The Sandman, the ambitious, much anticipated new Netflix series based on Neil Gaiman’s iconic work of fantasy is waking up.
We’ve known that it was in the works for nearly two years now, but for much of that time, we’ve heard very little about it. It’s like it’s been sleeping, off on its own little adventures through Dream’s kingdom, while all we fans could do is wait, perhaps a little impatiently, and always with the sort of excitement that comes about when a book loved by generations of fans goes before the cameras for the first time. Every now and then, the slumbering series would stir, and we’d get a hint of what was in store. Earlier this year, The Sandman awoke, briefly, and told us a few things that it had dreamt during the night. We learned that Velvet Buzzsaw’s Tom Sturridge would be playing Dream—aka Morpheus, the character at the heart of the saga. We discovered that The Sandman’s Lucifer will be played by none other than Gwendoline Christie (who we imagine will find Hell to be far less stressful then Westeros). But there was still so much we didn’t know and eventually, The Sandman seemed to return to its hibernation, silent once again.
But suddenly, the magnificent creature is stirring again, and while we can’t know for sure, it sure feels like The Sandman may be about to wake for good. It started Monday, when Netflix teased The Sandman as part of its upcoming “Geeked Week.” But things really got going this morning, when none other than Neil Gaiman himself introduced us to more of The Sandman’s core cast. Our last casting announcement left off a few key roles—Death, Desire, Despair, Rose Walker, John Dee and Matthew the Raven, to name a few. Now, all those characters and more are in place, and we’ve started to get a sense of just what we might be in for when The Sandman hits the screen for the very first time.
You should by all means read Gaiman’s full blog post about the new cast. He shares what the experience seeing The Sandman brought to film has been like after wrapping the original Vertigo series 25 years ago. But for the newly announced cast members and Gaiman’s thoughts on each one, read on…
Kirby Howell-Baptiste is Death
“Dream’s wiser, nicer, and much more sensible sister. Significantly harder to cast than you might imagine (well, than I imagined, anyway). Hundreds of talented women from all around the planet auditioned, and they were brilliant, and none of them were right. Someone who could speak the truth to Dream, on the one hand, but also be the person you’d want to meet when your life was done on the other. And then we saw Kirby Howell-Baptiste’s audition and we knew we had our Death.”
Mason Alexander Park is Desire
“Dream’s sibling and everything you want, whatever you want and whoever you are. Desire is also trouble for Dream. Families are complicated. We had barely started looking when Mason Alexander Park reached out on Twitter, and threw their hat into the ring. We were thrilled when they got the part.”
Donna Preston is Despair
“Desire’s twin, Dream’s sister. She is the moment when all hope is gone, the bleakest of the Endless. Donna Preston will be playing her, and her performance is chilling and sad. You feel her pain.”
Jenna Coleman is Johanna Constantine
“Eighteenth Century occult adventuress, John Constantine’s great-great-great grandmother. This Sandman character became so popular that she even had her own spin-off series. I created her to fill the role that John Constantine does in the past. When we broke down the first season, given that we knew that we would be encountering Johanna in the past, we wondered what would happen if we met a version of her in the present as well. We tried it and the script was sparkier, feistier, and in some ways even more fun. So having written her, we just had to cast her. Jenna Coleman gave us the Johanna of our dreams—tough, brilliant, tricky, haunted and probably doomed.”
Niamh Walsh and Joely Richardson are Ethel Cripps
“Roderick Burgess’s love, John Dee’s mother, is a small but vital role in the comics, but she became more important as we told our story. In the 1920s and 30s, she is played by Niamh Walsh: a betrayed and determined young woman seeking to survive. In the present day, now a woman of a hundred identities and a thousand lies, she’s played by the brilliant Joely Richardson.”
David Thewlis is John Dee
“Ethel’s son is dangerous. He was driven mad, long ago. Now he’s out and on a quest for Truth that may destroy the world. We needed an actor who could break your heart and keep your sympathy while taking you into the darkest places. We were lucky that David Thewlis took the part.”
Kyo Ra is Rose Walker
“A young woman on a desperate search for her missing brother, who finds a family she didn’t know that she had, and a connection to Dream that neither of them can escape. We needed someone young who could make you care as she ventures into some very dangerous places. Boyd Holbrook’s Corinthian is waiting for her, after all. Kyo Ra achieves that as Rose.”
Razane Jammal is Lyta Hall
“Rose’s friend, a young widow mourning her husband Hector. Rose doesn’t know that Hector has started showing up in Lyta’s dreams, though. Or that strange things are happening. Razane Jammal is Lyta, and she’s terrific.”
Sandra James Young is Unity Kinkaid
“Heiress, Rose’s mysterious benefactor. She has spent a century asleep. Now she’s awake, having missed out on her life. She’s played by Sandra James Young.”
Stephen Fry is Gilbert
“Rose Walker’s debonair protector. A dab hand with a paradox and a sword cane. Stephen Fry is a National Treasure, and we forget sometimes that he’s also a remarkable actor. Seeing him in costume and make up on the dailies made me blink: it was as if the comic had come to life.”
Patton Oswalt is Matthew the Raven
“Dream’s trusted emissary. A raven. I expected our animals to be CGI, and was both taken aback and thrilled when the dailies started coming in, and there was Dream talking to… well, a raven. But ravens don’t really talk. The question was, could we find an actor who could make you care about a dead person who was now a bird in the Dreaming—one who isn’t certain what’s going on, or whether any of this is a good idea? And could we find a voice performer who was also the kind of Sandman fan who used to stand in line to get his Sandman comics signed? The answer was, we could if we asked Patton Oswalt. And Patton was the first person we asked, and the first person we cast, the day before we pitched The Sandman to Netflix.”
There’s a lot to absorb there, and we’ll leave most of the discussion and speculation to you, the fans. But this second casting update suggests a few things—largely by which characters are missing. With key roles like William Shakespeare and the Siamese Cat missing, it’s likely that the first season of The Sandman will just take us through the first two volumes of Gaiman’s saga. In addition, two important roles from “Preludes and Nocturnes,” the first Sandman volume, are also missing—John Constantine and the Martian Manhunter.