Netflix’s The Sandman TV Series Will Have an Eye on Diversity

Neil Gaiman says The Sandman Netflix show will be set in 2021 and be a modern update

The Sandman
Photo: DC

The first major adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s The Sandman graphic novels is with us already in the form of the Audible Original ‘audio movie’ (think ‘radio play’) starring James McAvoy as Dream and Kat Dennings as Death. But with any luck it won’t be long before a TV version will be making its way to Netflix.

While shooting on the show was supposed to begin in May, and was shut down due to COVID, according to Neil Gaiman who is also producing along with David Goyer and showrunner Allan Heinberg, the project is starting to get up and running again.

“I’ve been sent some glorious photos of sets that they have built and things that exist in this world,” says Gaiman, talking exclusively to Den Of Geek. “The process has restarted to the point where I am now seeing casting videos again, and Allan Heinberg, who is our lovely, lovely showrunner, has been spending his downtime just doing drafts on the scripts and doing his best to get every script absolutely perfect.”

Unlike the audiobook, which remains extremely faithful to Gaiman’s original texts, the plan is to update The Sandman stories for Netflix pushing the action into 2021.

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“It was one of the things that actually made it interesting to do in the first place. Our very first conversations, where the idea that we went, ‘Okay. In Sandman the comic, he is captured in 1916 and he escapes in September, 1988. Here he’s captured in 1916, and he’s going to escape in 2021,” Gaiman explains. 

“He’s going to have been in there for 105 years, rather than for 70 years. What does that do? What does that do to the story? What does that change? What does that leave? If that’s happening, how does this work in a ‘today’ story? And that, in itself, immediately got fun.”

Though it allows Gaiman and his collaborators to take a fresh look at the Sandman stories, he assures us it will remain faithful to the spirit of the original.

“We’re always true to Sandman,” he says. “Sandman never cut its cloth for the times, which is one reason why it essentially works really well now – it was way ahead of its time, 30-something years ago.

“But having said that, there are places where you look at it and you go, ‘Well, if I were doing it today, would this character be male?’ One of the things I was concerned about, when I was writing Sandman 30-something years ago, was do I have a balance of male and female characters? Is there what we would now call diversity? And at the time, it wasn’t even a word. My attitude was, I want lots of characters who are like all the people I know who are from all over this world and of all different kinds. And they all need to be in there, and that’s how we’re doing this comic. But now we would do that slightly differently, because it’s not 1988 anymore. Thank God. Even though there’s definitely moments I go, ‘Those were simpler times.’”

The first series will run to ten episodes and it’s highly likely this will only cover the first few Sandman stories. The official synopsis suggests that the series will be based on Preludes and Nocturnes – book one of the ten graphic novels that make up the original Sandman stories – which sees Morpheus imprisoned by mortals and when he finally escapes, on a quest to retrieve his totems of power which were taken from him. No casting has yet been announced but Gaiman’s comment suggests there will be scope for gender swapping some characters.

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No TX date has yet been announced but we’d hope to see this in 2021.

“It is astonishingly faithful wherever it matters,” says Gaiman. “And all of the changes are things I’m excited about.”