After all these years of dream casting of Dream and the rest of the Sandman cast, it’s finally happening. Netflix’s upcoming Sandman series announced a bunch of new cast members, including fan favorites like Death and Rose Hall, via a blog post by series creator Neil Gaiman.
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 couple of 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.
The show previously announced Tom Sturridge as Dream and Gwendoline Christie as Lucifer, but now they’ve announced Dream, Kirby Howell-Baptiste, (breaking Fairuza Balk’s heart at long last), non-binary actor Mason Alexander as Desire (perf!), and Donna Preston as Despair.
Among the others cast, Doctor Who’s Jenna Coleman as Johanna Constantine — no not a gender swap but Hellblazer’s great-great-great grandmother — now appearing in the present day. David Thewlis (Wonder Woman, Harry Potter) will play John Dee, a rather disturbing character in the Sandman mythos. And Patton Oswalt is voicing Matthew the Raven who is played, it seems by an ACTUAL raven onscreen.
Here’s the rest of the cast and the Gaiman commentary.
Kirby Howell-Baptiste (She/Her) 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 (she/her) audition and we knew we had our Death.”
Mason Alexander Park (They/Them) 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 (they/them) reached out on Twitter, and threw their hat into the ring. We were thrilled when they got the part.”
Donna Preston (She/Her) is 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.”
Jenna Coleman (She/Her) 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 (she/her) gave us the Johanna of our dreams—tough, brilliant, tricky, haunted and probably doomed.”
Niamh Walsh (She/Her) and Joely Richardson (She/Her) 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 (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).”
David Thewlis (He/Him) 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 (he/him) took the part.”
Kyo Ra (She/Her) 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 (she/her) achieves that as Rose.”
Razane Jammal (She/Her) 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 (she/her) is Lyta, and she’s terrific.”
Sandra James Young (She/Her) 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 (she/her).”
Stephen Fry (He/Him) is 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.”
Patton Oswalt (He/Him) 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 (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.”
Tim Beedle, writing at the DC Blog, had a bit more info about all of this:
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.
While we don’t know what to expect from Netflix’s adaptation (consider this your regular reminder that we here at DCComics.com don’t know any more than you do when it comes to DC movies, games and TV), we wouldn’t be surprised if Martian Manhunter or any other DC superhero just aren’t a part of it. They’re really not the point of Sandman and their involvement would complicate things behind the scenes.
No release date for Sandman has been announced yet but you can bet that the premiere will be a nerd-a-palooza of huge proportions.
What do you think of the Sandman casting so far? Is it living up to your hopes and dreams? Let us know in the comments.