In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, Boyd Holbrook discusses his character in Netflix’s adaptation of The Sandman and his hope for a comeback in season 2:
The Corinthian is all about the eyes. The living nightmare who looms over season 1 of Netflix’s The Sandman is most notable for the fact that his sockets are filled with teeth (which he uses to eat other people’s eyes, before he kills them). Naturally, this is something the character keeps hidden behind sunglasses most of the time, so that he can walk around in public without raising undue alarm.
When actor Boyd Holbrook thinks back to his audition process amidst the raging COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, he’s confident that securing the role and gaining the approval of The Sandman co-creator Neil Gaiman came down to how he handled his shades.
“I know I’m giving too much away, but I think Neil’s thing was that he never really liked how actors took off their glasses in these auditions, because it was maybe a little heavy-handed, a little over-the-top. So I latched onto that,” Holbrook tells EW over Zoom. “If you have a disability, or a special ability, it’s not special to you. It’s second nature, so you don’t really have to present it. It’s just in a fluid motion. So I really saw the power in that and how to make it unique.”
As created by Gaiman and artist Mike Dringenberg, the Corinthian first appeared in issue 10 of The Sandman comic. His horrific eye-teeth immediately made him an arresting figure who is not easily forgotten by The Sandman‘s legions of readers over the years. Eisner Award-winning comic writer James Tynion IV, who is currently tackling the Corinthian in the ongoing sequel comic The Sandman Universe: Nightmare Country, calls him “one of the best horror images in the history of comics.” Holbrook adds that the horror of the eye-teeth comes from “the surrealness of it all. It’s familiar, but on a primordial level, it doesn’t belong there.”
To create the eye-teeth, The Sandman‘s effects team took full photographs and scans of Holbrook’s body and basically transplanted photos of his own teeth into his eye sockets. He said he didn’t have to wear special contact lenses or anything like that, but was initially worried about losing access to his eyes as an acting tool.
“When we were first talking about doing this, I was like, ‘I don’t know if this is going to come across,'” Holbrook says. “You can watch a silent film or a foreign film and not know anything about what the actors are saying, but you can detect what’s going on in the character’s eyes and their face. That was tricky to me. But Neil and [showrunner] Allan Heinberg reassured me, like, ‘Trust us. It’s going to be a benefit, not a hindrance.’ Once I embraced that, we took off.”
But the Corinthian of the comics is also a little ratty. Always appearing in a sleeveless T-shirt, he clearly gives off more menace and power than the other attendees of the story’s serial killer convention, but still looks scuzzy.
By contrast, Holbrook’s incarnation is suave, flirtatious, and well-dressed, with a hint of his actor’s Southern drawl. Other characters on screen are drawn to him despite the danger he presents, and the same is true for viewers: The eye-teethed serial killer has been the subject of numerous internet “fancam” videos and Tumblr gifsets.
“I just started investigating what kind of character this guy is. Early on, we figured out that after living a millennia, you become quite sophisticated. You become a connoisseur of things,” Holbrook says. “There’s an elegance in that. I think that’s what was a change from the comic: How you would get lured into inviting this guy into your home and that being the great mistake that you make, rather than him being a home intruder and just bullishly busting your door down. He loves the cat and mouse of it all, and he doesn’t really discriminate between male and female.”
The Corinthian’s role is also expanded from the comic. Instead of just being the main antagonist of The Doll’s House story arc, Holbrook appears in nearly every episode of a season where most characters only pop in for a single chapter. Unlike in the source material, the Corinthian plays a major role in securing the decades-long imprisonment of his creator, Dream (Tom Sturridge).
The show even presents a relatable motivation for the Corinthian. He doesn’t just want to kill and terrify people for the sake of it. Like a demented version of a Disney protagonist, this Corinthian wants to be real. He doesn’t just want to be a figment of dark dreams; he wants to be where the people are.
“I think we all yearn for something that we don’t have,” Holbrook says. “It’s that feeling of man, that would be nice to hear the crowd cheer after dunking a basketball in a game, or knowing what it feels like to be in love. So there’s a sadness to him and definitely an outsider point of view. When I was in my teenage years, I definitely had a feeling of that outsider quality because there’s something that I was yearning to do, which was to perform and to be a performer, and not really knowing where to find it. There’s a lost quality that we are fumbling through life to find. I think I really relate to that. I’m sure a lot of people can.”
