Edmonton actor lands villainous role in Netflix series Locke and Key

Thomas Mitchell Barnet doesn’t mind playing the bad guy.

The Edmonton-born actor has a leading role in Locke and Key, a new Netflix series based on the comic book series of the same name.

“As an actor looking in, it’s pretty exciting to get to play the villain and it’s pretty fun trying to figure out the softer side of the character,” said Barnet, 19.

The supernatural horror series, which launched Feb. 7, follows the the Locke family as they move from Seattle to a small town in Massachusetts to live in a mysterious mansion filled with magic keys that whisper from the walls.

Barnet’s character — troubled teenager Sam Lesser — begins to harbour a dark obsession with the family.

Lesser commits atrocities against the family throughout the series. Eventually, an evil demon set on stealing the magic keys uses him as a pawn in her plot.

“I think it was fun figuring out how to portray that he was menacing and also that he was in a lot of pain,” Barnet said in an interview with CBC Radio’s Edmonton AM. “That really was a puzzle.

“It’s a safe place to put those feelings. I don’t have to worry about the ramifications.”  

It wasn’t too difficult getting into character, said Barnet. He only struggled on double shoot days when the other young actors featured in the series would be on set, and in high spirits.

“I couldn’t be around them because they would truly be having a party while they were waiting to get the shots set up. 

“And I would be doing the scene where I have to cry and run out of the office and I was like, ‘I can’t be around you guys. It’s just too positive.'”

Fans have been waiting a long time for the series. There have been at least two previous attempts to adapt Locke and Key for television.

Barnet was initially cast in a 2017 Hulu pilot for the series in the role of Rufus, a sweet-tempered young man with autism, but the pilot didn’t get picked up. 

When the project was revived by Netflix in early 2019, Barnet was asked to audition for the role of Lesser.

“I think it was a bit of a favour to me,” he said. “They liked me from the pilot but they knew pretty much immediately they wanted someone on the [autism] spectrum to play Rufus.

“They were like, ‘Oh we have this other thing, do you want to give this a shot?'” 

Barnet auditioned on Friday and found out that he landed the role on Tuesday. It was a huge relief, he said.

While Lesser is arguably his largest role to date, Barnet has been in the acting game a long time.   

His parents are professional drama teachers and he grew up around the theatre. After graduating from Strathcona High School, he took theatre classes at the University of Alberta and studied at the Birmingham Conservatory for Classical Theatre in Stratford, Ont.

He never imagined his career would take him from the theatre to the small screen.

“My intention since I was a teenager and into my early 20s was to only do theatre. But [television is] pretty nice. It’s definitely nice to do things a handful of times and then forget about them.”

His parents had mixed feelings about his foray into villainhood.

“They have been watching it and they’ve been messaging me about how sad they are about my character and about how scary I am.”

Barnet said he’s unsure about his future on Locke and Key. Netflix has yet to renew the series for a second season and it’s unclear if his character will return. 

“There is a big question mark about that, I think. He does come back in the comics so I hope so.”