'The Sandman': Neil Gaiman and Cast on Why Netflix Changes 'Make Sense'

The Sandman recreates Neil Gaiman's iconic comic book series in a new era, with a lovingly accurate adaptation that makes some small changes to the original that the creator felt "made a lot of sense," he told Newsweek.

Fans of the comic will notice that a lot of the changes are, for the most part, small moments that viewers won't necessarily pick up on, but also do, in fact, make sense as Gaiman said.

One such change, for example, appears in the show's fourth episode "A Hope in Hell" in which Dream (Tom Sturridge) goes to Hell to meet its ruler Lucifer (Gwendoline Christie) to get back his stolen helm from a demon, but the only way to have it returned is to engage in a verbal combat.

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Gwendoline Christie as Lucifer and Tom Sturridge as Dream in "The Sandman." Comic book creator Neil Gaiman spoke to Newsweek about some of the changes made to the show, including having Lucifer face Dream in "A Hope in Hell." Netflix

In the comics, Dream goes head-to-head against the demon Choronzon but in the show it is Christie's Lucifer who faces him instead.

Of this change, Gaiman told Newsweek: "Some of the changes, a lot of the changes, honestly, are made for a kind of televisual economy, which may sound rather silly but, honestly, if you're hiring Gwendoline Christie, and you've got Gwendoline Christie there, you might as well have Gwendoline Christie do the big important stuff, rather than have her stand off to one side and watch because you've got Gwendoline Christie and why wouldn't you?"

Two Johanna Constantines for the Price of One

In a similar sense, Jenna Coleman portrays not one but two versions of the character Johanna Constantine, one in the 18th century and her modern day ancestor. The present iteration of Johanna Constantine meets Dream in "Dream a Little Dream of Me" and her story is largely based on the arc John Constantine has in the Sandman comics.

Gaiman has previously stipulated that the modern Johanna Constantine is not a gender-swapped John, but he said to Newsweek: "The same, for me, was Jenna Coleman, we knew that we were going to have Lady Johanna Constantine back in the 18th century, we knew that she will be turning up in the part.

"We know that in Season 2, if we get there, she'll be on the run with a human head in the French Revolution. So, it made a lot of sense to go well we've got her there, why not use a modern version of her here and use the same actress, rather than create a whole new [character]?

"The audience has no more, they're not any more invested in Johanna Constantine than they would have been in John Constantine, we've got that actress already.

"So it's a kind of weird economy a lot of the time, you just sort of look at 'how do you make television? What's going to work? What's going to be most satisfying for your audience?' In the same way that I think about what was going to work best as a comic, we'd look at what would work best as television."

Coleman, for her part, felt delighted at the prospect of portraying two characters as it reimagined the story in "an unexpected way."

"I kind of thought it was really very deliberate from Allan [Heinberg, the showrunner] and Neil to re-imagine it in this unexpected way," Coleman said. "It's obviously really thrilling for me, because I'm not entirely sure that I would be the first person you would think call for, you know, a foul mouthed cynic, pragmatic occult detective.

"The scripts were sent to me initially without telling me who it was and the character on the page is so fully formed and deeply complex, with the kind of dryness and pragmatism and cynicism masking a very lonely, tortured, sensitive person.

"It was a great part to get my teeth into, and Lady Johanna Constantine, obviously, I think that's where the idea initially came from Neil, 'why don't we have the direct descendant from her?' I think there's more to explore with Lady Johanna Constantine."

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Jenna Coleman and Tom Sturridge as Johanna Constantine and Dream in "The Sandman." Coleman spoke to Newsweek about playing two versions of Johanna Constantine, ancestor and descendant. Liam Daniel/Netflix

The Show's Diverse Casting

The Sandman prides itself on its diverse casting with Black actors Kirby Howell-Baptiste, Vivienne Acheampong, and Vanesu Samunyai portraying Death, Lucienne, and Rose Walker, characters who are white in the comics (and male in Lucien's case).

Unfairly, some trolls have criticized the show for being "woke" by casting these actors in the roles they have, but for the creators they truly are the best for the roles they take on.

The actors spoke to Newsweek about their casting, and Acheampong said of playing Lucienne: "I was extremely excited, and I think what's interesting is I really do believe that the only thing that is different really is appearance, because Neil has created characters that have so much depth and complexity, they are real, they come from truth.

"So that was an amazing starting point for me, because I feel like you know who these characters are. When I started this job, I felt like I know who Lucienne is so all that happened was that I just got to live it and experience it, and react to this incredible Morpheus [Sturridge] that is there with me, giving me so much... [Lucienne is] just an amazing character, I love her."

Samunyai said of playing Rose Walker: "Obviously, there was some changes and I think that was important because it is a different medium, and it's important to give it that flexibility in that breathing space to change a bit when necessary for the sake of the show.

"I really liked how they did my hair, I liked how they were able to translate that from Rose in the comics, I appreciated that. It was just things like that, where they were able to translate things to fix the new cast and to present the times that we're currently in and to fit the medium. That was really nice."

Howell-Baptiste has been particularly praised for her performance as Death, with showrunner Allan Heinberg previously raving to Newsweek about how well she was able to embody the character.

Of the character, Howell-Baptiste said: "It was, honestly, an honor because I also am a fan of the comics, I read them years ago and Death was one of the characters that I most connected with way back then, and so it really was a beautiful symmetry that I got the opportunity to audition for this role.

"I didn't take it lightly, because I knew the effect that that character had on me, and I think it's really, really incredible. It's what gives me so much joy as a fan of the comic, knowing this idea of Death and knowing that she is a softer, more gentle version of Death, and then seeing that same character that they love now in a TV show."

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Vivienne Acheampong, Vanesu Samunyai and Kirby Howell-Baptiste spoke to Newsweek about their casting and bringing diversity to the show.

'The Sandman' Co-Creators on Why It Was Important To Make Changes (and When It Wasn't)

For co-creators David S. Goyer and Heinberg it was important to remain true to the original but also make some changes where they saw it fit.

"What was important for us was A) Involving Neil as a creator and B) Ensuring that the adaptation still felt like Sandman," Goyer told Newsweek. "We all recognized that certain aspects of the story needed to be expanded and/or woven together. But we made a pact that those changes still passed the Sandman 'smell test.'

"It's hard to describe exactly what those parameters were—it was just a feeling. Allan, Neil, and myself—we would constantly debate whether or not a change felt like Sandman.

"The general rule was; if it doesn't need to be changed, then don't change it. And we never made a change designed to adhere to some kind of conventional series wisdom."

Heinberg told Newsweek that at first he refused to make The Sandman because it felt like it wouldn't be doable, and it was only thanks to Goyer's reassurances that he changed his mind.

The showrunner said: "David said you will be allowed to make the changes you need to make in order to bring it to the screen, I promise you, you can do this, and I believed him.

"And then sort of every step of the way I was looking at why it wasn't going to work, and every step of the way, by pressing on those places, we managed to sort of solve how it could work."

The Sandman is out on Netflix now.

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