The Corinthian’s extended role meant that, in a show that mostly consists of self-contained stories, Holbrook got to work with more actors than anyone besides Sturridge. Vivienne Acheampong, who plays the dream librarian Lucienne, previously told EW that her scene with Holbrook was her favorite on the show: “I really feel for him. I’d love to do more scenes with the Corinthian because that was really thrilling to work with. He’s a very exciting presence when you’re working with him.”
It all leads to an epic confrontation with Dream in the season 1 finale, as the Corinthian finally meets his maker.
But is that really the end for the Corinthian? Not necessarily. Readers of The Sandman comic know that Dream later recreates the Corinthian as more of an antihero than a villain.
Now that the TV series has been officially renewed by Netflix, it’s very possible that viewers will see Holbrook reprise the role in the future. He’s already excited about the possibilities.
“I think the reincarnation aspect is really exciting because you’ve already set up the Corinthian as this bad guy, but then if he’s reincarnated as a good guy, you’re always constantly wondering if it’s for real or not,” Holbrook says. “I think you’ll have people on the hook. You can reel them back and forth and really play with that. I think that’s going to be even better, actually.”
Holbrook continues, “I’ve been getting some information trickling down about that. I think we’ll go back maybe in the summer to start doing some stuff, but I don’t know when they’ll call me, if it’ll be season 2 or be season 3. But I love that the Corinthian has made an impact and that people dig it.”
In a new interview for CBR, Boyd talked about doing The Corinthian in the new Netflix series, his casting process, working with Neil Gaiman and more. Read it below:
Boyd Holbrook has called his The Sandman character, the Corinthian, “the patron saint of serial killers,” and for good reason. Based on Neil Gaiman’s The Sandman comic book series, the TV show revolves around the titular character (Tom Sturridge), who also goes by the names Morpheus and Dream. After breaking free from a century of imprisonment, Dream sets out to restore order to his majestic realm. However, he must also contend with the Corinthian, a nightmare entity he created that escaped the Dreaming in his absence.
Sporting a creamy-white wardrobe, pale hair, and a pair of shades, the Corinthian’s most bizarre physical feature involves two rows of jagged teeth that line his eye sockets. On Earth, the Corinthian indulges in slaughter and mayhem by removing the eyeballs from his victims’ heads. He’s amassed a cult-like following of murderers and even headlined a convention of serial killers, and he’s just getting started. Holbrook recently spoke with CBR about comic book properties, his spin on the Corinthian, the character’s rows of teeth, and the show’s sets.
CBR: You absolutely blew people away as Pierce in Logan. Now, you are the Corinthian in The Sandman. What’s the appeal of playing in these superhero properties?
Boyd Holbrook: That’s a really good question. There are so many different tiers of acting. If you want to boil it down, it’s responding to imaginary circumstances. It’s make-believe at the highest level. With these types of sandboxes, you have a lot more to play with in terms of the reality and the conceptual perception of the character. Now, we are dipping our toe into this really dramatic fantasy world. My Sandman character, we all know, has teeth for eyes. He was a designed nightmare in the matrix of our dreams. That tagline is a real well and depth of creativity to step into. We are working with Neil Gaiman, who is adapting this, along with David Goyer and Allan Heinberg. Those people are going to keep the integrity of the project for me. That is essentially what is appealing.
Tom Sturridge endured a long casting process for Morpheus. What was yours like?
Maybe not as in-depth as Tom’s audition, but it was a six-month process. You did bring up Logan and playing Donald Pierce. It was very similar to that process. I auditioned, and six months later, they called back. They wanted to have conversations. I know firsthand they really tried to look under every crevice for an actor to play this character. He’s vitally important to people and the creators of the show. I’m very cool, calm, and collected about all this stuff. It’s just a process, and I am happy they go through the process to get what they want.
Creator Neil Gaiman is such a visionary when it comes to storytelling and worldbuilding. What impressed you about the Sandman universe?
