Coming to Netflix in August 2022 is The Sandman, the highly-anticipated series based on the DC comic book by Neil Gaiman. Here’s our updated guide on everything we so far about the upcoming Netflix show including the cast breakdown, every first look released so far, and information about what volumes will be covered.
Please note: this was first published in December 2021 and has been updated over time to reflect new information. It was last updated on July 11th, 2022.
For decades, Neil Gaiman’s seminal comic The Sandman was deemed unfilmable.
Of course, there have been several attempts trying to bring it to both the big screen and the small screen — but Gaiman continuously shot them down, biding his time for the perfect opportunity. Most notably, Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Gaiman worked on a film adaptation in 2014 that ultimately fell apart due to creative differences. However, when Netflix approached Gaiman with the willingness to faithfully serialize the comics, along with a huge budget and the promise of a stellar cast, it’s hard to say no.
In July 2019, the streamer issued a press release confirming that they were the network brave enough to move forward with a live-action adaptation of The Sandman graphic novels. In fact, in making it, they would also break the record for the most expensive TV show DC Entertainment has ever produced. With showrunner Allan Heinberg (Wonder Woman) as well as producers David S. Goyer (Batman Begins, The Dark Knight) and Gaiman, the dream team was assembled.
When will The Sandman be released on Netflix?
After a long wait, we finally got word of when The Sandman is coming to Netflix as part of Netflix’s Geeked Week 2022.
The official release date for The Sandman on Netflix globally is August 5th, 2022.
What is The Sandman on Netflix and why should you be excited?
The Sandman is a saga that transcends space and time, taking us beyond Earth to mythical lands and strange realms. It’s packed with iconic figures — both historical and legendary — that you might find familiar. For instance, you’ll find William Shakespeare, Thor, Orpheus, and so many others show up. And then, given its place in the DC universe, expect sporadic appearances from DC canon, including Martian Manhunter and John Constantine. It also brings in some lesser-known DC characters, from Element Girl to Hector Hall.
All 10 volumes of the comic follow its titular character Dream of the Endless, also known as Morpheus, Kai’ckul, Sandman, and countless other names. His name — so too his appearance — changes depending on who it is that sees him. We join him on his journey, watching him play out his duties as the Ruler of Dreams, and watch as his past mistakes come back to haunt him.
In September, Netflix’s TUDUM event offered us the first proper look at the show in action (after a first look behind the scenes at Geeked Week in June 2021). While only short, the teaser features the opening to the entire saga: Roderick Burgess (Charles Dance) and his fellow occultists in the Order of Ancient Mysterious performing a ritual to capture and imprison Death. However, the ritual doesn’t quite go according to plan as Dream (Tom Sturridge) is captured rather than his sister, thus kicking off the series:
Gaiman has said that each episode is “wildly different” in an interview with Empire Magazine. The author said “You watch Episode 1 and think, ‘Oh, I get this thing: it’s like “Downton Abbey,” but with magic,’” adding “Then you’ll be wondering, ‘What the hell is this?’ by Episode 2, when you’re meeting Gregory the Gargoyle in The Dreaming. Episode 5 is about as dark and traumatic as anything is ever gonna get, then you’ve got Episode 6, which is probably the most feel-good of all the episodes.”
How many episodes will be in The Sandman? What comics will Netflix’s The Sandman cover?
Season 1 of The Sandman will consist of 11, hour-long episodes.
It covers volume one “Preludes and Nocturnes,” volume two “The Doll’s House” and the first half of volume three, “Dream Country.” The hope, of course, is to adapt all of the graphic novels without the show being axed midway through — something Netflix has garnered a reputation for over the years. I mean, take the recent cancellation of Cowboy Bebop, for example. That said, Gaiman has previously stated that there are various safety nets in place to prevent such an occurrence.
The official series synopsis from Netflix reads: “A rich blend of modern myth and dark fantasy in which contemporary fiction, historical drama, and legend are seamlessly 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.”
If you were at all worried about The Sandman not sticking close to the source material; don’t be. If the teaser is anything to go by, it will stick closely to the original narrative. Netflix has even released a pretty neat side-by-side comparison, just to set aside some apprehension.
