Joe Cornish And The Cast Talk Ghost-Fighting Adventure Lockwood & Co.

Move over Wednesday, there’s another spooky new young adult (YA) adventure arriving on Netflix which is a haunting good time.

Set in a world where deadly spirits plague the streets, gifted ghost-hunters regularly journey into the night in an attempt to keep communities safe.

One of these ghost-fighting agencies is Lockwood & Co., a small start-up operated by three teenagers who will stumble upon a mystery that will change everything.


Lockwood & Co. may already be a familiar title to some as the show is based on Jonathan Stroud’s book series of the same name.

One member of that book series’ fan-base is Joe Cornish, the director who previously brought to the screen hit sci-fi comedy-horror Attack The Block and fantasy adventure The Kid Who Would Be King.

Although he has dabbled in franchises with co-writing credits on The Adventures Of Tintin and Ant-Man, Cornish infamously turned down offers to direct instalments in the likes of the Star Trek and Die Hard universes.

However, there was something different about Lockwood & Co. which made it a franchise he wanted to work with.


Speaking to Zavvi, Cornish explained that unlike with other franchises, he felt that he could make this one his own: “It’s not a massive franchise, not like one of these things that will be a guaranteed hit.

“It’s not based on a video game, it’s not a reboot of something, it’s an original property which is quite unusual in the current climate.

“It does have a really passionate fan-base – a lovely, possessive, devoted fan-base. This is the little engine that could, a little ember that could burst into a flame.

“That’s a lovely thing to work on – it gives you freedom and a sense of ownership that maybe you wouldn’t get from a franchise that was already defined.”


Cornish directs and writes the show, which adapts the first two books in the series: The Screaming Staircase and The Whispering Skull.

Leading cast members Ruby Stokes (Lucy Carlyle), Cameron Chapman (Anthony Lockwood), and Ali Hadji-Heshmati (George Karim) hadn’t read the books before signing on to the project so were eager to dive in, agreeing in our interview that it is “an incredible story with actual stakes”.

And they are right! Whilst the show is a fun adventure, it is also absolutely terrifying at times, features quite the death toll, and has numerous villains eager to kill our heroes – here, we aren’t just talking about the ghosts.


However, team Lockwood & Co. aren’t afraid to fight back, unleashing their rapiers which is the weapon of choice for agents in this universe.

Chapman tells us that it was important that each of the characters had an individual way of going to battle: “It was very cool. We had an amazing stunt team that we did a lot of prep work with, which was awesome.

“But what is great is that these characters all have different personality traits which means that they have different fighting styles. It’s nice watching them all and seeing the differences.”


Featuring a steel blade and silver point, rapiers are able to drive ghosts away as well as make them temporarily dematerialise.

It also is an impressive weapon to watch in action during the fight scenes, all of which are set to banging tunes with the soundtrack featuring some great throwback tracks from the likes of The Cure and Siouxsie And The Banshees.

Music plays a crucial role in setting the scene here, as Cornish emphasised: “Lockwood & Co. is set in this parallel present day where the digital revolution never happened because you combat ghosts using substances like metal and salt, so industries took different paths.


“It means that the whole world is different including the world of pop culture. We therefore wanted an analogue feel to the music, something played on actual instruments, so we went back to a lot of post-punk British rock – Bauhaus, The Cure, Siouxsie And The Banshees.

“You can hear the fingers on the strings, the breath in the vocals – nothing is as computerised and polished as it is today. It allows you to feel that emotion and there’s a doom-laden romance to it as well – it’s ethereal, gloomy, yet uplifting.

“It captures the vibe of Lockwood – it’s so authored and personal, it’s not the product of a computer or committee which a lot of stuff is today.”


Whilst the musical inspirations are from the ’80s, the design of the ghosts themselves draw from a completely different era – the Victorian age.

Of course it was crucial that the team nailed this given that the ghosts play such an important role – they needed to look real and be effectively spooky.

Cornish tells us that it was quite the feat to pull off, one which required much research and teamwork: “We looked at a lot of Victorian spirit photography – I remember going to an exhibition about it years ago called The Perfect Medium which was brilliant.


“At that time photography was a new technology – people didn’t know how it worked, so they thought double exposures were real ghosts, a puff of mist could be an apparition. They thought ghosts were real and it was a science yet to be discovered.

“We therefore wanted our ghosts to feel present, almost like a chemical, something that could exist in physics. They are made of smoke, have different densities, colours, turbulences.

“We have a set of rules that all of our ghosts stay within but there’s a lot of variety. Some are huge and terrifying, some are wispy and creepy.


“It was a lot of work for the cast in terms of working with illuminated balls on sticks, having to imagine stuff, and co-ordinate fights around these things.

“We had different performers doing the faces, voices, acting on wires etc. Some of our ghosts are combinations of around four or five different performers. Then our amazing VFX team put the finished ghosts together.”

Of course, when you think of ghost-hunters one particular film comes to mind: the 1984 classic Ghostbusters.

However, whilst Ghostbusters has the most impressive legacy, the world has always been fascinated by ghosts, with countless stories being told throughout the decades.


For Cornish then, it was vital that he didn’t get intimidated by the spectres of the likes of Ghostbusters, instead focusing on making Lockwood & Co. stand out:

“Well Ghostbusters itself is based on a 1940s movie… There have been stories about people in haunted houses, people who try to catch ghosts, for hundreds of years, all being told in different ways with new spins.

“This has that central concept of being able to do something about the ghosts rather than just being scared by them, but it is presented in a completely new way.”

Clearly the hope is that this is just the beginning of Lockwood & Co. on the small screen, with the first season leaving the door open for a follow-up… there are of course other books to adapt.

Referring to these, Chapman says the story only gets better from here on in: “The books get even more incredible as they go along and the story blossoms into this unbelievably captivating world that you can be immersed in.

“It’d be amazing if we got to see the story through like that, see where the characters end up. Everyone worked really hard on series one, night and day, and we are excited to share that with audiences.”

Hadji-Heshmati meanwhile told us about his hopes for his character George, also teasing that fans should keep their eyes peeled for clues as to what could come next:

“George’s dream is to find out more about The Problem [the appearance of ghosts in our world] and how it came to be. I’d love to explore if George is successful in that mission.

“Fans of the books should also be on the lookout as there are lots of breadcrumbs for these further stories – we had fun playing around with that, putting those Easter eggs in.”

Lockwood & Co. releases globally on Netflix on 27th January.

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Emily Murray

Emily Murray


Emily is a journalist and film critic who unashamedly cries at most movies having got too emotionally attached. When not at the cinema, she is at home cuddling her cat Holmes, whilst binge watching New Girl. She can be found on Twitter @emilyvmurray