A weird byproduct of the attention that’s come with the success of her new Netflix show “Locke & Key” is that Laysla De Oliveira has been getting sent lots of choking memes.
“Because there’s a scene where I choke someone,” the 28-year-old says from the lobby of the Freehand hotel in New York, where she’s staying for a brief work trip following the show’s release. “So I get a lot of choking memes, which is hilarious.”
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Luckily there have been some other, more family-friendly interactions as well.
“I just started to get recognized, which is interesting,” she continues. “Actually, on the plane over here, I was rereading the comics just to freshen up. Somebody leaned over and we were chatting and he said, ‘Oh, they just did a great show on Netflix. ‘Locke & Key,’ it’s a really great show.’ And then he kept staring and started to realize and I was like, ‘It’s me!’”
The comic show, which premiered in February, follows the “Locke & Key” comic and tells the story of a family who, after having to move to Massachusetts following the death of the father, discovers a series of magical keys throughout his family home they’re now inhabiting — and a demon who wants the keys themselves. It is the first major taste of stardom for the actress, what she considers her first “big girl part.”
“It’s a whole other side of acting that I feel really fortunate I got to explore,” she says.
De Oliveira, who warns upon meeting that she’ll be doling out hugs, was born and raised in Toronto, the daughter of Brazilian immigrants who sought a better life in Canada.
“My mom, the story she tells me was she basically used to live under a bridge, not really have any food or a proper place to live, and used to go to school just to be fed essentially,” she says. “My dad kind of did the same thing. He grew up on a farm and he came here to study and for a better life for him and his family.”
Growing up she felt between the two cultures, viewed as Brazilian by Canadians and Canadian by Brazilians.
“There’s sort of this world of lost children who have two very strong cultures in their DNA,” she says.
Performing was always a favorite outlet. Growing up, her mom would host dinner parties and De Oliveira would charge the guests $2 for “dinner and show,” which would consist of her lip syncing to Britney Spears with multiple costume changes.
“Of course, none of this is recorded and not up on YouTube. Thankfully,” she says.
After her first drama class in high school, she began to dream about making acting a profession one day but the uncertainty of it all intimidated her.
“I think it’s a scary thing. Any job is scary. But my stepdad always says, ‘Well, somebody has to do it.’ And then I always try to approach it in that way,” she says.
She attended a few years of drama school in Toronto before dropping out to audition and do some modeling.
“Acting is so challenging because it takes a really long time to be fulfilled that way and be paid to do so,” she says. “So I started off with small parts and although they were really fun, they weren’t really artistically fulfilling because they were smaller. And so it was hard to really sink my teeth into them. It wasn’t until I booked ‘In the Tall Grass’ for Netflix actually that I started to be like, ‘Wow, this is exactly where I want to be and what I want to be doing.’”
It was after she did “In the Tall Grass” that the “Locke & Key” audition popped up. She was Christmas shopping in a Banana Republic when she got the call the part was hers.
“I dropped all the clothes I was carrying and I ran outside the mall with no coat on, crying and screaming,” she says. “Also because I was now going to be hired for six months and had never done something like that before. The security and also just, ‘Wow, I can do the thing I love for six months. I have work for next year.’”
She plays a villain on the show, a chance she immediately jumped at.
“When people see me they think I’m very nice. So I just wanted to go outside my comfort zone and see what being bad looks like on me,” she says. “It’s nice not to be the Goody-Two shoes.”
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