Fans have, however, taken concern over the fact that Dream does not have stars in place of his eyes, one of his most significant features in the comics. The reason for this purely comes down to the fact that the stars do not convey Dream’s emotion as much as regular eyes.
Who are The Endless in The Sandman and which actors play them?
Note: you can find an expanded version of The Sandman cast here.
Dream is one of a group of seven cosmic entities known as the Endless. Basically, they’re anthropomorphic personifications of concepts and ideas essential for life. Dream’s six siblings are Death, Desire, Destiny, Despair, Delirium, and Destruction. As expected, Netflix is sparing no expense with this adaptation. Firstly, let’s take a look at the seven Endless and have a brief rundown of who they are and who’s playing them. Bear in mind that some of these characters are yet to be cast.
Two sets of castings have been announced thus far. The first batch of announcements came in January 2021 with the second batch in May 2021.
Dream, played by Tom Sturridge: The titular character of the series. Dream is a dour and mopey entity who rules over his realm, The Dreaming, the place where everyone goes when they fall asleep. Like many of his siblings, Dream can be recognized by his pale skin and his three totems of power: A ruby, a pouch of sand, and his helm forged from the bones of a dead God.
Death, played by Kirby Howell-Baptiste: Perhaps the breakout character of the entire series, Death is Dream’s older, wiser sister. Death is a fun, upbeat goth, her personality is the perfect contrast to her brother. While her appearance changes throughout the series, she can always be seen wearing an Ankh, with an Eye of Horus under her eye.
Desire, played by Mason Alexander Park: An antagonist of the series, Desire is everything you want. They are neither a man nor a woman, and their domain is called the Threshold; a literal statue of itself. Desire smells of summer peaches, is usually wearing white, and has a sigil of a heart of broken glass.
Despair, played by Donna Preston. Desire’s twin, Despair, is a sorry sight: a naked, portly, pale woman who is almost always bleeding due to a hooked ring she uses to mutilate herself. If there’s one member of the Endless you would not want to meet, it’s her.
Delirium, not yet cast: Living very much in a world of her own, bursting with colour, Delirium is most often cheerful and enthusiastic, but also has a very strong temperament. What she says rarely makes any sense, nor refers to the topic of conversation. Delirium was once Delight but changed over time with no explanation. This remains a mystery throughout the entire series.
Destiny, not yet cast: Destiny is a man who knows everything that has happened and everything that will happen. He lives in the center of an impossible hedge maze, where all paths lead. Although he is blind, he carries an enormous tome — the Book of Souls — bound to his body with chains. The book chronicles everything that happens, across all time. Well, things have happened that Destiny’s book has missed, but that’s a story for another day.
Destruction, not yet cast: Strongly built and immensely powerful, he who is Destruction brings upon, well, destruction and change. However, Destruction is the only one of the Endless to have abandoned his position after realizing that he is not needed for humanity to fulfill his role. Instead, Destruction lives out his days in peace and tranquility, creating works of art, without the need for his sword. It remains unlikely that we’ll see him in the Netflix show since his first appearance in the comics doesn’t arrive until volume 7, “Brief Lives.”
Now let’s take a look at some of the other castings and have a character breakdown for each member:
Lucifer, played by Gwendoline Christie: Best known for her portrayal of Brienne of Tarth in Game of Thrones, Christie now becomes Lucifer, the Ruler of Hell. Yes, this is technically the same character played by Tom Ellis in the Lucifer TV show. However, The Sandman takes place in its own continuity, hence why it’s Christie instead. Lucifer is prominent in the first volume, “Preludes and Nocturnes,” and shows up periodically throughout the series.
Roderick Burgess, played by Charles Dance: Burgess is the leader of the Order of Ancient Mysteries. He is the one who kicks the saga off with his futile attempt to capture and imprison Death. Looking at the teaser, Charles Dance seems to portray him perfectly.
Lucienne, played by Vivienne Acheampong: One significant change from the source material sees Lucien become Lucienne. In the comics, Lucien is the resident pointy-eared librarian of The Dreaming. He keeps records of every book that’s ever been imagined, regardless of whether it was written down.
