More casting news on Sandman...
Every afternoon I get an email telling me that there are “dailies” from The Sandman ready to be watched. It's the best bit of the day. Once every few weeks I get an email letting me know that there's a finished episode waiting for me to watch it. It's the best bit of the month.
The Sandman is being made, and it's... well, it's The Sandman. Which is the best thing of all.
You may know that The Sandman is based on my comic book series of the same name. A rich blend of modern myth and dark fantasy in which contemporary fiction, historical drama and legend are interwoven, The Sandman follows the people and places affected by Morpheus, the Dream King, as he mends the cosmic — and human — mistakes he's made during his vast existence.
You might already know that Tom Sturridge (he/him) is Dream of the Endless, Gwendolyn Christie (she/her) is Lucifer, Sanjeev Bhaskar (he/him) and Asim Chaudhry (he/him) are Cain and Abel, Charles Dance (he/him) is Roderick Burgess, Vivienne Acheampong (she/her) is Lucienne, and Boyd Holbrook (he/him) is The Corinthian.
But there are more parts to be announced. And I thought it would be fun to tell you about some of them, and the thinking behind them.
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 (she/her) audition and we knew we had our Death.
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 (they/them) reached out on Twitter, and threw their hat into the ring. We were thrilled when they got the part.
DESPAIR – Desire's twin, Dream's sister. She is the moment when all hope is gone, the bleakest of the Endless. Donna Preston (she/her) will be playing her, and her performance is chilling and sad. You feel her pain.
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 (she/her) gave us the Johanna of our dreams – tough, brilliant, tricky, haunted and probably doomed.
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 (she/her): 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 (she/her).
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 (he/him) took the part.
Now we're shooting The Doll's House, the second big Sandman storyline. It's the story of:
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 (she/her) achieves that as Rose.
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 (she/her) is Lyta, and she's terrific.
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 (she/her).
GILBERT – Rose Walker's debonair protector. A dab hand with a paradox and a sword cane. Stephen Fry (he/him) 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.
MATTHEW – 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 (he/him). And Patton was the first person we asked, and the first person we cast, the day before we pitched The Sandman to Netflix.
Of course, there are more delights and nightmares cast than I've listed here, and we have a few more secrets up our sleeves. I can't wait until you can start watching.
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Neil Gaiman’s “The Sandman” as a Toddler’s Bedtime Story
Very accidentally, the main and indeed only bedtime story my toddlers want to hear at night is one about Gaiman’s Sandman.
Please believe me, I didn't plan this deliberately. I don't think I could have.
There's a kind of delirium state parents enter when they reach exhaustion and will say anything to make their kids lie down quietly. You say anything, hoping it'll have a calming effect. I'd be unsurprised to hear footage of myself reciting Chinese restaurant combo meals.
At some point, I must have started rambling about the Sandman. It's on my mind enough; I teach it to middle schoolers.
My kids had me in the endless loop of, "Daddy, I want a kiss. And a hug. And a high five. And a fist bump. Put my blanket on!" So I mentioned the Endless.
I rambled out something about Morpheus and kept going. It was made in an impaired state of consciousness and never intended to be repeated.
Until the next night.
Eager eyes. Blankets clutched.
"Daddy. Tell me the Sandman."
A bedtime story is a ritual, and children will inform you when you are doing it wrong. Through a state of narrative natural selection, our family has settled on an orthodox telling of Gaiman's Sandman for Toddlers.
"If you close your eyes and lie still-"
This is the Very Important Part for the parent side of the equation.
"...then the Sandman, Morpheus, the Prince of Stories, the Lord Shaper, the King of Dreams will come..."
One must take care not to get the order wrong.
"...He'll come with his bone helmet, and black robe, and glowing red necklace, and bag of magic sand..."
Yesterday, my two-and-a-half-year-old son politely informed me that I had forgotten the necklace, but no recriminations would be made if I immediately made a correction.
"... and he'll put his magic sand on your eyelids..."
The children have reasoned out for themselves that "magic" sand doesn't hurt your eyes the way normal sand does. They're familiar with the anarchy of the daycare playground.
"...and he'll send you to the Dreaming and give you amazing dreams."
There is wiggle room in the descriptive word. Awesome dreams. Incredible dreams. Fantastic dreams.
Never "good dreams."
I don't believe Morpheus would approve of that promise.
If one cares, one can mention meeting Matthew the raven, Merv Pumpkinhead the scarecrow, or Lucien the librarian of all the Books That Never Were.
This is generally just garnish.
The ritual is complete. The children are appeased.
Sometimes, I will have to do it twice.
Even if they've both in the same room, six feet apart.
Separate performances will be demanded.
My greatest hope in this is that one day they'll be rebellious gothy teenagers, deep in the epoch wherein Dad Is Not Cool.
They'll approach me with the family copy of Preludes and Nocturnes in hand and eyes overflowing with questions.
And I'll only smile.
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