Actress Laysla De Oliveira discusses why it's so fun to play an unapologetically evil villain in Locke & Key on Netflix

By Gillian Telling
March 11, 2020 05:36 PM
Credit: Shelby Ito

Netflix supernatural horror series Locke & Key follows the story of a family who, after their father’s murder, find keys that unlock various doors in their house in supernatural ways. And fans will recognize Laysla de Oliveira, who plays the evil Dodge, as one of the scarier female villains on TV today.

But the Canada-born actress, 28, says she’s nothing like that in real life.

“It’s funny, because I had never played the bad guy before this, and I think my personality is very bubbly and I try to be kind, so when I said I was going to play a bad guy a lot of my friends were like, ‘Really?'” says De Oliveira (whose first name is pronounced “lies-la,” or “the Island” in Spanish.) “But now people are seeing me as this person. I love playing a villain. It’s so special to play a role where you get to be completely unapologetic for your behavior.”

“There are very few female villains in entertainment, especially in the sci-fi world. The only person I could think of right now is Maleficent. So I hope people are a little intimidated by me now!” she adds with a laugh. “But I’m only just starting to get recognized, and so far everyone has just been really lovely and kind when approaching me.”

De Oliveira, who was raised in Toronto and attended a prestigious film school there, said she realized two years into college that if she wanted to make it as an actress, she needed to move to Los Angeles and start putting herself out there. Once in L.A., she started booking jobs with frequency, but she says the majority of them were pilots that never made it to air. “If the pilots aren’t picked up, you’re not necessarily seeing what I’m doing,” she says.

Auditioning for Locke & Key would be a career-changing moment.

“I had done a Stephen King film with [Locke & Key writer] Joe Hill, so I thought maybe I’d have an advantage, but this was a very coveted role,” she says of her part in In the Tall Grass. “I went in in 2018 and it was very much the end of the process, and I heard that there were some girls that had already been chosen. So I was like, Oh well, they already know who they want.”

She says she assumed she wouldn’t hear anything for a while, so when she got the call that she’d gotten the part, she was shopping in a Banana Republic. She dropped the clothes she was holding and ran outside in shock without her coat — in the middle of winter in Toronto.

“I was freezing!” she says, adding, “I’d had a good year. I was in a film that was in competition at the Venice film festival, and I got to go to Toronto. But this was the first time I was going to be employed for six months straight. And I knew a lot of people would watch this. I called my stepdad and I was crying, and he thought something was wrong!”

Next up for De Oliveira is starring in John Ridley’s Sci-Fi film Needle in a Timestack, with Orlando Bloom and Cynthia Erivo.

She says one thing that’s a positive her career right now is Hollywood’s embrace of casting people that are non-white. “I’ve found a power in being Latina, and I feel very seen,” she says, noting that her extended family is from Brazil. “I wasn’t having to audition for the girl next door, that’s not my vibe.”

She adds that her grandmother and extended family in Brazil get to watch her show on Netflix, they cry. “They come from very humble beginnings,” she says. “The great thing about it being Netflix is I get to dub my own voice. It’s so major for them,” she says. “It’s a big, big deal. I’m just happy that I can make them happy.”