t realized how ravenous and devoted the Locke & Key fan base was. Did you feel the need to read the comics, or did you want the scripts to stand on their own?
Laysla De Oliveira: I felt the need to read the comics because I wanted a better understanding of the tone of the world. Once I did that, I put it aside, and infused my own imagination into Dodge. In the scripts for the series, Dodge is in female form for a much longer form than she is in the comics. I put it aside and wanted to do my own thing.
AD: Some of the first times we see you, you’re so creepy in your scenes with Bode. You get to act with many co-stars that are a lot younger than you. What’s it like working with peers that may look up to you in that regard?
LDO: I’m always so excited to work with kids because, as an actor, you’re always trying to break these barriers and become a kid again. It’s very fun to be able to do that with somebody besides you that doesn’t have to try at all. They’re in it all the time. They can turn it on and play. For a show like Locke & Key, where so much imagination is required, especially while you’re shooting. It’s very inspiring to have something like that by your side.
AD: Being imaginative is second nature to them.
LDO: Yeah! They’re in it.
AD: We produce that wall when we become older.
LDO: Absolutely. You know, I would see Jackson [Robert Scott] get the lightsaber, and he’s in it right away. As an adult, I may be doing a green screen scene and I’d think, ‘What’s it going to look like?’ We have those questions there and we want to know logistics and what it will look like. When you’re with a child, you sort of get sucked into their world and it’s great to let yourself fly with them, if you will.
AD: It puts you in the mood more.
LDO: That being said, Jackson and I were buddies on set.
AD: Oh yeah (laughs)?
LDO: For a lot of the scenes, I thought I would have to separate myself a little bit—especially with the more intense scenes. So that I would be more into the energy to pull him or yank him. Sometimes we had too much fun (laughs). I love working with kids because they are so real.
AD: If they don’t like something, they’ll tell you.
AD: I love your presence on screen in this role—you’re very poised and statuesque. Can you tell me how you put that physicality into account?
LDO: The main thing about Dodge is because she’s an Echo and she’s decided to be in this form, I was playing to the form she decided to be in. I was wearing the form as a skin suit. I think it’s the first time, in the case of our show in our world, that she’s potentially a woman. I wanted to play with that. What would it be like to wear this specific skin suit? In the beginning, I tried to infuse as much of a demon living in a new skin and towards the middle of the show, it was about manipulating the teenage boys and the kids. At the end, the physicality is very comfortable in how evil she is. Very grounded in that and she’s very used to that body.
AD: It has to be so much fun to play her.
LDO: It was so fun! When I read the script, I thought, ‘Whoever plays her will have a blast.’ There aren’t a lot of women written like that.
AD: Especially villains who get to do everything on their own. Female villains don’t get to do that.
LDO: Yeah. She’s so unapologetic. I’ve said this before, but I haven’t seen many women villains in the sci-fi world, in my research for Dodge. I had a tricky time finding people to watch. I’ve just seen Ruth Wilson in His Dark Materials, and I thought she was great. At the time, that hadn’t come out yet. There’s Angelina Jolie as Maleficent. I was left to my own devices—which was great. It allowed me to use my own imagination. I think we need to have more female villains and more roles for women, where they aren’t apologizing all the time. It’s a really powerful thing.
AD: Growing up, I always gravitated towards female villains. I remember Xayide from The Never Ending Story II and I was obsessed with how evil and glamorous she was. Who knows—some young, gay kid might be getting obsessed with Dodge.
LDO: I think it’s because women can use their sensuality to bring out this evilness. There’s this sexiness that comes with it. Power is very sexy. We don’t get to see that very often. I think that’s why people can be taken aback by it.
AD: Well, we need more it. That’s for sure.
LDO: We definitely do.
AD: I want to talk about the finale because there are two twists. When they throw you through The Omega Door, your face really struck me. You get to hint at something without really getting to say much because it’s so quick. Can you talk about where you were mentally leading up to the end of the final episode?
LDO: The thing I wanted to emulate the most there was here’s someone who is never going to see their child again. And that’s all they’re thinking about. I tried playing that the best as I could, because there’s so much loss there. I’m not sure what they have cooked up for the second season. At that moment in time, that’s their reality. They are woken up, they’ve seen this door before, they know what goes behind that door since there’s history there, and now they are being pushed through. She’s never going to see her kid ever again. Who does that kid have? I think that’s a powerful moment, and I wanted to do it justice as much as I could. I wanted to say you know a lot, but you don’t know because you weren’t there (laughs).
AD: Can I ask about some of your upcoming work?
LDO: Of course!
AD: I am so excited for you to work with John Ridley for Needle in a Timestack, because he does so much landmark stuff. What can you tell us about that project?
LDO: It’s funny because I booked that part before I booked Locke & Key, In the Tall Grass, and Guest of Honour.
AD: Oh wow.
LDO: It’s a supporting role. A quick scene. I get to speak Portuguese, which I was very happy about. When I booked it, I was a bit down, because I did a pilot that hadn’t been picked up to series. I got this so I was thrilled to work with John Ridley. He’s so lovely—so kind. I just had the best time even though it was quick. Leslie Odom Jr. inspired me, because I was talking to him about the pilot. Just regular actor chat. In a way, that job was my good luck charm.
AD: You brought up Guest of Honour, and you’re a lead in that.
LDO: I am.
AD: Can you tell me what it was like working with Atom Egoyan and David Thewlis?
LDO: It was a lovely experience. I started meeting with Atom when I was shooting In the Tall Grass in Toronto. He trusted me with his film and I was excited to dive in. I knew it would be so different and artistically fulfilling. It’s a father-daughter drama, and my character, Veronica, has experienced some trauma. Some emotional baggage. It explores the intricacies of how her emotions affect the relationship with her father. It’s not a light movie (laughs).
AD: Sounds like a romp!
LDO: (laughs) It was at competition at the Venice Film Festival and that was really fun. This is all so new for me! Everything’s been happening back-to-back. I’ve been having to sit back and take a break. It’s emotional because it’s coming true. As an actor, there’s so much work that isn’t seen. So many no’s. I feel like I really got to expand myself.
The first season of Locke & Key is streaming now on Netflix.