One of the many series to take the San Diego Comic-Con stage in Hall H was Netflix’s highly anticipated series, The Sandman. Based on Neil Gaiman’s renowned DC comic that some consider to be the greatest comic book series of all time, the series stars Tom Sturridge as Morpheus, or Dream, one of seven eternal entities who control crucial aspects of existence. The first season of The Sandman is reported to cover the story of The Sandman, Volume 1: Preludes & Nocturnes, which follows Dream’s capture by Roderick Burgess and his occult followers in the early 1900s and his subsequent 105 years in captivity.
While some version of The Sandman has been in development for decades, I can think of no better place for the material than on a streaming service like Netflix. Instead of trying to fit the massive story and incredible set of characters into a two-hour movie, streaming will allow the story to showcase the wondrous world that Gaiman and his team of brilliant artists brought to life on the page.
I’ve seen the first three episodes and cannot wait to see the rest of the show.
Shortly after premiering new footage at Comic-Con, cast members Tom Sturridge, Gwendoline Christie, Kirby Howell-Baptiste, Mason Alexander Park and Gaiman stopped by the Collider studio. During the fun interview, they talked about which of the ten-episode first season they’re most excited for people to see, why streaming is the perfect place to tell this story, what they’re excited for both fans and non-fans to experience, and more.
The Sandman’s cast also includes Patton Oswalt, Boyd Holbrook, Jenna Coleman, Vanesu Samunyai (formerly known as “Kyo Ra”), Vivienne Acheampong, Charles Dance, David Thewlis, Stephen Fry, Donna Preston, John Cameron Mitchell, Asim Chaudhry, Sanjeev Bhaskar, Joely Richardson, Niamh Walsh, Sandra James Young and Razane Jammal.
The series is executive produced by Gaiman, Heinberg, and David S. Goyer. The directors of the first season include Mike Barker (101), Jamie Childs (102, 103, 104, 105), Mairzee Almas (106), Andrés Baiz (107, 108), Coralie Fargeat (109), and Louise Hooper (110).
Watch what they had to say in the player above, or you can read our conversation below.
COLLIDER: I’ve seen the first three episodes, and they’re so good, and I have to start with you. Sandman has been in development as a movie, as something, for a very long time, and I’m so happy it wasn’t a movie because it would’ve sucked and TV streaming is the perfect location. Can you sort of talk about how this is the best place for this material?
GAIMAN: Absolutely. For years, people were trying to make Sandman movies, and they would try and take 3,000 pages of story and tell it in two hours, which is an awful lot like trying to take a river and put it in a pint glass, and they would fail, and I was nothing to do with these. Although, there was at least one script that was so bad that I sent it to people on the internet, who then did an article about how bad it was, which killed that particular version, but I was basically a long way away from all of these and in around 2018 as the nature of television changed, and I was showrunning Good Omens, which I’d written, David Goyer got in touch with me and said, “It’s time for Sandman. It’s time to do this together as a streamer. I think we can do it, and we can do it right, and are you on board?” He was saying, “This is the first time you’ve been invited on as a creative person. Would you do it with me?” And I said, “Yeah.”
And then, he had to wait until I finished making Good Omens, and we were also very lucky because as I finished making Good Omens, Allan Heinberg’s contract expired, and he came free and available, and we had dinner with him, David and I, and he turned out to be a rabid Sandman fan, who had a page of Sandman that he had bought in 1996 and had me sign, and we all sat there, and we talked about the show we wanted to make, and it became very clear we were all talking about the same show. The three of us all had the same vision for what we wanted to make and what this thing could be, which meant that the most amazing special effects or miracle to do with Sandman happened, and over that weekend, Allan Heinberg’s contract was agreed and signed.
And Monday morning, we pitched Sandman to a bunch of streamers and networks who pitched themselves to us, and a week later, Netflix had won an exciting bidding war, but what they had won was the idea that Warner Brother’s television, and David, Allan, and I, would make the Sandman show that we wanted to make. It wasn’t like they bought this thing, and now we’re going to cut it up and change it and cook it and stuff. It was like, no, they bought the right to make the thing we wanted to do, and that we have made, especially Allan, who’s just done so much of the heavy lifting. I get to take so much of the glory because mostly I just leaned over his shoulder and went, “Yeah, that’s a good idea,” but we got to make Sandman. We got this unbelievably awesome cast and they are merely the tip of the awesome cast iceberg, and on August the 5th, we dropped 10 episodes, season one. It’s amazing. I’m so proud of it, and it couldn’t have been made at any other time.
For the cast, what are you most excited for audiences to see that are both fans and non-fans?
GWENDOLINE CHRISTIE: I think it’s just that it’s such an epic journey. It defies genre. There are so many genres within it and each one is really resolved. It’s really fulfilled. You feel like you are entering truly another dimension and one that has been gone about such integrity, incredible creativity, and genuine love and deep respect for the material. It’s just a phantasmagorical adventure.