I think it’s something we all have in common, which is dreaming. It’s something we all share and all go through in our existence of life. It’s all so vastly different and surreal, and yet we have the same common experiences. I don’t know a world that has really explored that. Neil has taken and isolated that world solely by himself. It’s something we can relate to. It’s a really cool world that everybody gets right off the bat.
Neil Gaiman is typically hands-on when it comes to his television projects. What notes did he give you that helped capture the Corinthian’s voice and demeanor?
I wanted to ask Neil, “Is there anything you must have in this character?” He answered that with, “How you were playing it is something that I have never envisioned as the Corinthian,” which was my initial take on the character, which was you would welcome him into your home. He would stop and help you fix a flat tire on your car rather than be a boisterous, flamboyant, loose character that was unpredictable. He was a more calculating character. I was relieved to hear that. It was nice that you had placed your foot in the right direction so you could carry on.
The Corinthian distinctive feature revolves around teeth for eyes. How curious were you with how they would pull that off?
I was extremely hesitant about that. After the six-month process, I had totally [forgotten] about the project. I was working on different things, and it came back around. Then I thought, “Okay, this is a real thing now. How am I going to play this?” Not play that I don’t have eyes, but a lot of acting is done through the eyes. You can interpret what is happening in a character just by physically looking at what’s going on in their face. Their eyes have so much to do with that. I was very hesitant of that at first.
It was a hard thing for me to wrap my head around, but it was obviously such an attribute of the character. It was sort of his secret weapon. Once I started to understand that element of the character — rather than seeing it as a hindrance or a crutch, it was a powerful attribute — that was a good entryway for me.
Neil Gaiman’s worlds are always hauntingly beautiful. Which Sandman set stood out for you?
There are so many amazing sets, and I get to travel through so many different worlds in this one. I think the opening scene that the Corinthian is in when I am talking to Burgess… We were out in the UK, and there was this amazing castle/mansion/old insane asylum that we were shooting in. Harry Styles may or may not have bought it. That could have been a rumor. I have never been in a physical building like that.
The sets that were half-built/half-CGI are why the show was made now. Even Neil said, “We have had so many fantastic directors attached to this project over the last 30 years, but I am so happy we didn’t make them because they couldn’t have made them as good as this.” Now, technology and the art of filmmaking have just come to the level to be able to make this show the way it should be made. The finished project is really special.
Last Wednesday (August 24) Boyd Holbrook appeared on GMA3: What You Need To Know to promote The Sandman and talk a little about Vengeance. Watch it below:(more…)
Check out screencaptures of Boyd Holbrook as The Corinthian in the first season of The Sandman, now streaming on Netflix:
Read an interview Boyd Holbrook gave to Men’s Health in which he discussed The Sandman and his role as The Corinthian, playing a good guy in Vengeance and watching a 30 minute preview of the next Indiana Jones installment:
Playing a villain in a comic adaptation is nothing new for Boyd Holbrook. After all, one of the 40-year-old actor’s breakthrough big screen roles came as the homicidal Donald Pierce in 2017’s Logan, the heavy opposite Hugh Jackman’s unforgettable Wolverine swan song. But that role—a “bull in a china shop” brute, as he describes—comes starkly different from the one he eventually took on a few years later: The Corinthian in Netflix’s live-action adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s beloved comic series The Sandman.
The Corinthian, as Netflix’s series lays out, is the embodiment of anyone’s worst nightmare. And when he makes his way out of the dream world into the real world, that’s big trouble for everyone. Holbrook describes him as the “patron of saints to serial killers,” which gets explicitly spelled out in the series when he becomes the keynote speaker at a literal convention for serial killers. Corinthian escaped from the dream world because an occultist (Charles Dance) captured his master, Dream (Tom Sturridge); without any oversight, the nightmare acquired a taste for methodical murders (where he removes people’s eyeballs from their heads) and amassed a cult-like following of serial killers all on his own.
The series spans centuries, and sees The Corinthian find time to refine his violent craft—which he calls “collecting,” as he takes the eyes from his victims, perhaps because he himself has a pair of tiny, teeth-chattering mouths where his own eyes should be— and figure out what he likes. And, again, that’s not good stuff. “If the guy’s been around for a millenia, he’s taken all of the low hanging fruit,” Holbrook says. “Now he’s become a connoisseur of things. He likes the nice delicacies of life. He’s a sommelier, if you want to go that far. He’s a real tastemaker, and a really refined, elegant, sophisticated guy.”
