The Sandman, a well-known DC comic series that aired for more than three decades before being revived as a Netflix 10-episode drama, has been developed and executive produced by author Neil Gaiman, showrunner Allan Heinberg, and David. S. Goyer. Set in a world where the Master of Dreams, aka The Sandman (Tom Sturridge), must travel across different worlds and timelines in order to reclaim his vast existence.
Co-stars Sturridge and Acheampong (who play Lucienne, the chief librarian and trusted guardian of the Dreaming) talked about her long audition process, the immediate connection Acheampong had with her character, the responsibility of taking on this project, and which characters they'd like to interact with more.
Collider: Have you ever played a character who has so many different names? It's quite astounding, how many different names he has.
TOM STURRIDGE: Thats a good question. I don't think I have, but I love that he has so many different names. I think whats so important about this story is that it's about dreams, which is the one thing that makes many different kinds of people so different. Were all different, and we all dream. There are people who perceive him in completely different ways, as Morpheus, as the King of Dreams, as the Oneiromancer, and I think that there
I know that your character had seen around a thousand auditions. Did you have any clue what was going on?
STURRIDGE: I did have an idea, simply because it was a very long process that took months and months. I imagined they were just looking around. But what was amazing about that was that you want to have confidence in the people who are making the decision, and specifically Neil Gaiman, the creator. It definitely eased some of my fear of not being able to make a decision.
What was going through your head while you were waiting? Were you confident and thinking, Ive got this. It doesnt matter how many people they see, this role is mine? Did you ever realize that you didn't realize that way?
STURRIDGE: I do not believe that way. What was going through my head was the books themselves. Having the time gave me the chance to read all 2,500 pages, over and over again, just to get it into my system.
Vivienne, what was your experience like in your role? Did you immediately connect with the character? Did you immediately understand her?
VIVIENNE ACHEAMPONG: I definitely connected immediately. I think I was like, Okay, I have a job to do, because that's how you feel as an actor. And then, youve got the creator, himself, Neil Gaiman, who is able to talk to you and you could discuss things. And then, on set, everything is basically real, so youre just getting to experience this magical and amazing world.
What was it like to be in, especially with the library? What is the greatest thing about that set that we wouldn't even notice if we saw it immediately?
ACHEAMPONG: The first time that I saw it, I was like, Oh, my God, this is my library. There are little things that I didnt know about, but theyre just incredible. I loved that when Lucienne is moving books around, they are real books. They have words in them. I wanted the census book, but it was too big. I understand why they didn't allow me to have the glasses. But I have some ears in a glass box.
ACHEAMPONG: Why are you referring to it this way?
STURRIDGE: I didnt receive anything.
ACHEAMPONG: I said yes.
STURRIDGE: That's true.
Is it the wearing of the glasses that gets you there, on a day-to-day basis?
ACHEAMPONG: It's everything, really. And having Tom. He understands Morpheus well. He understands him well. He's amazing and incredible. It's so rewarding for me to work with him.
I feel that way about seeing everyone in this film. It's clear that you made very specific choices with the characters, and you truly owned who you were playing, which I love.
STURRIDGE: I think part of that is because this was created by Neil.
ACHEAMPONG: Yes, quite literally.
STURRIDGE: It's not like he handed this over to Netflix and said, "Do what you want." He was with us every step of the way, from the first casting moment to the final tweaks of the sound design. Fans should be able to trust him with anything, because of that. And also, anything that differs from the comics is borne from Neil saying, "Well, I'll make Sandman for the first time."
Tom, how does it feel to be able to play a character with a kingdom and throne rooms? Is it just ridiculous to walk into all of it?
STURRIDGE: It's a cliche, but what made this film so special was the fact that it existed. Sometimes you have those massive back projectors, or you have a green screen, but what everybody in production design specifically wanted to achieve is that it feels real. A lot of the time, you're not sure that you're making a mistake, because that's what makes telling the truth so important.
From the shoes he wears to the helmet or just how he speaks, there are so many layers to your character and visual appearance that are not known. Did you ever have a panic reaction, or did you have a moment where everything clicked and came together?
STURRIDGE: I don't think I'll ever give up on this project, but I'm sure I'd be a bit enraged by the film that was made inside the heads of the fans. Every single one of us has already made a different film of Sandman, and by necessity, they'll all be different, but hopefully will converge in some ways. I wanted it to be true to the film that Neil had made in his head, and I'd just come back to him.
I love the different relationships in this film. All of the characters have different relationship dynamics. What is the one character you would like to see reprise in another episode or to take a fun adventure with?
ACHEAMPONG: Ive got a few, but I'll stick to one. Death, for me, is so beautiful, and it's almost quite terrifying. I'd like Lucienne and Death to meet. I don't know, maybe there will be an affair with The Corinthian, but im just putting it out there. I've never heard of it. It's a fantastic experience.
STURRIDGE: I love my relationship with my siblings in this film. One of the things that was especially scary about approaching this was, how do you embody The Endless? I think one of the things that brings you into a safe space is the notion that you are a family, and we all understand family. Desire. Mason [Alexander Park] and I only had one day together because we had one big scene together, and I would love to do me.
I'd like to see a family dinner episode. I'm unable to imagine what that might be like.
ACHEAMPONG: I'd love for Lucienne to be there as well.
STURRIDGE: At the top of the table.
ACHEAMPONG: At the head of the table!
What were your favorites about the relationship between your characters? It's such an important connection, and she understands why she's important, even if he doesn't always want to admit it.
STURRIDGE: I think what makes this relationship special is the time that theyve spent together. There is a formality to it, but ultimately, when you spend eons with another creature, you love them. What I loved was the difficulty in attempting to keep that simmering underneath the rigor of the work that we had to perform.
Lucienne understands Morpheus' undertaking, and she respects it. But at the same time, she's also very protective of him because he has this enormous responsibility and she doesn't want him to lose himself. So, yes, it's a very important and special relationship.
STURRIDGE: It's not a spoiler to say that in the first episode, after being in prison for a hundred years before finally returning home, Luciennes is the first face he sees when he opens his eyes, broken on the beach, and is his name. It's one of the most intimate moments in the entire season, when he just says, Oh, my God, I missed you. Not with his eyes and not with his words.
If anything, she might just want to say, I told you so.
ACHEAMPONG: I mean, yes. Shed be like, Bitch, listen. Okay. But shes respectful, so she does it. She respects him. I think Lucienne is not judgmental, and she is compassionate. She allows him to make that error, and I think she appreciates it when he does..
STURRIDGE: He's an idiot.
ACHEAMPONG: Yeah, I didn't want to say it, but it's true.
Netflix has the ability to stream The Sandman.