In acts of defiance you rarely see from Hollywood creators, the legendary British author has been firing back at social media users who take aim at the upcoming Netflix fantasy series’ so-called “wokeness” — or in other words its gender- and color-blind casting. That includes the hiring of a Black actress (Kirby Howell-Baptiste) to play Death, a non-binary actor (Mason Alexander Park) to play Desire and a woman (Gwendoline Christie) to play Lucifer, ruler of hell.
In an interview with Yahoo Entertainment following The Sandman’s presentation at San Diego Comic-Con over the weekend, Gaiman explains why he’s engaging with fans who probably weren’t expecting the author to answer their shouts into the Twittersphere void (watch above)
“I know the rule is you’re meant to ignore the trolls and not feed the trolls,” Gaiman says. “But I would look at people sounding off on Sandman who were obviously not Sandman fans. What I would watch would be 60,000 Sandman fans going, ‘Of course you’re doing it this way. Of course you have a non-binary Desire, Desire was always non-binary, that’s brilliant casting.’ Or ‘Gwendoline as Lucifer, what amazing casting.’ And then you’d get five or six people trying to make a lot of fuss who never read Sandman in the first place. And I mostly decided I was done with it.
“Occasionally I do feel like I’m taking an enormous sledgehammer to squash the tiniest ants, and you really shouldn’t," he continues. "But then again, they can be really irritating sometimes, and I’m proud of what we made.”
Gaiman’s cast seems to absolutely love it.
“Neil is a badass,” says Park. “He’s one of the greatest living authors of all time, and just the fact that we are adapting this in a time where he’s not only completely ingrained in it and completely getting his DNA on every single frame of it, but that he can clap back at people when they say certain things that aren’t necessarily in line with the original context. … It’s really nice, because you don’t often get that. A lot of times people are too busy to deal with the nonsense. But he’s one of the funniest people to follow on Twitter and just watch him troll people back. I get so much joy.”
“As an actor in this, and Neil just having our backs, and just believing in us and believing in this, makes it even more amazing,” says Vivienne Acheampong, who plays Lucienne.
Christie says she wrote to Gaiman after hearing about his passionate defense of his cast.
“I wasn’t even aware of any of this until a few weeks ago,” the Game of Thrones and Star Wars alum admits. “But I have to say, I wrote to Neil to thank him when I found out that he’d been standing up for us and trying to protect us. And I’m very moved by the love and responsibility he feels for his co-creators. And I appreciate it with all of my heart. I know we all do.”
— Video produced by Kyle Moss and edited by Jason Fitzpatrick
The Sandman premieres Aug. 5 on Netflix.
Watch the trailer: