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Video Interview: Stars Sturridge & Acheampong Tease The Sandman, Premiering Tomorrow on Netflix

Tom Sturridge and Vivienne AcheampongTomorrow, Netflix premieres The Sandman, the highly-anticipated series based on the DC comic series written by Neil Gaiman of the same name. When we close our eyes and sleep, we enter the world of the Dreaming, where the Sandman (Tom Sturridge), aka Dream, gives life to both our fantasies and fears. When the Sandman is kidnapped and kept away from the Dreaming for a century, it starts to change both the dreaming and the waking world forever, and Dream must work to fix the chaos his absence has caused and mend both worlds before it’s too late. He receives help from multiple sources along the way, including the librarian of the Dreaming, Lucienne (Vivienne Acheampong).

Recently, during a roundtable interview, Sturridge and Acheampong talked to SciFi Vision about balancing what they pull from the extensive source material versus what they are able to add creatively.

“It's just so unusual when you're building a character or when you're embarking upon a job to have a bible that is over 2500 pages long that you can kind of really discover every fragment of who these characters are,” Sturridge told the site. “So, you have to begin there; that has to be your starting point in your foundation.

The Sandman“Then, beyond that, our series is made by Neil Gaiman, the man, the author, the legend. So, that offers an amazing freedom, because you know that if you go in the wrong direction, he's just going to go, ‘Whoa, just relax; let’s talk about this. Let me guide you.’ So, I think, unusually, because of his proximity to everything that we did, you actually could be much freer than you normally would and really play with ideas and take it as far as you could, because you knew that you had the safety net of the man who created it sitting on your [shoulder].”

Acheampong felt similarly. “I felt really safe and liberated doing this,” said the actress, “because you've got the original material, and you've got Neil; you've got these amazing scripts that have been adapted by Allan [Heinberg]. So, yeah, it's kind of scary, but at the same time, it's thrilling to have the work there and to see where it takes you. It's almost like you don't have to worry about certain things, because it's there for you so you can play and explore and discover truth within that even more. So, for me, I found it an amazing experience.”

Even with all the considerable backstory from the comics, Sturridge was quick to tell the press that you can easily come in as a new viewer. “If you haven't read the comics at all,” he explained, “then there is nothing to fear by embarking on this journey…I think there may be people who are fearful that this world is too kind of vast to enter as a virgin, and it's not.”

The series may be fantasy, but it’s relatable, according to Acheampong. “It spoke to me on a human level,” said the actress. “It made me think a lot. It made me explore things within myself…It's just magical, because it's so seeped in truth about who we are as humans, about the human condition, and that's what I love about it. It's on the surface maybe on a backdrop that is fantasy and epic and vast, but actually, it's so deep and so special.”

Sturridge suggested that if you are already a fan and plan to reread the comics, to wait until after watching the Netflix series. “I think that you want it to be as new an experience for you as possible, basically, but I also think that it'd be more thrilling to reread them and investigate them afterwards and to see the way that Neil has re-explored ideas and the things that he's changed and to understand why he has, after seeing it,” the actor told the press.

Be sure to watch our portion of the interview below, and for much more, from discussion of the sets and costumes to which of Dream’s magical items they would choose, and more, read the full transcript below. The ten-episode series of The Sandman is available to stream, starting tomorrow, on Netflix.



QUESTION:   How important was it to you to not portray Morpheus (Dream) as a dark, brooding, punk figure…and as someone not so stereotypically dark, as it were?

TOM STURRIDGE:   Well, it was important in the sense I think there's a misconception about Morpheus, as he certainly is brooding and dark, but I think there's a misconception that his isolationism and his withdrawn, sort of contained qualities are because he doesn't feel. I think that he, in containing inside of him the unconsciousness of the universe and containing inside of him all of every sentient beings’ dreams, knows exactly how each and every one of us feels, and therefore, I think is an extraordinary empathetic being, but the discipline required to hold that energy inside of him and avoid the catastrophe that sort of miss-controlling it would cause means that he has to be rigorous and controlled. But I do think that inside him there's extraordinary vivacity and life.

