The Sandman Dream captured

Netflix Absolutely Nailed the Casting for the Endless in ‘The Sandman’

5/5 Projectile Baguettes

It’s already pretty hard to find the perfect actors to play beloved characters from print media like comics. Even aside from questions of physical appearance — how much does an actor need to resemble the original character? How can an actor evoke a character’s essence when they’re never going to be an exact replica of the original? — there’s the fact that each reader’s headcanon for a character is going to be unique. How do you find someone whom the audience will find believable? These questions get extra tricky when the characters you’re casting are immortal personifications of the forces that shape the universe. Somehow, though, Netflix’s The Sandman nailed it.

Recommended Videos

Let’s take a look at the members of the Endless we’ve met so far to see why the casting works so well.

Morpheus, Lord of the Dreaming

Dream from Sandman lets sand run through his hand.
Image: DC

In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, Neil Gaiman shares an amazing anecdote about casting Tom Sturridge as Morpheus. Apparently, Sturridge was one of the very first actors to audition for the role, and Gaiman immediately fell in love with his performance. After watching a whopping 1500 more auditions, Gaiman was still certain that Sturridge was the right choice. Netflix, in the meantime, had paid Sturridge not to take any other jobs while they completed the casting process.

The Sandman Dream with helmet
image: Netflix

Sturridge’s journey wasn’t without hurdles, though. Apparently, Gaiman had to tell Sturridge to “stop being Batman” when he was trying to be Dream.

The Morpheus from the comics is famously moody, gloomy, and self-absorbed. When he’s upset, he moves his entire castle to the top of a forbidding mountain. When Nada dumps him, he banishes her to Hell for 10,000 years. The comics make it clear that Dream can be a real asshole.

You still love him, though, thanks to the other characters who are around to cut him down to size once in awhile. It’s incredibly satisfying to watch Death bean him with a baguette, or Chaos leave him grumpily holding a balloon.

Tom Sturridge masterfully brings both Dream’s self-importance and his reluctant vulnerability to the character. He smiles a bit more often than his comics counterpart, but he still captures the inscrutable mind of a being who’s spent eternity shaping the dreams of all living things. Morpheus’s chemistry with Lucienne, Death, Matthew, and Hob is genuinely sweet to watch, especially in the scenes in which Morpheus has to push past his pride to admit that he was wrong. I laughed out loud during the scene in “The Collectors” when Morpheus clumsily tries to pry information out of Lucienne without admitting that he needs her help.

Death

Kirby Howell-Baptiste as Death in The Sandman.
image: Netflix

We meet Death in the series the same way we do in the comics. Dream is despondently feeding the pigeons after getting his tools back, and Death pays a visit to check in on him after a century, knock a little sense into him, and then cheer him up. After whacking him with the baguette (I wish she’d gone for the head like in the comics, but oh well), she invites him to shadow her as she goes on her rounds, ushering souls into the afterlife.

Death from The Sandman, wearing a tank top and smiling. A word bubble reads, "All the time, and then some. Would you like a cup of tea? I've got the kettle on."
image: DC

Death has been a fan favorite since her debut in 1989. The gravity of her job has made her wise, humble, and compassionate, which is already a departure from the terrifying grim reaper we usually associate with death. What makes her character really unforgettable, though, is her warmth and irreverence. Death is a joyful reimagining of what it means to be confronted with your own mortality, and she’s a perfect foil for Dream’s dour personality.

Kirby Howell-Baptiste brings all the best parts of Death’s character into her performance. Her own interview with EW shows that she really understands Death: “When we think of power,” she says, “our idea of it is being dominating and forceful. But I think Death’s power is quiet, humble, and self-assured. She is aware of what she can do.”

Desire and Despair

Mason Alexander Park as Desire in The Sandman, with their eyes closed and the shadow of a hand across their face.
image: Netflix

It’s one thing to dress someone up in an androgynous-looking outfit; it’s quite another to embody the concept of pure, undiluted desire. But that’s exactly what Mason Alexander Park did. Desire is the force that gives rise to sex and beauty, yes, but it’s also what fuels our worst impulses. It only makes sense, then, that The Sandman‘s Desire is driven solely by what they want the most, and what will feel good in the moment.

Park shared an insight from a conversation they had with Neil Gaiman while adapting Desire’s character for the screen. “Desire is the hero of Desire’s own story,” Park said, “and The Sandman could very easily be told from Desire’s perspective and Desire’s experience — and it would probably be a lot more interesting and have a lot more sex in it! I took that to heart.”

