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Netflix's new fantasy series The Sandman is a world of magic, dreams, and nightmares brought to life. Based on Neil Gaiman's DC comic series of the same name, the show takes place in a world where personifications of phenomena like dreams, death, and desire rule over their own realms while working to keep balance in the mortal world. The 10 sprawling episodes revolve around the king of dreams, as he sets out to regain his power after being imprisoned for over a century.
The cast of The Sandman features dozens of characters spanning both the waking and Dreaming worlds, but there are some important names to remember as we dive into The Sandman's lore. Below are some of the people to know among the Endless, the living, and all the others.
Tom Sturridge as Dream/Morpheus/the Sandman
Dream is one of the Endless, a group of immortal beings that rule over aspects of the mortal universe. The series kicks off when Dream, in pursuit of a nightmare who's escaped to the mortal world, is trapped by occultists and imprisoned for over a hundred years. During that time, a percentage of humanity either never sleep, live as sleepwalkers, or never wake up. After he escapes, Dream sets out to recover his power and his realm, known as the Dreaming.
Sturridge is a British actor who's best known for films including the Netflix thriller Velvet Buzzsaw (opens in new tab), the period romance Far From the Madding Crowd, and the 2012 adaptation of On the Road. In addition to The Sandman, he's recently appeared in the STARZ series Sweetbitter and the HBO miniseries Irma Vep.
Kirby Howell-Baptiste as Death
Dream's older sister Death existed at beginning of the world and will exist at the end, ferrying the dying to her realm with a smile and kind words. She's always willing to help Dream, and tries to get him to understand people better.
British actor Howell-Baptiste has starred in several hit shows, playing neuroscientist Simone Garnett in NBC's The Good Place, Eve's assistant Elena in the first season of Killing Eve, and acting student Sasha Baxter in HBO's Barry. She also portrayed Anita Darling in the Disney film Cruella.
Mason Alexander Park as Desire
Desire, Dream's younger sibling and "usual sparring partner," has spent thousands of years plotting against Dream with the help of their twin sister, Despair. Though their plots usually fail, they still want to see the arrogant Dream taken down a peg.
Park is a nonbinary actor who starred as Hedwig in the first national tour of the musical Hedwig and the Angry Itch. They also recently appeared in Netflix's live-action adaptation of Cowboy Bebop, and they're set to star in the pilot for the NBC reboot of Quantum Leap.
The anthropomorphic personification of Despair is played by British actor and comedian Donna Preston, who's best known for starring in the British series Hey Tracey! and Michael McIntyre's Big Show. She's also appeared in the films The Hitman's Bodyguard, Holmes & Watson, and Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald.
Charles Dance as Sir Roderick Burgess
Burgess is an occultist who tries to capture Death in order to gain immortality and bring his dead son back to life. Instead he gets Dream, and keeps the Eternal under lock and key, while using magical items stolen from his prisoner to become richer and more powerful.
Dance is a venerated British actor whose best known for playing Tywin Lannister in Game of Thrones. He's also Emmy-nominated for his roles in The Crown (opens in new tab), Savage Kingdom, and Bleak House.
Joely Richardson as Ethel Cripps
Burgess' former mistress Ethel lived with the occultist during Dream's imprisonment, and gained fortune and protection from objects that she stole from the being. She also gave one of the tokens to her illegitimate son.
London-based actor Richardson is a prolific actor across theater, film, and television, who's best known for starring in the FX series Nip/Tuck and the fourth season of Showtime's The Tudors. She also appeared in films including The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Vampire Academy, Red Sparrow, and the live-action film 101 Dalmatians (she played Anita Darling).
David Thewlis as Dr. John Dee
Burgess’ and Ethel's illegitimate son, John Dee, steals a ruby imbued with Dream’s power and harnesses it to make dreams come true. The magic stone ends up warping Dee’s mind, and he’s confined to a mental institution for most of his life.
Thewlis is best known for playing Remus Lupin in the Harry Potter franchise. He's also acted in the third season of FX's Fargo, the DC film Wonder Woman, the Stephen Hawking film The Theory of Everything, and Netflix animated series Big Mouth (opens in new tab) and Human Resources (opens in new tab) (he played the Shame Wizard in both).
