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Genevieve Kang was new to Nova Scotia when she signed on to shoot a Netflix series in the province.
It’s not surprising then that the B.C.-born actor is just as taken with the town as some viewers seem to be.
“Lunenburg is awesome,” Kang said during a phone interview from Vancouver.
“I had never been to Nova Scotia before so it was my first experience of it.”
Kang appears as recurring character Jackie Veda in the new Netflix series Locke & Key, based on the horror graphic novel written by Joe Hill, with art by Gabriel Rodriguez. All 10 episodes premiered Feb. 7.
A common internet reaction right off the bat is wondering where the picturesque exteriors were shot for what is supposed to be rural Massachusetts.
“Netflix has launched a new fantasy-thriller series entitled Locke & Key, set in beautiful Nova Scotia, Canada,” begins a piece in the U.K.’s Evening Standard.
“Particularly given the Netflix series’ focus on the more storybook aspects of Locke & Key, versus the comic’s semi-frequent use of blood and gore, you can see why they went for the colorful, colonial town,” says a story on entertainment site decider.com.
“Located south of Halifax in the Canadian province of Nova Scotia (and about a 12-hour drive from central Massachusetts), Lunenburg is a UNESCO World Heritage site, with most of the buildings preserved in the same state they were in from the 18th and 19th centuries.”
Kang is pretty much in agreement. Though interiors were done in Toronto, the more bucolic aspects of the town are shown to great effect, particularly from the air.
“We shot out there twice: once in March and then we went back out there in June,” she said.
“It was just so tranquil. . . . The people there are lovely.
“It almost felt like a soundstage that was built specifically for our filming because the esthetic of it is so neat and charming.”
On the other hand, members of the Locke family are not living such charmed lives. After Rendell Locke is murdered, his wife Nina moves with their three children from Seattle to Matheson, Mass., to live in the old family home, known as the Keyhouse.
The children become involved in searching for several keys hidden throughout the house, and the keys turn out to have powerful supernatural connotations. (Author Hill does, it turns out, take after his father, Stephen King.)
Kang’s character, Jackie, is one of the popular girls at school who becomes friends with Tyler Locke. She said that the graphic novels, published from 2008-13, weren’t an influence on her choices.
“It was my first time encountering the Locke & Key world; I wasn’t familiar with the graphic novels beforehand,” she said.
She did do online sleuthing to check some background about her role, but it just confirmed her instinct.
“I quickly learned that the character I play, Jackie, she’s very different from the comic book.
“I made the decision to not actually read the graphic novels and to just take the scripts as kind of their own standalone story because my character was so different.
“To me, it didn’t seem necessary or beneficial to have to refer to them. To this day, I have not read the graphic novels.”
This year, Kang will also be seen in the movie Run This Town with Ben Platt and Damian Lewis, and in the feature film Nose to Tail. But Locke and Key might end up generating the most word of mouth.
“I haven’t been reading too many reviews since it’s come out, but we have a group chat, the whole cast, and some of the cast have been sharing some tidbits about the kinds of things people are saying about the show,” she said.
“It’s pretty exciting. I have watched it all, and it looks really great.”
While the series has appealing young characters, it’s definitely not aimed just at a teen demographic.
“There’s an almost fantastical feel in some moments, but there’s also reality and dealing with family issues like grief and loss,” said Kang.
“We’re not just telling the story of the three kids; there’s also the adults and the backstory and the mystery of all this.
“Netflix, while we were shooting, they were pretty vocal about how much they wanted to make the show accessible for a wide audience. That was really important during filming, to make sure we were hitting all the points to get there.”
Since it has such a central role in the story, much of the internet speculation about shooting locations focuses on the whereabouts of the spooky Locke family home. Alas, it’s largely a combination of computer effects and a purpose-built set in Ontario, so anyone scouring Lunenburg for it will be out of luck.
“Just outside of Toronto on this lot that’s owned by Netflix is where we had the house,” Kang said.
“The house is specifically built for the show.”
While the Keyhouse is fake, the production had a genuine impact on the provincial economy. Last May, Locke & Key Season 1 was approved for a government funding commitment of $520,690, based on an eligible expenditure for local goods and services of $2,082,759, according to Nova Scotia Business Inc.