Cain (Sanjeev Bhaskar) and Abel (Asim Chaudhry): Cain is the first predator and Abel is the first victim. Yes, they’re the same as the biblical figures. Both are inhabitants of The Dreaming. Cain occupies the House of Mystery while Abel lives in the House of Secrets. The duo act as comic relief, seeing Cain continuously kill Abel in horrific ways, but he never stays dead. While Cain is sadistic and cruel, Abel is friendly and gentle. It’s pretty brutal in the comics, I can only imagine how it will play out on-screen.
The Corinthian, played by Boyd Holbrook: As there is a dream, so too must there be a nightmare. And the Corinthian is exactly that. Created by Dream, the Corinthian is as cruel as they come. For instance, in one issue, “Collectors,” he forms his own serial killer convention. Of course, one cannot talk about him without mentioning his most distinct feature: sets of teeth in place of his eye sockets.
Johanna Constantine, played by Jenna Coleman: Rather than popular DC occultist John Constantine, Netflix’s Sandman has instead opted to go with Jenna Coleman as Johanna Constantine. In the comics, Johanna is an ancestor of John, but the show appears to have given her the storyline of John. Dream seeks Johanna to assist him in recovering his pouch of sand.
Matthew the Raven, voiced by Patton Oswalt: Matthew is another character Neil Gaiman took from the wider DC universe and developed in his comics. Before Matthew became a Raven of the Dreaming, he first appeared as Matthew Cable in Alan Moore’s Swamp Thing comics. Matthew is Dream’s loyal messenger.
John Dee, played by David Thewlis: John Dee, aka Doctor Destiny, is the main antagonist in volume one. After coming into possession of the Dreamstone while Morpheus was imprisoned, he seeks to terrorize the world. Issue #6, in which he uses the ruby to take control of a group in a diner, is recognized as one of the most disturbing comics in DC history. This same storyline will play out in episode 5 of the TV show. You’ve been warned.
Lyta Hall, played by Razane Jammal: One of the lesser-known characters in DC canon, Lyta Hall is the daughter of Wonder Woman and Steve Trevor. Lyta becomes involved in the story when her child, Daniel, is formed inside the Dreaming.
Ethel Cripps, played by Joley Richardson (Old) and Niamh Walsh (Young): Ethel Cripps is the mother of John Dee. She was a member of the Order of Ancient Mysteries and the former love interest of Roderick Burgess.
Rose Walker, played by Kyo Ra: Rose Walker is a Vortex — which has been passed through her lineage. In “The Doll’s House,” Rose travels to England and meets her grandmother Unity.
Unity Kinkaid, played by Sandra James Young: When Dream was captured by Roderick Burgess, it caused a worldwide “sleepy sickness” pandemic. One of those who fell ill from this disease was Unity Kinkaid. Whilst she was in a unwakable sleep, she was raped by Desire. Fast forward decades and Rose Walker is her granddaughter.
Gilbert, played by Stephen Fry: Gilbert is not a person, it is a place called Fiddler’s Green. It is a part of The Dreaming. When Dream was imprisoned, Fiddler’s Green escaped his realm and lived in the Waking World as a wise man named Gilbert.
Mandy.com gives us an idea as to some of the smaller cast members to feature in Netflix’s The Sandman.
Highlights from that cast list include:
- Tony Richardson as The Man In The Shadows
- Valmike Rampersad as Callum
- Kimberley-Irene Scifleet as Demon
- Robert Grose as Disciple
- Ruchika Jain as Clara
What does the cast have to say about The Sandman?
In bringing these characters to life, the cast has an immense responsibility, and they sure know it. Almost everyone in the cast is playing a character who has never been portrayed in live-action before. With filming complete, the actors can now speak about their experiences and begin to build the hype. For instance, during Sandman’s segment at Netflix’s TUDUM event, two stars — Tom Sturridge (Dream) and Kirby Howell-Baptise (Death) — took a moment to weigh in on the show.
