Neil Gaiman staunchly defends casting non-binary and Black actors in The Sandman

·2-min read

Neil Gaiman has strongly defended the casting of non-binary and Black actors for the Netflix adaptation of his comic-book series The Sandman.

Gaiman, 60, is a British author known for The Sandman and novels Stardust, American Gods, Coraline and The Graveyard Book.

The casting of the new Netflix adaptation of The Sandman was announced this week, which included the news that non-binary actor Mason Alexander Park will play non-binary character Desire and The Good Place actor Kirby Howell-Baptiste, who is Black, will play the character Death.

Death is drawn as white in the comic books, and not all fans appear to have read The Sandman closely enough to realise that Desire is non-binary.

Following fan outrage online, which included one person accusing Neil Gaiman of “not giving a f**k”, Gaiman said: “I give all the f**ks about the work.”

He added: “I spent 30 years successfully battling bad movies of Sandman. I give zero f**ks about people who don’t understand/haven’t read Sandman whining about a non-binary Desire or that Death isn’t white enough.

“Watch the show, make up your minds.”

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Another person asked the author: “Wasn’t Desire… always non-binary…??”

To which Neil Gaiman replied: “Well, yes. But you’d have to have read the comics to know that. And the shouty people appear to have skipped that step.”

Non-binary representation in film and TV is still relatively uncommon, with just a handful of non-binary actors – Asia Kate Dillon, Theo Germaine, and Lachlan Watson – in Hollywood.

Rarer still are non-binary characters played by non-binary actors. The habit of casting cis actors of the wrong gender into trans and non-binary roles has contributed to hostility towards and misunderstanding of trans lives, as documented by the Laverne Cox-produced film Disclosure: Trans Lives on Screen.

The Sandman comics were published from January 1989 to March 1996, and were originally created by Gaiman alongside artists Sam Kieth and Mike Dringenberg.

The Netflix cast also includes Game of Thrones actor Gwendoline Christie and Tom Sturridge (The Boat That Rocked). No release date has yet been announced.

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