TOM STURRIDGE: While it is a cohesive story, I feel like each episode is like a film. It’s a new film every time that you switch to the next one, and I think that, that’s a kind of thrilling way to experience a story, an unusual in streaming. Then also, I want the audience to see these specific worlds. The Dreaming is one of the most extraordinary places that I’ve ever bore witness to on a screen. It’s Narnia and Middle Earth and Hogwarts times by the breadth of imagination of a universe, and there’s Hell and there’s the contemporary world, which is a new thing, the world of 2021. This isn’t a period piece. Sandman was birthed in 1989, but we have made it in the present day, and it’s exciting for the people who know the comic so well to see these characters have to face up to the realities of the modern world.
PARK: I’m just really, really excited for people who are massive fans of it to kind of see the things come to life themselves because when my experience of watching it, all it did was bring me back to flipping through the pages when I was first reading it to begin with, and I was like, it’s a very, I don’t know… It’s an emotional experience if you are in love with the original text, which I am.
HOWELL-BAPTISTE: Yeah. I’m super excited both for the fans and also people who are just discovering the Sandman and who maybe just stumble upon it because they trust Netflix and Netflix is such a trusted entity. I think it’s really incredible. Like Tom said, each episode sort of cleanses your palette. Each one is so different. They are like standalone short films and the cast change and the way their shot changes and the locations, and obviously, it’s fantastical, and it is a fantasy. It is this epic journey, but also, I look at our episode, and we spent almost the entire thing walking and talking in London in, what could be just a very, it’s a regular setting. We’re not anywhere that is, it’s necessarily in someone’s imagination dreaming or something like that, but even that has its own fantastical feel. It feels like this utopia, even though we are literally 2021 on earth walking around, and I think that there is a magic to every single part of the show, whether that be actual magic or even just the magic in the mundane, and I think that, that is what I’m really, really excited about because I think it’s going to be unlike anything anyone’s ever seen before.
Which of the ten-episode first season are you most excited for people to see?
GAIMAN: I want them to see episode six after they’ve experienced episode five.
HOWELL-BAPTISTE: That is a wonderful way to—
GAIMAN: It’s like, episode four takes them to hell in a good way. Episode five puts them through hell in a diner. Episode six is cleansing and forgiving and embracing and warming and beautiful, but you have to earn it.
HOWELL-BAPTISTE: Yeah, no, absolutely. It’s interesting because the episode I’m most excited for is the episode in Hell, because when I watched that, it was one of the most stunning things I’ve ever seen. Talk about taking ideas that are so familiar, like Satan, and presenting it in a way that no one has ever seen before, and I’ve read the comics and still felt like I’d never seen this character before, but I do think what you’re saying though, there is this ebb and flow, and you are earning things. You have to build some points to get to where you need to get to on this show, and that’s rare. It’s rare that you give the audience a chance to learn things, to learn and to appreciate, and to digest.
CHRISTIE: I sat down to watch the episodes, really not knowing what to expect, because what I’d done was in such isolation and only with Tom, and then, literally from the minute it started, I gasped, and then I just was just so connected to it and so fascinated to it, and it takes a lot to watch something, and it genuinely takes your breath away. I was also watching it with my partner who kept saying, “This is really good. This is, no, this is really good. This is so good.” I was like, “Yeah, I know. Can we just watch it?” And he said, “But it’s so good.” I said, “Yeah, I know, darling, but please, oh, do you know what? You’re right. It’s good. Let’s just say it’s good, because it’s really good.”
STURRIDGE: I agree with everything everybody said, so I’ll try and think of something new. There are two things I want to say. One is within episode six, but not with my sister. Morpheus’s relationship with Hob Gadling. Potentially, his first friendship on earth, and it’s a relationship that’s built over hundreds of years, and I think there’s something very exciting about watching these two characters grow together from the 14th century to the present day and very unusual, and then I think also, the culmination of the story we’re telling, the final confrontation between Morpheus and the Corinthian, and I’m excited for an audience to have lived the experience that we are going to give them and to come to its conclusion.
PARK: Easy answer for me. I think episode five is just so special. It’s a delight.
Here’s the official synopsis for The Sandman:
There is another world that waits for all of us when we close our eyes and sleep — a place called the Dreaming, where The Sandman, Master of Dreams (Tom Sturridge), gives shape to all of our deepest fears and fantasies. But when Dream is unexpectedly captured and held prisoner for a century, his absence sets off a series of events that will change both the dreaming and waking worlds forever. To restore order, Dream must journey across different worlds and timelines to mend the mistakes he’s made during his vast existence, revisiting old friends and foes, and meeting new entities — both cosmic and human — along the way.
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