The Sandman star Vanesu Samunyai (Rose Walker) discusses fan backlash

The Sandman. (L to R) Tom Sturridge as Dream, Kyo Ra as Rose Walker in episode 108 of The Sandman. Cr. Liam Daniel/Netflix © 2022
The Sandman. (L to R) Tom Sturridge as Dream, Kyo Ra as Rose Walker in episode 108 of The Sandman. Cr. Liam Daniel/Netflix © 2022 /

Last year, Netflix premiered its ambitious live-action adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s seminal comic book The Sandman. The series was a success, with fans calling it one of the best comic book adaptations ever made. It will officially return for more episodes.

The Sandman was made for fans of The Sandman by fans of The Sandman. Creator Neil Gaiman was heavily involved as an executive producer, with superfan Allan Heinberg serving as showrunner. It paid due homage to the comic, but some fans still had problems with the choices.

Most notably, a minority of viewers took aim at Vanesu Samunyai (also known online as Kyo Ra), who played the character of Rose Walker. The Sandman was her first major role.

The Sandman star was “in a dark hole for months” after negative feedback

Despite doing such a great job as Rose, who is looking for her missing brother Jed, some fans weren’t happy with the casting decision. That meant Samunyai wasn’t able to enjoy the show’s success as much as she would’ve liked. “Initially I was going to watch the show after the premiere, but I made the mistake of going online and reading everyone’s opinions of me,” she told swirlywords. “I clamped up and numbed out after that. I mentally blocked out the whole experience as if it never happened – to protect myself. I didn’t watch myself back. As a ‘people pleaser’ seeing that disapproval made me feel like I’d done something wrong, and I felt so shameful. I was in a dark hole for months, just feeling like I’d failed, and feeling guilty for failing.”

"I became really quiet online, I didn’t want anyone to see me living my life as if I’d done nothing wrong. All of the good comments couldn’t get through to me because I was inclined to trust the negative ones. I couldn’t really prove them wrong either because people only know me [as an actor] from this. I definitely didn’t believe myself – I wasn’t on my own side. I just felt like I’d done something wrong. I struggled to like myself for a long time."

Neil Gaiman wrote about Samunyai’s casting back when it was announced. “We needed someone young who could make you care as she ventures into some very dangerous places. Boyd Holbrook’s Corinthian is waiting for her, after all. Kyo Ra achieves that as Rose.”

It’s sad to hear that she went through a tough time after the premiere. Now she’s only looking at the positive side of things. “And negatives aside, I know I meant something to a few people,” she said. “I can only be thankful for that. I’ve enjoyed the fan art and the fanfics and my 8,000 Instagram followers. If you’re a fan reading this, thank you so so much.”

Thankfully, after this interview, we’ve seen droves of fans come out to support Samunyai and praise her portrayal of Rose. We’ve got your back, Vanesu!

All 11 episodes in The Sandman season 1 are currently streaming on Netflix. More episodes are officially on the way. Watch this space!

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