Harlan Coben’s latest thriller is packed with twists and turns as you might expect, but arguably Netflix’s biggest surprise Stay Close is the inclusion of two musical theater murderers named Ken and Barbie.
These two characters, played by Hyoie O’Grady and Poppy Gilbert, literally dance on the show, but their neat looks and sun-kissed disposition mask something much darker lurking underneath.
Indeed, the mysterious couple are quickly revealed to be ruthless killers, but the motivation for their crimes is only made clear later in the eight-part miniseries.
So what could have inspired these bizarre characters? Novelist Harlan Coben explained that his inspiration for Ken and Barbie comes from a vivid memory from his youth.
“At halftime of NFL football games in the ’70s and’ 80s, there was a band called Up With People, who were doing this really healthy act,” he recalled in a press statement. .
“They were singing all these Kumbaya type songs and they had these fake smiles painted on. I’m sitting there saying, “There’s got to be more behind those fake painted smiles.” So I decided, wouldn’t it be cool if two of them were kind of psychotic killers?
Coben added, “These are the parts of the show where you go, ‘What – where are they going with that?’ I like that. I think Ken and Barbie put us off balance a bit. And yet, outrageous as Ken and Barbie are, there is something about them that feels grounded and realistic. “
Stay Close star Bethany Antonia described the duo as “bonkers in the best way,” recounting RadioTimes.com about a scene she shares with them later in the series, which takes place in a secluded log cabin in the forest.
“It was as surreal as it sounds, because every time we did a take we did the whole scene. So I was in the booth even when there were no cameras, just so that Hyoie and Poppy might have something to play with.
“So being in there and reacting to it off camera was exactly the same as seeing it on camera, because they’re just terrifying… I’m really intrigued to see what people do with them.”
As for the dance routines they perform throughout the series? “They didn’t have a lot of rehearsal either. They took it out of the bag so much… they look phenomenal, ”she adds.
In an interview with RadioTimes.comStay Close star Richard Armitage also weighed in on Ken and Barbie’s delightful weirdness, revealing that they presented a “challenge” for the creative team.
“These are a few characters that you really enjoy in the book and actually, putting that into a script and making it believable was probably a more difficult task than anything else,” he said. “Because having a few musical theater murderers, I think it was a real challenge. But obviously brilliantly sunk.
Indeed, Stay Close director Lindy Heymann was thrilled with the end result, even suggesting that we may not have seen the latest of Ken and Barbie’s unsettling partnership.
“I would be very surprised if at some point someone didn’t suggest that there might be a Ken and Barbie spinoff show, ”she said. “Their early years and where they first met are all described in the book. They are brilliant characters played by Poppy Gilbert and Hyoie O’Grady… The chemistry between these two was amazing.
For more on Ken and Barbie, check out our Stay Close Casting Guide.
Stay Close is available to stream on Netflix. Read our guide to the best series on Netflix, check out more of our dramatic coverage, or visit our TV guide to see what’s on tonight.