For the past six years, Tom Ellis has played Lucifer on the Netflix hit series of the same name. His Lucifer was based on the character created by Neil Gaiman and artists Sam Kieth and Mike Dringenberg for the Sandman comics, as well as the Vertigo Comic spin-off series. But instead of having Ellis play the character for Netflix’s new Sandman series, Game of Thrones‘ Gwendoline Christie has been tapped to play the fallen angel.
Gaiman explains why, “The theology and cosmogony of Lucifer is a long way from Sandman‘s,” Gaiman said to ComicBook. “It’s ‘inspired by’ Sandman, but you can’t easily retrofit the Lucifer version to get back to Sandman, if you see what I mean. It seemed easier and more fun to have the Sandman version of Lucifer be, well, much closer to the Sandman version of Lucifer.” It should be noted that Lucifer in Sandman was tall, white, and male, which could’ve theoretically been perfect for Tom Ellis.
Gwendoline Christie is no stranger to Neil Gaiman and his material, as she has worked on his radio adaptation of The Sleeper and the Spindle. But Christie is also known for starring in other big-time productions. She may be best known for her portrayal as Brienne of Tarth in Game of Thrones, but she also has appeared in the Star Wars universe as Captain Phasma in Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens and Star Wars: Episode VIII – The Last Jedi. Christie also played Commander Lyme in The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2. While it is a shame that Tom Ellis won’t be reprising his role as Lucifer, it’ll be interesting to see Christie’s take on the character.
But gender-swapping of previously popular characters hasn’t begun with Tom Ellis and Gwendoline Christie. We’ve seen it recently with Amazon’s The Boys when they changed Stormfront from a male to a female. The reasoning for this makes sense. Showrunner Eric Kripke explained to Comic Book, “We wanted to sort of create Homelander’s worst nightmare,” Kripke said. “And his worse nightmare would be a strong woman who wasn’t afraid of him and proceeded to steal his spotlight.”
Marvel’s Eternals isn’t just gender-swapping one popular character, but three. In the comics, Ajak, Makkari, and Sprite are all male characters but this new version will see those three male characters turn female with Salma Hayek playing Ajak, Lauren Ridloff playing Makkari, and Lia McHugh playing Sprite. Gwendoline Christine taking over for Tom Ellis is just another example of opening up the possibilities of what these characters could be.
Sandman has been long rumored to be turned into either a movie or series, but until now, nothing has materialized. It was said to be a David Goyer project in 2013, with Joseph Gordon-Leavitt attached to star. But when it failed to gain more traction, Gordon-Leavitt dropped out. Based on the Lucifer character from Sandman, Lucifer did in some way bring Sandman to life through Tom Ellis’ portrayal of the character, even while the movie or series struggled to get made.
While Tom Ellis has played Lucifer for five seasons now, Neil Gaiman thinks the story and effects Sandman needed is what held it back for so many years. “For Netflix right now, people have tried making some movies and TV adaptations for 30 years, and actively tried making them for 25 years, and they’ve never worked,” Gaiman told Comic Book. “And they never worked because of all the special effects and what would be needed to do the special effects. They never worked because you were making something that was adult. People would write Sandman movie scripts, and they go, ‘But it’s an R-rated movie, and we can’t have $100 million R-rated movies.’ So, that wouldn’t happen.”
This is why Gaiman feels Netflix taking on the project allows him to tell the story the way Sandman was meant to be told. “You needed to get to a world in which long-form storytelling is an advantage rather than a disadvantage. And the fact that we have seventy-five issues of Sandman plus — essentially, 13 full books — worth of material, is a really good thing. It’s not a drawback. It’s on our side. And the fact that we’re in a world in which we can take things that only existed in comic book art, and that can now exist in reality.” With Netflix already onboard with Gaiman’s property, considering they purchased the Tom Ellis-starring Lucifer once Fox cancelled the show, bringing Sandman to Netflix makes perfect sense.
It’s unfortunate that Tom Ellis was not asked to be a part of Sandman, but Gwendoline Christie is an intriguing alternate for this new adaptation. Filming for the series began in October 2020 and is expected to last until June 2021. There is no set date for its premiere but with COVID delays, it looks like Sandman could be coming in 2022.