Netflix's The Sandman: 3 Most Controversial Castings Explained by Creator Neil Gaiman

By Savannah Sanders Posted:

Sandman creator Neil Gaiman has responded to the backlash surrounding The Sandman's casting decisions for Netflix.

Amidst the questions and uncertainty surrounding the future of Warner Bros.' DCU films and television series, The Sandman starring Tom Sturridge thrived on Netflix.

Inspired by Neil Gaiman's comic book series, The Sandman follows Morpheus/Dream of the Endless, the personification of dreams and nightmares, who seeks to restore his kingdom following a 70-year imprisonment. 

In addition to Sturridge as Morpheus, the Netflix show stars Boyd Holbrook, Vivienne Acheampong, and Patton Oswalt. However, the show's choices for its supporting cast have sparked a number of complaints. 

Now that the series has been renewed for its second season, creator Neil Gaiman has spoken out about the reasons behind the backlash.

Sandman's Neil Gaiman Breaks Down Show Complaints

Netflix Sandman show

When asked by Inverse about what he believes is the most controversial about The Sandman's latest season on Netflix, Neil Gaiman claimed "nothing much has been very controversial," and those that have been upset "weren't Sandman fans."

"The truth is nothing much has been very controversial. Death’s casting (Kirby Howell-Baptise) wasn’t controversial with Sandman fans, because Sandman fans know that The Endless are supposed to look like what the people looking at them think they look like. So the people that were getting all upset that this, when you talked to them, they weren’t Sandman fans."

The Sandman creator went on to explain which casting decisions have been criticized, beginning with "Lucifer's casting" and why that angered "Tom Ellis fans:"

"The people that were getting all upset about Lucifer’s casting (Gwendoline Christie) and were up in arms about the ‘gender swap,’ again, weren’t Sandman fans because then they’d know that Lucifer looked kind of like an androgynous David Bowie and doesn’t have any genitalia because they’re an angel. Other grumpy people tended to be Tom Ellis fans, who were like, ‘I love Tom Ellis! Lucifer is based on him, why didn’t you cast him?’ And honestly, he’s not. He’s a lovable rogue. He’s a scab. He wouldn’t work in Sandman because we have to get someone that makes people scared."

As for Jenna Coleman's casting as Lady Johanna Constantine, Gaiman addressed the supposed John Constantine gender-swap complaints, explaining that "Sandman fans know that she was a character introduced in Sandman No. 13:"

"And the other one was Lady Johanna Constantine (Jenna Coleman). Again, people were like, why did you gender-swap John Constantine and why did you replace him with this imaginary character that we’ve never seen in the comics before? But Sandman fans know that she was a character introduced in Sandman No. 13 in 1989 and that she goes off and has several more adventures in the Sandman storyline. So it was much more economical for us to get her and to have Jenna play her."

Finally, Gaiman commented on the backlash for including gay characters, asking "'Have you read the comics?'":

"Those are the three most controversial castings. Oh, and occasionally, you get people shouting at us for having made up all of these gay characters who weren’t in the comics, and then we’d go ‘Have you read the comics?’ And they’d go ‘No.’ And we’d go, ‘They were gay in the comics.’ And they’d go ‘You’re just woke and nobody is going to watch your horrible show.’ And then we went Number 1 in the world for four weeks. And they went ‘It’s all bots! We hate you. You’re woke.’ It’s a weird silliness. These complainers don’t like gay people, they don’t like Black people, and they don’t like women. And if you look at their profiles, they don’t like vaccines, they don’t like Democrats, and they’re not big on voting."

The Sandman Backlash is Rooted in the DC Comic Book

From what Gaiman had to say, it seems that anything audiences consider controversial or even political in The Sandman isn't anything new or the result of today's industry.

The types of casting decisions being made for the series stemmed from Gaiman's comic book which ran from 1989 to 1996.

Given that the source material is now decades old, audiences and critics should've expected these decisions and this type of content. 

However, even though The Sandman's use of select actresses and actors has been met with some resistance, Season 1 was a hit on Netflix. 

It will be interesting to see if Gaiman and the show continue to use their characters and if the series can continue can maintain its success heading into Season 2. 

The Sandman is available to stream on Netflix.

- About The Author: Savannah Sanders
Savannah Sanders joined The Direct as a writer in 2020. In addition to writing for The Direct's Star Wars, Marvel, and DC teams, Savannah specializes in the relationship between Disney's blockbuster franchises and the Disney Parks.