QUESTION:   If you could have one of dreams magical items, which one would you want and why?

VIVIENNE ACHEAMPONG:   Well, maybe someone's already got one.

TOM STURRIDGE:   [laughs]

VIVIENNE ACHEAMPONG:
   [laughs] Oh, God. That's such a good question. I think, for me, it would actually be the sand, because I just think there's so much power in that sand, and it can transform and change and just mean so much. I think, for me, it would be the sand. Yeah, the sand for me.

TOM STURRIDGE:   For me, it would be the helm for a very specific reason, which is if you read all of Sandman - and actually, it's Sandman Overture where you discover how the helm was created - it was in a battle he had with a god. I think it's the spine and the skull of the god put together, but that battle was connected to one of the only loves that Morpheus has ever had. So, having the helm reminds me of one of my only loves.

VIVIENNE ACHEAMPONG:   Oh, that’s sweet; that’s sweet. I’m emotional.

QUESTION:   Do you recommend rereading the comics before or after seeing the Netflix series?

TOM STURRIDGE:   Oh, that's an amazing question.

VIVIENNE ACHEAMPONG:   That’s such a good question, isn't it?

Tom SturridgeTOM STURRIDGE:   I mean, I think the first thing to say is that if you haven't read the comics at all, then there is nothing to fear by embarking on this journey…I think there may be people who are fearful that this world is too kind of vast to enter as a virgin, and it's not. It's so exciting to come to it, but I think I would reread them after watching it, because I think that you want it to be as new an experience for you as possible, basically, but I also think that it'd be more thrilling to reread them and investigate them afterwards and to see the way that Neil has re-explored ideas and the things that he's changed and to understand why he has, after seeing it.

QUESTION:   These are such beautiful and nuanced roles for both of you, but there's also such a darkness to this series as well. Was there something about the roles or about how fascinating Neil has created this world that really made you want to be a part of the series?

VIVIENNE ACHEAMPONG:   Yeah, all of it, because, as you said, it is a fascinating, incredible world, but still so relatable. We're telling stories, and yes, it is in this fantasy setting, but, for me, coming to it and really delving into it, it spoke to me on a human level. It made me think a lot. It made me explore things within myself. So, for me, that really excited me, and I think, for me playing this role, it's just magical, because it's so seeped in truth about who we are as humans, about the human condition, and that's what I love about it. It's on the surface maybe on a backdrop that is fantasy and epic and vast, but actually, it's so deep and so special. Yeah, I just love it, and it really just made me hungry to be a part of it.

SCIFI VISION:   With such a deep history, how do you kind of balance what you pull from that history versus what you're able to add creatively on your own? For both of you.

TOM STURRIDGE:   It's just so unusual when you're building a character or when you're embarking upon a job to have a bible that is over 2500 pages long that you can kind of really discover every fragment of who these characters are. So, you have to begin there; that has to be your starting point in your foundation.

Then, beyond that, our series is made by Neil Gaiman, the man, the author, the legend. So, that offers an amazing freedom, because you know that if you go in the wrong direction, he's just going to go, “Whoa, just relax; let’s talk about this. Let me guide you.” So, I think, unusually, because of his proximity to everything that we did, you actually could be much freer than you normally would and really play with ideas and take it as far as you could, because you knew that you had the safety net of the man who created it sitting on your - well, not literally sitting on my shoulder.

VIVIENNE ACHEAMPONG:   Did he not sit on your shoulder?

TOM STURRIDGE:   He didn't sit on my shoulder. Matthew the Raven sat on my shoulder.

