Netflix's Sandman series casts more major characters — see who's playing Death, Matthew, and more
Dreams are becoming real. On Wednesday, Netflix unveiled a new slate of castings for its upcoming adaptation of The Sandman, based on the iconic dark fantasy comic created by Neil Gaiman, Sam Kieth, and Mike Dringenberg. The first batch of castings months ago gave us an idea of the major characters, and now we'll have an even better idea of what to expect from this show.
Among the many castings are several of the protagonists' mythical siblings. Morpheus (Tom Sturridge), the lord of dreams and protagonist of The Sandman, is one member of a pantheon called The Endless. Each of the seven siblings represent some core function of the universe, and all of them have names beginning with "D" (though many refer to him as Morpheus, his true name is Dream — it's just that, as the universe's chief storyteller, he's picked up a lot of other names over the years).
Kirby Howell-Baptiste (Cruella, The Good Place) will play Death, one of the most iconic Sandman personages and a nerd-crush character for the ages. Even if you haven't read The Sandman, you may still recognize Death's classic outfit of black tank top, Egyptian eye tattoo, and ankh necklace; it heavily influenced Goth fashion as the '90s became the 2000s, and remains a popular cosplay to this day. Death first appeared in issue #8 of The Sandman (titled "The Sound of Her Wings"), where she cheers up a morose Dream by taking him with her on her daily tour of the dying; it's often credited as an early turning point for the series that helped elevate it from dark fantasy to genre-breaking, zeitgeist-shaping work. Any adaptation of The Sandman is going to have a lot riding on its depiction of Death (Kat Dennings recently played her in the Audible adaptation).
"Hundreds of talented women from all around the planet auditioned, and they were brilliant, and none of them were right," Gaiman said in a statement. "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 audition and we knew we had our Death."
Two other members of The Endless have also been cast: Donna Preston will play Despair, and Mason Alexander Park will play her twin Desire. Park identifies as nonbinary, making them a perfect fit for Desire — who, as the embodiment of lust and sexuality, moves effortlessly between genders over the course of The Sandman.
Other major presences have been cast as well. Fresh off his stint voicing the title character of Marvel's M.O.D.O.K., Patton Oswalt will voice Morpheus' constant companion and animal familiar, Matthew the Raven. Viewers of the short-lived Swamp Thing show on DC Universe may remember Henderson Wade played Matt Cable, the character's original human form before he dies and gets turned into a talking raven, but don't expect any overlap here.
David Thewlis (Harry Potter, Fargo) will play John Dee, a villain who challenges Dream for control of people's dreams. Though Dee doesn't stick around in the story for long, he plays a major role in one of The Sandman's standout installments, "24 Hours," which EW wrote a whole deep-dive story about in 2017. It is very exciting to imagine Thewlis taking on that material. Dee's mother, Ethel Cripps, will be played by Joely Richardson as an old woman and Niamh Walsh as a younger woman in flashback.
The Sandman begins with Morpheus' prolonged imprisonment by humans, and setting out to restore his kingdom after he escapes. But his absence has effects. One woman, Unity Kincaid, remains asleep for the duration of his incarceration. During that time, she is impregnated, and that child in turn gives birth to a child named Rose Walker, whose strange origin gives her remarkable power. Sandra James Young has been cast as Unity, while Kyo Ra will play Rose Walker. Like Death, these characters are usually depicted as white in the comics, but will be played by Black actors, signifying Netflix's desire to change things up and modernize The Sandman.
No less a personage than Stephen Fry will play Gilbert, Rose's self-appointed guardian with a strange connection to the Dreaming whose dress and mannerisms are based on author G.K. Chesterton, one of Gaiman's favorites. Razane Jammal will play Lyta Hall, a woman who becomes pregnant in a dream and changes the course of Morpheus' immortal life. Jenna Coleman, already a veteran of storied nerd franchise Doctor Who, will play Lady Johanna Constantine, an 18th-century occult adventuress and ancestor of John Constantine. Johanna appears in The Sandman chapters set in the past, but according to Gaiman, she'll also be showing up in the present in this adaptation.
Look at the full slate of new casting for The Sandman below.