"Young people fighting fantasy creatures with swords seems to have become slightly my niche," says the Brit with a laugh. "Maybe not consciously, but that seems to have happened by some sort of peculiar osmosis."
Parisa Taghizadeh/Netflix 'Lockwood and Co.'
Cornish continues this streak with the show Lockwood & Co., which takes place in an alternative-universe London and premieres on Netflix Jan. 27.
"Lockwood & Co. is set in a Britain which is plagued by ghosts, an epidemic of hauntings that's been going on for for more than 50 years," says Cornish, who is showrunning the series. "The twist is, ghosts are lethal, they can kill you when they touch you. The country is thrown into chaos for a few years and then it is discovered that young people can sense ghosts before adults. As a result, the nature of industry changes completely, the digital revolution never happens, and a network of giant agencies run by adults to employ young people to detect and eliminated ghosts is established. Our story follows a very talented young girl from the north of England called Lucy Carlyle who runs away from home to seek her fortune in a ghost-infested London."
Parisa Taghizadeh/Netflix Cameron Chapman in 'Lockwood and Co.'
Lucy, who is played by Ruby Stokes, eventually teams up to bust ghosts with Cameron Chapman's Anthony Lockwood and Ali Hadji-Heshmati's George Karim. As Cornish explains, the show "centers around the one agency that is not run by adult, a little start-up owned by a young man called Anthony Lockwood and his sidekick George Karim, and that agency is called Lockwood & Co."
"It was a new experience for me, shooting television," says Cornish, who shared directing duties on season 1 with Catherine Morshead and William McGregor when they filmed in 2021. "It's a tighter schedule, but we're very proud that no corners were cut. It was a COVID shoot, but it is not one of those COVID productions with, you know, three people in one house. We're very proud of the fact that it is extremely busy, populated, and action-packed."
The show is based on a series of novels by Jonathan Stroud, the first of which, The Screaming Staircase, was published in 2014.
Parisa Taghizadeh/Netflix Ruby Stokes and Joe Cornish on the set of 'Lockwood and Co.'
"There was a big bidding war amongst all the major studios and it was snapped up by one of the big studios, so we couldn't get it back then," Cornish says. "It was developed as a feature film, but never made, and while I was making The Kid Who Would Be King, it became available again."
In the meantime, Cornish had established a production company, Complete Fiction, with Last Night in Soho director Edgar Wright and producers Nira Park and Rachael Prior.
"We were looking for good material to make our TV debut," he says. "By that time there were five books, and we thought, wow, this could be brilliant material for a TV show. We took it to Netflix and it has become our debut production!"
Complete Fiction Joe Cornish
The initial eight-episode season covers the first two books in the series, and Cornish is hopeful to adapt more of Stroud's saga in the future.
"We would love to, yes, of course," he says. "You know, the books get better and better, the world is explored in a very unexpected and exciting way, there's some incredible set pieces and twists and new directions to come. We very very much hope people watch and enjoy and that we can carry on telling the story that Jonathan Stroud has so brilliantly written."
Lockwood & Co. debuts on Netflix Jan. 27. Watch the trailer below.