Working on The Sandman was a baptism by fire for lead actor Tom Sturridge, who played Dream. Right from the get-go, he was locked, alone and naked, in a glass sphere, which is where we find Dream at the start of the story.
Morpheus’ imprisonment at the hands of power-hungry Roderick Burgess (Charles Dance) — who wants to capture Death to bring back his dead son — takes up the entire first episode. His occult ritual misfires and he accidentally summons Death’s brother Dream instead. And there he remains, trapped and powerless and naked, for over a century.
In terms of how the episode was filmed, well, what you see is what you get. Tom Sturridge spent over a month staring blankly out of his cage. “As a human being, if you are actually put in a glass box and kept there — for me, let’s say, the 4½ weeks that we shot that sequence — you can begin to feel exactly how the character feels in a way that’s much more specific,” he told the Los Angeles Times of his experience.
Not only did he have to sit in there, gawking at Charles Dance’s Roderick Burgess shouting at him every few minutes, but once filming had wrapped for the day, it took a while for him to actually exit. “To break up the sphere took about a half-hour,” he explained. “So I would sit there, and for long stretches of the day it was certainly a meditative contemplative time. Especially since you’re naked as well, which on the opening days of a shoot is a lovely welcome to the crew.”
I figured out various yogic positions that would allow everyone else to not feel ridiculous. But from a performance point of view, the physicality of that — it offered me an opportunity, which you don’t often get, to find a way to communicate with an audience about a character without speaking.
Tom Sturridge gets “confidence” from looking like Dream from the comics
If you’ve ever picked up a Sandman comic, you’ll instantly recognize the similarities between Sturridge and Morpheus. The messy dark hair, the pale skin, and that signature gloomy look. The casting team did a stellar job.
“From my perspective, that gives me confidence,” Sturride said. “But beyond that, it’s dangerous for us to always take comfort in any sort of physical connection between the images in a comic book and the actors who play them, because I think we know it’s not about the way you look — it’s about the soul that you bring to it.”
I was particularly impressed by his dour voice. He certainly does justice to those black speech bubbles from the comic.
What exactly about The Sandman makes it relatable?
The Sandman is a story that transcends space and time. It deals with myth, legend and history. It’s high concept stuff, which can make it hard to relate to. But Sturridge thinks people can empathize with the Endless — the family of Destiny, Death, Dream, Destruction, Desire, Despair, and Delirium — who are at the center of the story.
Despite their immense powers, the Endless are just like any other family. “What’s beautiful about the story of Sandman is also the family he’s a part of, the Endless. They battle against each other in ways that a normal family does, which makes it relatable.”
During our interview with star Mason Alexander Park (Desire), they summed it up perfectly: “There’s something very Succession about the whole thing.”
All 11 episodes of The Sandman season 1 are currently streaming on Netflix. The show is officially returning for a second season. We can’t wait to see the Endless gather for a family dinner. Watch this space!