• Television

From Comics to Streamer: Enter “The Sandman”

The much-anticipated TV show adapted from the celebrated comic book series by Neil Gaiman, The Sandman, has finally come to life on Netflix. Starring British actor Tom Sturridge, in the titular role who also goes by the name Morpheus, as well as Dream of the Endless, is an otherworldly creature who lives in The Dreaming, a world he created from where he governs dreams and nightmares. 

For those unfamiliar with The Sandman universe, the story dates back to 1916 England. Roderick Burgess aka Magus (Charles Dance) orchestrates a séance of sorts to summon the god, Death, in order to bring his deceased son back to life.  But due to his clumsy skills as a wizard, he brings Morpheus to him instead.  Afraid for his life that Morpheus will take revenge on him, Magus forces him into a glass bottle where he will live for more than one hundred years.  After he escapes, he goes on a mission to retrieve the objects of power that were stolen from him, while he was in captivity.


The cast and showrunners have assembled at Comi-Con to talk about the show. 

Says Gaiman, creator of the series, who is also known for such hits as American Gods and Good Omens of the casting process, “The casting agent sent us four audition tapes and Tom’s was obviously the best.  But then we saw another 50, and it was still Tom.  Then we saw about 6000 auditions, and it was still Tom.  So, I cast Tom,” he shrugs.  “It was love at first sight.”

Sturridge, 36, has starred in Velvet Buzzsaw and Mary Shelley returns the compliment.  “I care so deeply about this piece of literature. And I think the only way that you can begin to understand Dream is to subsume yourself in the words and the images that Neil created. And so, I just spent months, because the casting process was a long one, reading over and over again until it was in my bones and in my blood,” he explains.  “And I think that there is no more honest way to try and find a character than to try and get inside the mind of the man who made it.”


Some of the other cast members include Stephen Fry, Joely Richardson, Jenna Coleman, David Thewlis, Gwendoline Christie, and Patton Oswalt. As to the casting process, no one had to be convinced to sign on. Gaiman said, “We went to Gwendoline Christie and said, ‘Do you want to be in Sandman?’ She said, ‘Yeah, I want to be Lucifer.’ And we went, ‘Yeah.’ It was incredibly easy.  She brings the junkie angel in spades.”

Christie concurs, “I’m a one-stop shop for junkie angel.  I was so unbelievably delighted. when Neil came to me about being in The Sandman.  When I think about The Sandman, when I read the comics I realized that it’s fantastical, it’s intelligent, it’s brilliant, and it takes you on a hallucinogenic journey. It also has a spirituality in it that is like Star Wars. It takes you somewhere else.”


But it was comedian and actor Patton Oswalt who was the first to be cast in The Sandman. He stars as Matthew, a former human who is transformed into a raven.  His main function is as Morpheus’ who brings some comic relief, he helps Morpheus whenever possible.  Gaiman jokes, “We knew he would fit into that raven costume, particularly after he voiced the character of Remy in Ratatouille.”  Patton quips, “I just dyed everything black and stuck a beak on it.”

Fans of the comic book series can breathe a sigh of relief that Gaiman has stayed true to his original material which he wrote in 1988.  Looking back on his early work on The Sandman, which he wrote as a much younger man, he says, “It was a strange process learning to trust the 26, 27, 28-year-old Neil Gaiman and go”, Gaiman says.  “Actually, you did kind of know what you were doing and we have to trust you,” he adds.  “Plus, I’m incredibly lucky nobody has wanted to change what we did.”