However, Park also infuses their performance with Desire’s pathos. In the same interview, they explain that “it used to be that Dream and Desire were thick as thieves. Desire was Dream’s favorite sibling until they had a falling out that we won’t discuss. But now, these grudges have led to where we are when the show picks up. And Despair is one of the only Endless that has died. Now we’re on another Despair … The understanding of that was something we really worked with in this show when it came to their relationship.”

Donna Preston as Despair in Netflix's The Sandman, sitting on a red couch.
image: Netflix

Of all the Endless we meet in Season 1, the only one whose appearance was underwhelming was Despair, but maybe that was because of my own preconceived notions. I was ready for the terrifying tusk-mouthed nude woman with her skin torn to ribbons, so I was surprised when we got a pretty Despair who mainly just hunches her shoulders and wears a sweater. (I mean, I hunch and wear sweaters and I don’t consider myself the embodiment of pure despair. Not usually, anyway.) I’m still champing at the bit to see where they take her, though.

Destiny, Delirium, and “the Prodigal”

A girl in a leather jacket and rainbow hair sits at a table and holds out two chocolate people. A multicolored speech bubble reads, "Look, these two are making lo-ove ... K.I.S.S.I.N.G."
image: DC

According to Forbes, Gaiman and his team are already working on Season 2, even though Netflix hasn’t renewed it yet. Season 2 will reportedly adapt Season of Mists, the next major story arc in the comics, which kicks off with a family dinner.

That means that we’ll meet the two named members of the Endless we haven’t seen onscreen yet: Destiny and Delirium. Delirium will be a tricky character to pull off, since any screen adaptation of her has the potential to be embarrassingly twee, but after seeing the skill and love that the cast and crew have poured into the Endless so far, I’m optimistic.

And if Netflix does the right thing and keeps the series going long enough to cover the entire comics run, we’ll eventually meet the sibling who abandoned their post. I, for one, can’t wait.

(image: Netflix)


The Mary Sue is supported by our audience. When you purchase through links on our site, we may earn a small affiliate commission. Learn more
related content
Read Article Interested in the ‘Parasyte: The Grey’ Dub? Here’s the English Cast
Su-in in Parasyte: the Grey.
Read Article ‘Shogun’s Anna Sawai Is Living Every Crafter’s Dream
Anna Sawai as Lady Mariko in a scene from 'Shogun.' She is a Japanese woman with long, black hair wearing an ornate floral robe from Feudal Japan. Other Japanese women stand behind her and flanking her.
Read Article The 10 Best Disney Movies to Put On For Your Toddler, Ranked by How Tolerable They’ll Be for You
Moana and Maui in the Disney animated film 'Moana'
Read Article When Will the Highly Anticipated ‘Ginny & Georgia’ Season 3 Arrive on Netflix?
Antonia Gentry as Ginny and Brianne Howey as Georgia Miller in Ginny & Georgia
Read Article Will There Be a Season 3 of ‘Heartbreak High’?
From left to right: James Majoos as Darren Rivers, Chloe Hayden as Quinni Gallagher-Jones, and Ayesha Madon as Amerie Wadia in Netflix's remake of Heartbreak High
Related Content
Read Article Interested in the ‘Parasyte: The Grey’ Dub? Here’s the English Cast
Su-in in Parasyte: the Grey.
Read Article ‘Shogun’s Anna Sawai Is Living Every Crafter’s Dream
Anna Sawai as Lady Mariko in a scene from 'Shogun.' She is a Japanese woman with long, black hair wearing an ornate floral robe from Feudal Japan. Other Japanese women stand behind her and flanking her.
Read Article The 10 Best Disney Movies to Put On For Your Toddler, Ranked by How Tolerable They’ll Be for You
Moana and Maui in the Disney animated film 'Moana'
Read Article When Will the Highly Anticipated ‘Ginny & Georgia’ Season 3 Arrive on Netflix?
Antonia Gentry as Ginny and Brianne Howey as Georgia Miller in Ginny & Georgia
Read Article Will There Be a Season 3 of ‘Heartbreak High’?
From left to right: James Majoos as Darren Rivers, Chloe Hayden as Quinni Gallagher-Jones, and Ayesha Madon as Amerie Wadia in Netflix's remake of Heartbreak High
Author
Julia Glassman
Julia Glassman (she/her) holds an MFA from the Iowa Writers' Workshop, and has been covering feminism and media since 2007. As a staff writer for The Mary Sue, Julia covers Marvel movies, folk horror, sci fi and fantasy, film and TV, comics, and all things witchy. Under the pen name Asa West, she's the author of the popular zine 'Five Principles of Green Witchcraft' (Gods & Radicals Press). You can check out more of her writing at <a href="https://juliaglassman.carrd.co/">https://juliaglassman.carrd.co/.</a>