Neil Gaiman Explains His Thinking Behind The Sandman Casting Choices


Netflix’s take on The Sandman is shaping up to be something special. Neil Gaiman’s epic 90s comic series tells the story of the Endless, an immortal family who personify basic elements of reality. The lead character is the Lord of Dreams (aka Morpheus/Dream/The Sandman), whose tale stretches from the dawn of life up to the modern day.

It’s a beloved property and live-action casting has been discussed online since the 1990s. We now know that Tom Sturridge will play Morpheus, Gwendoline Christie is Lucifer and Charles Dance is Roderick Burgess. But this week that cast got substantially filled out and also includes Kirby Howell-Baptiste as Death, Mason Alexander Park as Desire, Donna Preston as Despair, David Thewlis as John Dee, Stephen Fry as Gilbert, and Jenna Coleman as Johanna Constantine, among others.

Gaiman released an article following the announcement talking through some of these choices. Most interesting was his pick for Death, described as “Dream’s wiser, nicer, and much more sensible sister,” and here’s what he had to say about it:

“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.”

On Desire, Gaiman reveals that the casting took place after the actor reached out over Twitter to express their interest, explaining:

“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.”

But a potentially controversial choice has to be Jenna Coleman’s Johanna Constantine. There was a little confusion about this, as in the comics Johanna isn’t a gender-swapped version of John Constantine, but rather his great-great-great grandmother. Though now it seems that the present-day John Constantine role will indeed be played by Coleman, with Gaiman saying:

“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.”

Gaiman explains in the article that he’s getting to see finished episodes every couple of weeks, which he describes as the “best bit of the month.” As such, I’m hopeful that The Sandman‘s premiere won’t be too far away. The show is still slated for a 2022 release, but fingers crossed it’ll be in January or February next year. The shoot has been very secretive, though now that the cat’s out of the bag when it comes to the cast, perhaps we’ll get some shots of the gang in costume sooner rather than later.