Jenna Coleman as Johanna Constantine
Johanna is part of a historical family of exorcists (including John Constantine, the exorcist and occult superhero who was the star of the DC Comics series Hellblazer). She crosses paths with Dream soon after his release, just like her ancestors have met him in the past.
Coleman was formerly part of an iconic sci-fi franchise, playing Clara Oswald, a companion of the Eleventh (Matt Smith) and Twelfth (Peter Capaldi) Doctors in Doctor Who. She also starred as Queen Victoria in the British period drama Victoria, and Marie-Andrée Leclerc in the Netflix miniseries The Serpent. (Fun fact: she made her feature-film debut as Bucky's World Expo date in Captain America: The First Avenger).
Vanesu Samunyai as Rose Walker
21-year-old Rose is an orphan who just wants to get a job and find the brother she lost when her parents separated. Unfortunately, she also has the power to break down the barriers between the Dreaming and the waking world, which Dream's enemies want to use against him.
The Sandman is Samunyai's first television role.
Boyd Holbrook as The Corinthian
The Corinthian is the nightmare who Dream was tracking when he got trapped, and he gives Burgess knowledge on how to keep the immortal imprisoned. Since then, he's become a prolific serial killer who takes the eyes of his victims. With Dream released, the charming nightmare schemes against the Immortal so he can stay in the mortal world.
Holbrook is a Kentucky native whose other Netflix projects are the crime show Narcos and the thriller Velvet Buzzsaw. He's also starred in films including the superhero noir Logan, the film adaptation of Gone Girl, and the sci-fi flick The Predator.
Vivienne Acheampong as Lucienne
Lucienne is the Dreaming’s head librarian and one of Dream’s most faithful servants. She does her best to keep Dream’s realm running while he's gone, but the Dreaming falls apart without its ruler’s power.
Ghanian actor Acheampong supported herself as a substitute teacher between acting roles, before she landed her big break on the award-winning British sketch comedy show Famalam. She also appeared in Netflix's science fiction show The One (opens in new tab).
Gwendoline Christie as Lucifer Morningstar
If the personification of Death wasn't enough, The Sandman also features the literal devil. Gwendolyn Christie plays Lucifer, once the wisest and most powerful angel in heaven, who rebelled against God and became the ruler of Hell. (Fun fact: Neil Gaiman's version of Lucifer got his own spinoff comic series, which was adapted into the TV series Lucifer.)
Christie is best known for playing heroic badass Brienne of Tarth in Game of Thrones, as well as an evil badass, First Order stormtrooper Captain Phasma, in Star Wars: The Force Awakens and Star Wars: The Last Jedi. She also appeared as Commander Lyme in the final Hunger Games film, Mockingjay – Part 2.
Patton Oswalt as Matthew the Raven
After dying as a human while inside the Dreaming, Matthew is transformed into a raven and serves as Dream’s assistant and companion. He also asks several questions the audience might have as he adjusts to his new world.
Oswalt is a stand-up comedian and prolific voice actor who portrayed Remy in the Disney film Ratatouille, as well as the narrator in ABC's The Goldbergs and several voices in Bojack Horseman. As for his live-action roles, he's also appeared in Veep, Brooklyn Nine-Nine, A.P. Bio, the 2019 Veronica Mars reboot, and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. (True crime fans may also know Oswalt from the HBO docuseries I'll Be Gone in the Dark.)
Sanjeev Bhaskar and Asim Chaudhry as Cain and Abel
Inspired by the Biblical brothers of the same name, Cain and Abel are residents of the Dreaming who continuously repeat their acts on Earth, where Cain killed Abel. They're also loyal subjects of Dream, who keep gargoyles as pets.
Bhaskar is a prolific actor who has a recurring role on the British crime series Unforgotten. He also had a brief role on Neil Gaiman's Prime Video series Good Omens, and he appeared in the Beatles-inspired film Yesterday.
Chaudhry co-created and starred in the British mockumentary series People Just Do Nothing. He also appeared in Black Mirror's choose-your-own-adventure special, Bandersnatch, as well as the sueprhero sequel Wonder Woman 1984.
Quinci LeGardye is a Contributing Culture Editor who covers TV, movies, Korean entertainment, books, and pop culture. When she isn’t writing or checking Twitter, she’s probably watching the latest K-drama or giving a concert performance in her car.
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