It’s a role that Holbrook—who is also set to star in the upcoming fifth Indiana Jones movie and the Justified revival series—has had in the works for quite a while. He first auditioned back in January 2020, and didn’t land the role officially until several months later, beating out competition such as Liam Hemsworth and Stranger Things’ Dacre Montgomery for the coveted villain role. Holbrook relished that long wait, because it gave him time to work with B.J. Novak on Vengeance (released in July), and let him know for certain that the filmmakers behind The Sandman were exhausting every option to make it as good as it could possibly be. “They went under any rock and nook and cranny, and went for this thing,” he says, referring to Gaiman and his co-showrunner Allan Heinberg.
We had the chance to talk to Holbrook about channeling the character’s violence and “ambiguous” sexuality, his other role as a rural Texan in Vengeance, and a quick tease on his upcoming reunion with Logan director James Mangold in a little movie called Indiana Jones 5.
Men’s Health: I know your role was very competitive. I read previously that you auditioned, and didn’t hear back for a while. Were you confident you were going to be cast or was there doubt along the way?
BOYD HOLBROOK: When we got the audition—I say ‘we’ meaning me and my wife, who else am I gonna run stuff with?—we looked at it, and you get vibes. Like, oh, this is something. This is nice. But you go through so many ups and downs as an actor…after a while, a win is great, a loss is… it is what it is.
I did the audition, and I felt like it went really well. And then I didn’t hear anything for a very long time, so I forgot all about it. And then I went on to work on Vengeance, and then [co-showrunner] Allan Heinberg called and said he would like to talk. Then I found out it was, like, a glasses thing. Taking the glasses off.
I think a big trap of probably every audition, for anybody who auditioned for this, was making a meal out of The Corinthian and his eyes. And the key was it just being sort of second nature, rather than it being a moment. And we kind of put that to bed—we had to work through some ideas of how to have that reveal. Because it is special. It can just become very gaudy, very quickly.
Did you have any connection with the comic before becoming part of this project?
Yeah, I mean I don’t think you could avoid it. When I was in high school, it was a comic that was passed around a lot. I didn’t remember The Corinthian because The Corinthian was only in “The Doll’s House.” So even after getting the role, I didn’t really have a ton to go off of. The series really stretches the entire 10 episodes, and building to that event in the comic of the serial killers convention.
That’s where we started: wondering ‘How are we going to build this guy out, and what’s he really about?’
What do you think was the key to playing The Corinthian? I find it interesting that it’s inherently such a disturbing character, but you still play him as a charismatic guy who you can get why people are drawn to him. But then, of course, he’s still cutting people’s eyes out of their heads.
I think that’s all an interpretation. That’s to you, but to Corinthian that’s not at all what it is. A processed killing of keeping things. I’m not allowed to feel anything; I can’t have any emotions. So, there’s this really dark, twisted, sense of logic, where, if I keep something of you, maybe I’ll get a sliver. You know, how food provides nutrition. That’s the way that he’s going to have a taste of that.
So, yeah, obviously to the pragmatic, logical person, all those things are really terrifying. But to him, I don’t think it’s anything at all like that.
You alluded to the key to the character being those eyes. When the glasses come off, were you doing anything specific knowing there would be an effect there?
[MAKES FUNNY EYES FACE] WHICH WAY IS THE RESTAURANT? [LAUGHS] No, no. That was all handled… sometimes less is more. Don’t work too hard. Not that you shouldn’t be working, but a lot of the shock and awe value really takes its place.
But once I had the glasses on for the first time—we were shooting during the pandemic, so I just got to set and I hadn’t been able to be around anybody to actually get these glasses—so, they were pitch black, and I just remember racing my mind the first day on set, stumbling into furniture, and this and that. It became, really, like a mask that you could put on. There’s a real sense of power behind that. Almost like a shield.
Did that help you further transform?
Yeah, it almost gave me the opportunity, or the rite of passage to just behave however. It gave me an authority.
How would you describe The Corinthian’s sexuality throughout the season?