VIVIENNE ACHEAMPONG:   Neal sat on my shoulder. That joke backfired; it’s fine. [laughs] The same as Tom, really. I felt really safe and liberated doing this, because you've got the original material, and you've got Neil; you've got these amazing scripts that have been adapted by Allan. So, yeah, it's kind of scary, but at the same time, it's thrilling to have the work there and to see where it takes you. It's almost like you don't have to worry about certain things, because it's there for you so you can play and explore and discover truth within that even more. So, for me, I found it an amazing experience.

QUESTION:   I guess this would be more for Tom, even though Lucienne does get out and about, but which setting from the first season intrigues you the most, even though it's not like all of it was real and around you?

TOM STURRIDGE:   But it really was. That’s what's unbelievable about this production is that everything beyond the impossible was built. So, the first thing that came to my head was Hell. It was extraordinary to be inside Lucifers lair. That floor was stone; those columns were marble. The murals were painted on the walls. The fire burnt your face. It's such a difficult thing when you do a job like this, the kind of leaps of imagination that are required. And what was so special was that the production design team and everyone involved made those leaps so much smaller than they needed to be, because they made it. Yeah, I mean, the first thing that came into my head was Hell, and there wasn't genuinely, I don't think, one piece of green screen in that sequence that I worked with, other than like, maybe sitting outside a window or something. It's incredibly easy to tell the truth when you can touch the truth.

VIVIENNE ACHEAMPONG:   Yeah. It’s a gift. It was amazing.

Vivienne AcheampongQUESTION:   Similarly, was there anything about your costumes that you really really loved, any small details that maybe you wouldn't catch watching the first time but that we can see later?

VIVIENNE ACHEAMPONG:   Oh, all of it. Lucienne is always in braces (suspenders). I don't know if we see the braces. The ears, I loved the ears, the little pointy ears, so subtle but amazing. Her having glasses. I loved just everything. It was so detailed and so amazing. I’d step into that costume, and I was like, “Okay, I'm Lucienne.”…Sarah Arthur, who was our costume designer, just was so incredibly detailed with costume, and for Lucienne, personally, when we first see her, because the Dreaming is, you know, it's a mess.

TOM STURRIDGE:   It's falling apart.

VIVIENNE ACHEAMPONG:   It's falling apart. You also see that reflected in her costume. She's disheveled. It's been broken down it, and then, as the Dreaming is starting to be restored, we also see that in her costume, and there's a change in her. So, I love that.

TOM STURRIDGE:   Yeah, I mean, my favorite thing about the costumes in which [Sarah and I] worked really hard on together was that in the same way that in the graphic novel that Dream presents himself differently to different people, because it's important that they see him as an aspect of themselves, we really tried with each costume in each environment for it to be truthful to the situation. I mean, I think my favorite costume, which actually was designed by the British fashion designer called Gareth Pugh, was the costume that I faced Lucifer in, in Hell. What was required was suddenly to have a kind of a power that could - sort of a uniform where you could take on the ruler of Hell. I thought [we] achieved that exquisitely. Yeah, it was the way that the clothes reflected the mood of each moment. That was really exciting to kind of explore.

QUESTION:   Obviously, you had to leave some stuff behind from the comic, but was there something that you when you read the source material you clung to for your character that you had to have, that you had to make sure that you delivered?

TOM STURRIDGE:   I mean, there was more than something; it really felt like everything. I mean, I wanted, and we all wanted, to be as faithful to the comics as possible. I mean…there were some changes in Neil bringing it into 2021 and it not being a period piece, but those changes were necessitated by that. These characters are faced with the modern world, which is obviously different to how it was thirty years ago, but as far as who Morpheus is, I wanted to be as faithful to how Neil created him all those years ago.

VIVIENNE ACHEAMPONG:   Yeah, same for me with Lucienne, really, because I think that, for me, it's so clearly on the page. Who that character is is so clear to me, the care for Morpheus, the care for the Dreaming, the compassion, and the love for him. So, for me, that was all there, and I held on to what I had, because what I had was so rich and told me so much. So, all there was for me to do was to go further and discover new things, but the essence of who that character is, was just so explicit and whole and there.

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