ComingSoon Editor-in-Chief Tyler Treese spoke to Lockwood and Co. director Joe Cornish about adapting the novels into the new Netflix series, which is now streaming. The director also spoke about the Attack the Block sequel and he and Edgar Wright’s work on Ant-Man.

“In London, where the most gifted teenage ghost-hunters venture nightly into perilous combat with deadly spirits, amidst the many corporate, adult-run agencies, one stands alone: independent of any commercial imperative or adult supervision – a tiny startup, run by two teenage boys and a newly arrived, supremely psychically gifted girl, a renegade trio destined to unravel a mystery that will change the course of history: Lockwood & Co,” reads the synopsis.

Tyler Treese: What I liked about the show is that you established the stakes very early on. There’s that great action-packed sequence. How important was it to start the show with a bang to get people hooked into this world and all the problems that are going on really early?

Joe Cornish: Well, you know, Lockwood and Co. starts with kind of a slow burn. You’re dropped into the middle of this investigation by these two young people carrying mysterious equipment. They approach a haunted house, and as you watch them go about their business, you start to realize that there’s certain unusual things about what they’re doing. They’re using metal to keep themselves safe. They’re carrying swords. They’re looking for the source of the ghost. So really, we wanted to make an opening episode that dropped you right in the middle of an investigation and where you learned as you went along. The best comparison I can think of is video gaming. Do you remember bad video games that would give you an hour’s tutorial before you could actually get onto the first level?

Yeah, for sure.

That’s what I don’t like. The video games I loved, you were just straight in there with the character and as the first level unfolded, you started to learn which button did which thing as the game unfolded. Like with The Legend of Zelda or one of the Mario games, like a really good Nintendo game that was really intuitive and organic. So we wanted to make the first episode like that, where before you knew it, you were just part of the story and you picked up the rules through the drama unfolding rather than through any laborious exposition.

I love the series and the action. How was it getting the actors to really convincingly react to the ghosts, which are obviously CGI. So how do you get the desired reactions from them? Becaus all those sequences look really great.

Thank you. Well, we had a very brilliant puppeteer. He was the guy that did BB-8 in Star Wars — his name is Mike Taibi. He had a dummy, which was covered in LED lights, on a stick. And the LED lights were operated by a lighting technician. So they glowed at different intensities with different speeds and pulses, and he would puppet this thing and the actors could react to the puppet on a stick. Then we also had pre-visualization concept art of the ghosts, so the actors could look at a picture of what they were fighting on an iPad before they went into the scene.

And then — it’s just brilliant directing, Tyler, and brilliant acting [laughs]. I talked to my actors a lot. I hyped them up before we say action. We work a lot on breathing levels, on getting into exactly the right zone just before the camera turns over so there’s that sense of energy and excitement and adrenaline in every piece of the sequence.


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Obviously, you have such great source material. What about Jonathan Stroud’s series really stuck out to you as interesting to adapt and were there any like challenges in going to a different medium?

The books are just really brilliant. We discovered them 10 years ago when there was only one book. We tried to option them, but they got snapped up by a Hollywood studio. I went off to make other films, 10 years passed, there were now five books and they became available again. So we snapped them up. They’re so clever. The world building is so clever. The rules are so simple, but the idea of ghosts being lethal to the touch changes the whole dynamic of a supernatural story. You get everything you would get out of the traditional ghost story — all the suspense and creepiness — but you also get this second layer that becomes an action and adventure combat story. Then all the brilliant resonance of the concept in terms of how society has changed … this kind of Dickensian idea of adults employing children to fight the ghosts.

It feels like a bit of old school British literature, like Oliver Twist, do you know what I mean? Or Great Expectations or something, but somehow a modern version of that. And was it challenging? Well, the challenge for me, I guess was to hand over six of the episodes to other directors. Everything I’ve done before, I’ve written and directed here. It was much more collaborative. We have two other brilliant directors, Will [McGregor ] and Catherine [Morshead] doing six of the episodes. I do the first and last. I got to write the first and last episodes, but I work with other writers on the other ones.

So for me, letting go was a challenge. But then it was also very exciting to be able to come in after those directors had shot and help to shape their material, help to polish the VFX, do the music and the sound. It was my first experience as a producer, I guess, and I learned a great deal.

I was so impressed by Ruby [Stokes]’s performance as Lucy. Can you speak to working with her? She shows such a dynamic side to her throughout the series.

Yeah, we found Ruby very early on in the casting process. We used the scene where Lockwood interviews her in the first episode as the audition scene. While she was performing it on her self tape, we were just convinced she was psychic. We were convinced she could hold an object and feel the energy that that object was imbued with. So she got the part really quickly, very early on. I think she’s a superstar. Not only is she a incredibly capable, hardworking, talented actor, but she trained in circus school. She trained as a dancer, so her physical capability is extraordinary. She’s the only actor I’ve ever met who can hit her marks on a big wide shot. But then also, if she’s picking up a tiny object and doing a very precise move, she hits her marks precisely in a tiny, tiny closeup that’s, say, just her hand.

I really have never worked with anybody with such a completely talented actor — not to take anything away from any of the other actors in the show, but you asked me about Ruby and that’s what I feel about Ruby. It’s like giving Jennifer Lawrence her first starring role, you know? I hope, and I think, and if there’s any justice, she’ll be a big star. Listen, let me recommend her to every director out there: you would be lucky to have her in your project.


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You’ve got some exciting stuff coming up, like the Attack the Block sequel. How crazy is it that that movie has stayed in the consciousness for a decade now and people are still invested in it and are very excited for the sequel?

It’s beyond my wildest dreams, you know? It’s fantastic. The movie had such a great reception in the States, in particular, but it didn’t have a huge release. It was kind of dumped by Sony. They put it in a couple of theaters and didn’t really advertise it. But it’s managed to gain a following just through people, I guess, watching it first on DVD and then watching it on TV and watching it in repertory houses and stuff. So it, it’s fantastic.

Oh, and also, you know, the fact that John Boyega has become such a huge star has really elevated the movie. It’s incredible. It’s my first movie. I had no idea how people were going to respond to it. I had no idea people would understand what we were trying to say with it. Whether people would believe in the aliens, whether — especially international audiences — would understand the slang, all this stuff. So I really couldn’t be happier and we’re really excited about the ideas we have for the sequel, but we’re taking our time to get the script and the production exactly right.

You worked on Ant-Man and so much changed after Edgar Wright left the project. Now that it’s been a few years and with the third Ant-Man coming out, when you look at the finished product, do you see that original script’s DNA in there or does it feel like a completely different project?

No, it does. I think there’s probably … the first Ant-Man is probably maybe 35% our material, maybe even more. Weirdly, some of the bits that people think are Edgar’s bits are not Edgar’s bits. Some of those incredible whip transitions are actually Peyton’s contributions. But a lot of the design is Edgar’s, the casting is Edgar’s … especially the last half hour of the movie where the fight in the bedroom with the toys and the bit in the swimming pool … a lot of that section is how we envisioned it.

For me, that was a really wonderful experience. I wish Edgar had got to make his movie, but I got to work at Marvel for years and years and years. I got to work with Edgar for years and years and years. I got to experience what it’s like to work on a big production like that. Marvel are maybe the most successful movie production house in the world. So it’s a win-win situation for me. And I really enjoyed the first Ant-Man. I really enjoyed the second one and I’m really looking forward to the third one.

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