Ambiguous? Like I said, I think he’s gone through a lot of different options over the years, and he’s not afraid to try any of them. And there’s also a really fine, gray line, between what’s actually for pleasure and what’s actually for a different type of pleasure, which is seemingly near the end of the show, without saying too much.
He doesn’t discriminate. It’s all good.
I almost see it like The Corinthian gets more pleasure out of his “collecting,” and his sexuality is just an asset he uses for “collecting.” Do you agree with that read?
It’s like any collecting, right? So, like, if you collect baseball cards, you have different evaluations per player, and they come in all shapes, sizes, and forms. I really think it’s the uniqueness, of, like, this one is this way, and that one is that way, and what’s so nice is the difference between them. It’s all about the taste of each and everything.
In preparing for those sex scenes, did you work with an intimacy coordinator? What was that process like?
I don’t think I had any sex scenes? Maybe that’s why we didn’t have an intimacy coordinator. No, we didn’t have one—it was just me and the actor, and just being open to having a new experience. I really think that’s what acting is all about: trying someone else’s perspective on, because that’s what will make you grow as an individual.
That’s what I really love about actors. So, he was game, we were game, and it was fun.
I think it’s very cool that Neil Gaiman himself was so involved with the making of the show. What sort of relationship did you have with him on set?
Neil made all of this. He was extremely involved, and we talked a lot. But to have Neil on set every single day… you know, and trying not to make eye contact with him after each and every take… I feel like that would be too much pressure, because you could just say like I just need to relax! Stop! Go away! [Laughing]
Because you really want to honor what he’s created. Because it’s a world that is so simple, because we all experience it: you dream, I dream, we’re awake, we’re not. But the stories, and dreams are actually really endless, so he’s housed rich characters. So we’re all just trying to honor that. So we had Allan Heinberg, who was the day-to-day showrunner, writer, who we could lean on and almost be a liaison between our great Neil Gaiman behind the curtain.
Knowing that, like you said, Neil created all of this, did you ever get any advice from him that stands out now?
Yeah. I think the trap of playing something of an entity, or you could go as far as the Marvel world, who has powers, and all of these things….is don’t let it make you be or act different. Stay rooted. Again, it is special, but to you it’s not special. Because it’s not oh wow, I just shot a laser out of my eyes, I’m so impressed! You wouldn’t be impressed with that, after 100 times doing it—it would just be second nature. I think that’s always the tricky thing about those things.
We talked about a couple villainous roles, including The Sandman. I also recently saw you in Vengeance, where you play, all things considered, a pretty good guy. Do you have any preference when it comes to good guy or bad guy roles?
You know, I wish I was one of those actors who could just pick and choose everything that they wanted to work on. But a lot of the stuff I get, I audition for. Some things I’m offered. B.J. [Novak] did offer me Vengeance because I had a “wicked sense of humor” in Logan. It’s just really what comes. And also the type of filmmakers I want to work with. I would work with Jim Mangold, really, on any part that he had, because I know that that guy cannot make a bad movie, and a lot of people are going to see it. So, if I’m going to put a lot of time into figuring this out and figuring out how to embody that, you know, you want people to see it.
So, it’s not that i have a this or that type of preference, it’s just what’s been happening. And I think now, after Indiana comes out, I think you’ll start seeing me do a lot of different things—because I’ve exhausted that aspect. After that, I mean, maybe if like a Bond villain came up, I would do that. But what else?
I could see you crushing that.
Yeah! We’ll see. I just really think the opportunity that acting gives you is to be able to play a range of characters, from one spectrum to the other. So, that’s what I really really enjoy and love to be able to do.
In the whole season of The Corinthian, what stands out as the most challenging part of the process?
I think it’s that thing we were talking about earlier of trying to find the tone of something. It’s a really bad idea to say Okay, well, this worked in the last film, so I’m just going to do that. Because every film, you have to start over from scratch. And just be like I’m terrible at this. I have no idea what I’m doing. And then slowly, through time and space, you start putting it together.
That’s why I like a lot of time to prep something, because with this one, again, it’s that supernatural, beautiful fantasy, but then it’s rooted. So, not playing into that, and kind of shifting your consciousness back to just being real about it. So, that’s always the difficult thing. I always find that every project is pretty humbling, I must say.
