Even before its the pages have arrived on the screen, The sand man was well known for its dynamic supporting cast: From the brave goth girl version of death to the crunchy-eyed serial killer known as the Corinthian, the morose Morpheus has always been surrounded by colorful characters. Now that The sand man comic book has been adapted for television on Netflix, many of these characters have been given new life thanks to talented actors. A few weeks after its release, Lucienne de Vivenne Acheampong comes off as a solid breakout performance.
In the comic created by Neil Gaiman, Sam Kieth and Mike Dringenberg, this character is called “Lucien” and is portrayed as a white man. Since Lucian is a living dream, however, it would be wrong to say that he is strictly tied to human notions of race and gender. So in Netflix The sand manLucienne is portrayed as a black woman, while her main character traits – her job as the Dreaming’s librarian cataloging every book ever written or dreamed of, and chief lieutenant of Morpheus (Tom Sturridge) in the administration of the kingdom — remain unchanged.
EW caught up with Acheampong to talk about bringing Lucienne to the screen and what she would be looking for in Dreaming’s library.
Laurence Cendrowicz/Netflix Vivienne Acheampong as Lucienne in Netflix’s “The Sandman.”
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: What was your relationship with The sand man before taking on the role?
VIVIENNE ACHEAMPONG: I had heard of The sand man, but I was unfamiliar with the work. So when I first auditioned I was told I was auditioning for Unity Kinkaid. Then when I got a callback, it was for Lucienne, even though the name was different, so I looked. When I got my third booster, I received source material, and as soon as I took a deep dive, I was obsessed.
I loved it because I love the whole concept of dreams. Dreams are something that has always interested me. So as soon as I found out about the character and what he was in the world, I was like, ‘I better get this job. need to get this job.”
As you read the source material and crafted your portrait, what did you find to be Lucienne’s essential qualities?
I mean “fiercely loyal”—probably loyal to a fault. There is such a deep, unique and sacred connection between her and Morpheus. Even though there’s this dynamic where he’s her boss for all intents and purposes, there’s just a real deep connection and love that she has for him.
He was captured and treated in the most inhuman way and saw the worst of humanity. She knows the essence of Dream and she understands how he is. She understands why he is like that, because he has everyone’s dreams, thoughts and feelings inside him. So he needs these rules and regulations to preserve himself. She understands and respects it because she loves the Dream and what it represents. We all go to the Dreaming. Sexuality and race don’t matter – everyone dreams about it. This is where we can release our deepest fears and fantasies. So she understands the importance of that and she understands why Dream is the way it is. But when he comes back after being captured, it changed him. So one of the things I wanted to capture is her gently reminding him of who he is, because he’s been so hardened by this brutal experience.
Speaking of Lucienne’s close relationship with Morpheus, what was it like working with Tom? There are some characters who are only in one episode, but Lucienne and Morphée are still in contact.
(sarcastically) Oh, it’s a nightmare. It is so difficult to work with him. (Laughs)
When I first saw scripts, I was like, “Oh my God, who’s playing Morpheus?” And then, “oh my God, how is Tom?” You’re scared and you’re nervous and you’re like, ‘oh my God, I hope they like me’ and all those insecure things that actors do. Then you meet Tom and he is simply the loveliest, sweetest, most caring and gorgeous human being you will ever meet.
I met him and he just showered me with beauty and I absolutely loved him. Then we step onto the set and it’s Morpheus. It was amazing because we built that bond so quickly. It was a really safe space to just live in these characters. He’s so generous as an actor, he gives you so much. I think people can see he’s absolutely stunning in this role. So working with him was just amazing because he’s so detailed in this character. He has just played Morpheus. Everything he does is so specific. Every word he says is just amazing. So for me as an actor, he just invented my game for me, listening and reacting and being there with him, because you can’t not be, because he gave you so much. He is incredible.
Looks like Tom might be a better colleague than Morpheus.
I wouldn’t like to comment!
Liam Daniel/Netflix Tom Sturridge as Morpheus in Netflix’s “The Sandman.”
One of my favorite concepts in The sand man is Lucienne’s library and how it contains all the books ever written or dreamed. What would you like to look for in Lucienne’s library? For me after Hellboy creator Mike Mignola recently revealed that he almost drew a bow from the original Sand seller comic, that’s what I’m looking for the next time I’m in the Dream Library.
I feel that I am much more selfish than you, then! I would look for my childhood. It’s not a therapy session, but I don’t remember a lot of things sometimes, especially when I was very young. So I think I would probably look for something like that.
And then maybe something else, like Beyonceprocess. Let me see how you make those thighs look like this, and where the music is coming from.
Did you ask Neil Gaiman for advice? When I spoke to Mason Alexander Parkthey said Neil gave them advice on Desire.
He was definitely, always present there. From the story beats to the costumes, everything had to have Neil’s pass, including Lucienne’s glasses and ears.
Lucienne’s pointed ears are subtle. I didn’t notice them on the show until someone else pointed them out.
I loved the ears because they are so subtle. I wanted to keep them, so now I have a pair at home.
But what I understood from Neil is that he supports us so fiercely. He was just like, “Trust yourself. You got picked for this part for a reason.” Thanks to Neil’s work, the characters are so rich and everything is already there. So, as an actor, it’s like a complete dream. Because it’s right there for you already. And then you have Allan Heinberg, who just adapted it beautifully.
Even though it’s fantasy and people might think “Oh whatever”, it’s one of those things you dream of being in at drama school, because you’re just starting to breathe and to live these characters and to really embody them. We were guided, but also completely free to bring these characters to the screen.
Did you have any favorite scenes to shoot in Season 1?
In fact, one of my favorite scenes was the scene I had with Boyd [Holbrook], because it was a bit last minute. And I was like, “He’s so good,” because he’s this terrifying character. He is this nightmare. He’s just awful. But yet you love him and he has this charm. And in the end, I really feel for him. I would love to do more scenes with the Corinthian because it was really exciting to work with. He’s a very exciting presence when you work with him.
What are you most excited about moving forward with Lucienne, if the show is renewed for season 2?
If the Endless had a family reunion, I’d like Lucienne to be right there, saying, “Guys, I’ve come to be a mediator, a mentor, whatever you need me to be.” But I would love to see all these siblings together, I think that would be amazing.
This interview has been edited and condensed for length and clarity.
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