Sandman: The Differences Between Gwendoline Christie & Tom Ellis’ Lucifers

We have our first proper look at Gwendoline Christie's interpretation of Lucifer in Netflix's Sandman TV series.

Tom Ellis as Lucifer and Gwendoline Christie as Lucifer
Photo: Warner Bros.

Neil Gaiman fans have had an embarrassment of adaptation riches over the last few years, a trend that is only set to continue with a second season of Good Omens on the way and Netflix getting ready to premiere their live-action adaptation of the Sandman graphic novels. It’s the latter project we’re interested in today, as Warner Bros. just dropped a first look at Gwendoline Christie‘s Lucifer, the Sandman role that the Game of Thrones‘ actress will be lending her considerable talents to in the upcoming series. In the poster, Christie’s Lucifer stares, focused yet dispassionate, at the viewer. A “V” of light illuminates the middle of her face , but the rest of her is cast in shadow. Check it out…

Gwendoline Christie as Lucifer — Sandman poster

This is the second live-action incarnation of Lucifer we’ve gotten in recent years. (In 2005, the character was played by Peter Stormare in feature film Constantine.) Netflix just wrapped up their other TV series featuring the DC Comics character: Lucifer. The popular WB series was canceled after three seasons on Fox, but was later resurrected by Netflix for another three seasons. The final episodes dropped in September, ending an era of Tom Ellis as the titular demon.

When it was announced that Netflix would be making another series with the DC Universe character, of course speculation broke out that Ellis could reprise the role. Back in January, one fan even asked Gaiman, who is an executive producer on the Sandman TV show but was not on Lucifer, about it on Tumblr: “I was wondering since Netflix owns both sandman and Lucifer, why isn’t Tom Ellis playing Lucifer isn’t the sandman series? And does this mean the two series won’t connect?”

Gaiman responded: “The theology and cosmogony of Lucifer is a long way from Sandman’s. It’s ‘inspired by’ Sandman, but you can’t easily retrofit the Lucifer version to get back to Sandman, if you see what I mean. It seemed easier and more fun to have the Sandman version of Lucifer be, well, much closer to the Sandman version of Lucifer.”

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Lucifer in the comics

The differences between Netflix’s Sandman‘s interpretation (or at least look) of the character and Netflix’s Lucifer‘s interpretation of the character show just how far the definition of adaptation can stretch. While Lucifer‘s Lucifer is ostensibly based on the Gaiman comic (or, more accurately, the Lucifer spinoff comic, written by Mike Carey), it really has very little in common with the comic book character past superficial details. In both his solo comic book series and the TV show, Lucifer is a fallen angel who is supposed to be ruling over hell but decides to open a piano bar in L.A. instead, but structurally and tonally the stories are very different. As with so, so many broadcast TV shows, Lucifer ends up helping the cops solve crimes and getting pretty caught up in the world of mortals. In the comics, however, Lucifer doesn’t really care about Earth or the people who live there. (And this is definitely the vibe I am getting from Christie’s Lucifer.) He isn’t a villain, going around murdering people for no reason, but he also doesn’t value human life, as his attention and value system is completely dictated by the immortal realm.

This isn’t to say that Netflix’s Sandman is good and Netflix’s Lucifer is bad, simply that they are very different shows with very different ambitions. One is a pretty faithful adaptation of the Gaiman source material, and the other is loosely inspired by the graphic novel. Lucifer attempted to capitalize on the name recognition and critical appreciation for the Sandman comics when launching into a busy mediascape where an established familiarity and fondness for a character can mean the difference between success and failure, but it quickly became apparent that Lucifer‘s strengths and weaknesses were very different from its in-name-only source material. By the time Lucifer made the move to Netflix, it was very much its own show with its own passionate following.

So what can we expect from the Lucifer character in Sandman? Expect for Lucifer to be a much more straightforward adaptation from the comics. The series’ first arc follows Morpheus, aka the king of dreams, after he escapes from his mortal imprisonment to search for his helmet, ruby, and sand pouch. In the process, Morpheus encounters characters from across the DC world and beyond, such as our dude Lucifer Morningstar, John Constantine, and Doctor Destiny. Gaiman originally based the character of Lucifer off of 17th century English writer John Milton, with a look inspired by David Bowie. In Sandman, Lucifer has ruled over Hell for 10 billion years following his rebellion after Creation, and is kind of over it. Look for Christie to use her trademark intensity and presence to the role.

“I read the Sandman graphic novels, so I knew that I simply had to be involved in this project because something truly unique was going to happen,” Christie said of her participation in the project in this featurette. “The sets are vast. Great amount of detail and care has been put into how it’s being brought to life.”

The Sandman production was delayed due to COVID, so we’ll have to wait a bit longer to see what Christie’s interpretation of Lucifer looks like, but production wrapped in August, which means we are one step closer to finally seeing a more faithful adaptation of the character in live-action form.