So Logan and Sandman now makes two comic adaptations. Would you want to do another, whether that be Marvel or DC or maybe some sort of favorite graphic novel?
I just really want to play characters that are foreign to me. Selfishly, because that’s where I get to get my point of view on a different culture, or a different perspective that’s someone else’s, that’s not mine. I feel like The Sandman is pretty high on my bar. I’m never the kind of guy to be closed-minded like I’d never do that, I’d never do that.
It really depends. I mean, I think now that we’re talking, The Joker… that character seems to be endlessly reincarnated in an interesting way. Sometimes the anchor is fun, but usually those secondary characters are really great to play. There are just more keys on the keyboard.
You mentioned Indiana Jones, working with James Mangold again. I know you probably can’t say much, but what can you tell us about that movie and working with Harrison Ford?
I can assure you that it’s going to be badass. I got to see like half an hour of it when I went to L.A., and I saw Jim. You know, just look at his work: Ford v Ferrari, it’s gonna be fast, it’s gonna be badass, and it’s gonna have heart. All of his films have this emotional beat in them, but we’ve got this grand scale of Indiana Jones.
And Harrison is the best type of crazy you can get. And I really grew up with Indiana Jones. I wasn’t so big on other franchises, and stuff like that, but to do that, it really just reignited why I want to do this. Because you live on the road. It’s been about 10 months on the road right now, being a traveling circus with your family. It was just refreshing to want to go through all that. To do something and to make something that’s burned into eternity. To be part of Indiana Jones—It’s pretty great.
Read below an interview Boyd Holbrook gave to Polygon on playing The Corinthian as a “rooted real person” in a way he had never been asked to before:
Though it’s at best his second most defining feature, The Sandman’s Corinthian has an undeniable style. Dressed in creamy whites, sporting pale hair and a pair of ever-present sunglasses, the Nightmare cuts a fine figure, whether in the pages of Neil Gaiman’s Sandman comic or as played by Boyd Holbrook in Netflix’s adaptation. It’s a look so together that you may miss his most defining feature: The mouths where his eyes should be.
As a rogue nightmare, AWOL from the Dreaming in Dream’s absence and serial killing his way through the waking world, the Corinthian is a mess of menace and charm. And that required Holbrook to play the role in a way he had never been asked to before.
“I think there was a sexuality to the Corinthian that I… had never wanted to do, nor asked to do,” Holbrook tells Polygon. “So that was definitely something that was uncomfortable in the beginning that I had to work my way into.”
Holbrook notes that he and the rest of the cast were instructed to make their respective characters their own and not fall into the trap of feeling too penned into how the character had to work. Instead, the most important thing was that they “play a rooted real person.” Of course, with the Corinthian’s eyes being the stuff of nightmares, he also had to work his way into it without the aid of the windows of the soul.
“I really thought that I would have to do, or I [would feel] some obligation to bring something else to the role that wasn’t on the page,” Holbrook says. “But Neil Gaiman and Allan Heinberg, our showrunner, really just put me at ease with that. Because rather than a hindrance, it’s more of a weapon.”
It’s an easy magnetism that oozes out of Holbrook’s performance, a natural relaxedness that still manages to imbue every moment he’s on screen with threat. With his eyes somewhere behind the side-paneled sunglasses, every act of kindness seems tinged by a bit of malice. He is cool and composed perhaps precisely because he knows he is untouchable in almost every way that counts.
“I think it would basically paralyze anybody,” Holbrook says. “Once the glasses come off and you see the teeth for eyes, I think it would just kind of shell-shock people.”
Read below an interview Boyd Holbrook gave to Den of Geek on reading The Sandman graphic novel, his character The Corinthian, working opposite Tom Sturridge and more:
Can you recall the scariest nightmare you’ve ever had? Imagine the terrors your dormant mind produced: hulking monsters, terrifying creatures, and unholy shades. Now imagine that those horrors could follow you into the waking world. That is a sensation that Netflix‘s The Sandman soon hopes to capture.
Adapted from Neil Gaiman’s classic comic of the same name, The Sandman is set to depict the journey of its title character The Sandman a.k.a. Morpheus a.k.a. Dream as he tries to get his mystical mission back on track. In addition to The Sandman’s powerful peers like Desire and Death, the series will also introduce one of his most unfortunate creations.