Firstly, Howell-Baptiste spoke of how beloved Death is to so many people. Death is a fan-favorite character, and one of the most regularly cosplayed characters from geeks around the globe. Here’s what she had to say:
“Death of the Endless is, to say the least, a character with a profound legacy who has brought real comfort to so many people. This role was a responsibility as well as a privilege and I can promise you I did not take that lightly.”
Moreover, in the graphic novels, the character of Death is everyone’s favorite super cool goth. And as we know from Audible’s dramatization of The Sandman, Kat Dennings wonderfully plays Death with an American accent. However, British actress Kirby Howell-Baptiste has revealed that in the Netflix version, keeps her English accent. “I don’t know that the cosmic entity of Death is bound to any place on this Earth,” she told Collider. “But I am British so in this iteration, yes, Death is a Brit.”
As expected, Tom Sturridge shared similar thoughts about playing the titular character. “When I found out I’d been asked to play Dream, I was terrified of a moment like this because I know how important he is to you, simply because of how important he is to me,” he said.
Also, it turns out that Gwendoline Christie is familiar with the source material, something that actually helped her decide to audition for the project:
“I read the Sandman graphic novels, so I knew that I simply had to be involved in this project because something truly unique was going to happen.”
Clearly, everyone involved is very passionate about the project. This reflects what Neil Gaiman has reiterated countless times: This is The Sandman being made by people who love The Sandman.
Behind the Scenes of Netflix’s The Sandman
Netflix’s Sandman is blessed to have one of the greatest set designers in the business in Jon Gary Steele. This is the same guy who built the glorious, expansive sets for Outlander and countless other projects. When you’re bringing the Dreaming to life, there’s no better person to hire. And if you look at Netflix’s previously released behind-the-scenes teaser, you’ll see some of his glorious work. In the words of Neil Gaiman: “Holy Sh*t.”
Let’s take a look at some of the highlights from the behind-the-scenes teaser, beginning with Gaiman marveling at the Undercroft.
Neil Gaiman (@neilhimself) on the #SandmanOnNetflix set: "Holy shit. This is amazing." pic.twitter.com/mmLioSsnDA
— The Sandman | Fan Page (@SandmanNews) June 8, 2021
Next, see a glimpse at the “Cereal Convention,” which is really a convention for serial killers set up by The Corinthian.
We know what that means… 👀 pic.twitter.com/yqSj2hkhmU
— Sandman News (@SandmanNews) June 8, 2021
These stills are of four different set designs. One of them clearly shows the diner where John Dee takes control of several innocent people. Another appears to show Dream visiting Lucifer.
Some interesting #SandmanOnNetflix images from the teaser 👀 Looks beautiful! Can’t wait until we get higher quality images 😍 pic.twitter.com/Wt0EKYadQQ
— Sandman News (@SandmanNews) June 12, 2021
Finally, here’s a closer look at Dream’s three totems of power — his helm, his ruby, and a pouch of sand — in live-action.
It still feels surreal to see these pictures of Dream's totems of power from #SandmanOnNetflix 😍 @neilhimself pic.twitter.com/53IAMf8lbX
— Sandman News (@SandmanNews) July 3, 2021
Will The Sandman crossover with Netflix’s Locke & Key?
Naturally, since Sandman and Locke & Key are both being made by Netflix, some fans are calling for a crossover event. Especially since the comics have already crossed over with Locke & Key: Hell and Gone. But if you were wondering whether a crossover was feasible, Locke & Key create Joe Hill has squashed rumors.
“I’ve seen a few articles now teasing the possibility of a Locke & Key/Sandman crossover on Netflix & thought I’d jump in for a clickbait check. Nope!” Hill wrote on his Twitter page. “Like most Sandman “hardcore” I’m looking forward to a big, sweeping, faithful adaptation of Neil’s stories. Can’t wait.”
Will there be a season 2 of The Sandman?
As the debut season only covers a little less than three volumes of the series, there’s plenty of potential for more.
It’s well too early to tell as to whether there’s going to be a season 2 of The Sandman. We have heard from sources that season 2 is being actively developed but we’ll still have to wait
That’s all we have on Netflix’s The Sandman for now. Let us know in the comments if you’re looking forward to the upcoming adaptation.