The Corinthian, as played by Boyd Holbrook (Narcos, Hatfields & McCoys), is a literal waking nightmare. Though at first glance he appears to be a relatively normal human being, The Corinthian has a habit of wearing dark impenetrable glasses. What’s behind those black frames? That’s a question best not asked or answered. Den of Geek did, however, ask Holbrook some questions about joining The Sandman universe and what we can expect to see from The Corinthian.
Den of Geek: Were you a big fan of The Sandman before this?
Boyd Holbrook: I became a bigger Sandman fan than ever getting ready for this. It’s such a cool graphic novel. It was the spring of 2020. My wife and I started checking it out. I usually give her stuff when I like it. It’s like, “What do you think about this?” She’s my moral compass. I auditioned and thought it went great. And then I didn’t hear anything for like six months.
That’s got to be murder. How do you handle that?
You know what? I am so used to it at this point; I’ve had so many ups and downs that I’ve unfortunately become very callous and cool with a lot of it. It’s just the way it is. [Once I heard] I got on the phone with Neil Gaiman and [showrunner and executive producer] Allan Heinberg, and we all just started talking, and I was really excited about the character and thought it was such a cool thing to play. At the same time, I was a little concerned about the glasses he wears. Acting is in the eyes, man. But we just had a lot of practical, pragmatic conversations about the entry points of the character—what this guy is, who he is and coming to find out, when reading the comics, that maybe he seemed a little bit more flamboyant there. But what we captured was how he is so successful in getting you to welcome him into your home before you realize you’ve made the mistake of inviting in a serial killer.
What did you do as an actor to compensate for the fact your eyes weren’t there?
I think early on I understood that a trap would be to do more mouth-acting or something like that. I just quickly realized that the focus should be on what he exudes. I acted without worrying about the eyes. Essentially just doing what’s before me and being me, because that’s the only person I can be in the context of the show.
How do you view The Corinthian?
I think he’s a mischievous rascal, who loves sucking everything out of life that he can in terms of stimulation. He literally was a captive prisoner who’s now out in society and able to run amok because there are no consequences for him. So it’s really embracing that, as an actor, as a person, as a human being, and enjoying that. It’s a ball. It was totally a great experience.
What’s chilling about it is his ability to spread that evil.
Yeah, exactly. The spirit vaporizes into other people—that is really spooky. And getting a sense of enjoyment out of that. Embracing the dark stuff. What’s also interesting is that everyone has dreams and they’re all fragmented, so it’s an element everybody will relate to. As a kid, it’s that element of Freddy Krueger where I didn’t want to fall asleep, because who knows what will happen? This feels like a continuation of that, so it’s really an interesting concept to play with in the world of dreams itself.
How did you find working with Tom Sturridge and interacting with him as Morpheus?
Well, Tom is incredible. I don’t think there could be anybody else who could play the master of dreams. He’s such an amazing and iconic character that’s just built in with this sadness, that I think they really do a good job of walking the line of not making it too heavy and making it a little enjoyable and funny in the show, especially with Matthew the Raven. But we didn’t work together until my very last episode or sequence. I’d constantly see Tom across the room, going to the set covered in his hazmat suit. You know, Covid protocol, which was all so bizarre. I kept asking people around me how it was going, and it was hard to get a read on things because you couldn’t read people and get an understanding of it. It’s such a communal job where you’ve got 100 people, at least, around you at all times, and normally you can pick up on the vibe on set of everything. But with this one, we were all just covered up because of Covid.
What do you think the power of this show is?
It’s something that’s universally relatable, which is The Dreaming. It’s our subconscious and our consciousness, which everyone deals with every day and it’s a vastly endless spiral of thoughts and revelations. Revelations about who we are as humanity. I think that’s the through line in the show, that every audience member is also living two lives when they fall asleep.
Ahead of the first season of The Sandman premiere on Netflix, author Neil Gaiman and showrunner Allan Heinberg were interviewed by Digital Spy and were asked “which actors encompassed the established visions for the characters, and which ones brought new and different ideas.” They both had some lovely words to tell about Boyd Holbrook:(more…)