The Sandman Star Jenna Coleman Watched Keanu Reeves' Constantine Movie For Research

Neil Gaiman's "The Sandman" first captured audiences' attention when the comic book debuted in 1989, and fans of the fantasy series have been craving a live-action adaptation ever since. To say that the path to seeing "The Sandman" on-screen has been long and winding would be an understatement, but the good news is this: it's finally here. The series is set to debut on Netflix this Saturday, and ahead of its release, /Film writer Danielle Ryan attended a press day featuring actor Jenna Coleman.

Coleman is no stranger to beloved fantasy franchises: the actress is perhaps best known for starring alongside Matt Smith and Peter Capaldi as "Doctor Who" companion Clara Oswald. Now, she's taking on another integral role in the long-awaited Sandman adaptation. Coleman plays Johanna Constantine, an enterprising young adventurer who crosses paths with Dream (Tom Sturridge) in the Sandman comics. Gaiman's 75-issue comic series features an ample blueprint for the live action show's characters, but Coleman says she went a step beyond that, checking out some films that tie in to the Constantine legacy.

"I watched the Constantine film and then I went down a kind of exorcist research route," Coleman shared, "but the scripts were sent to me without telling me who it was to begin with." The 2005 "Constantine" movie Coleman is referencing is a loose adaptation of DC Comic's John Constantine character, a jaded exorcist and occult expert played by Keanu Reeves.

I knew who she was instantly'

Despite an initially chilly reception, the "Constantine" adaptation has its fans, and it's one of a few DC Comics movies to date with some genuine Sandman connections. The film is based on the "Hellblazer" comics created by Alan Moore and Stephen R. Bissette, and Gaiman was already a fan of those comics when he created his own — and the character of Johanna. He even featured John Constantine in the third issue of "The Sandman," and three years later, also wrote an issue of "Hellblazer."

Coleman says she most adhered to "the source material and reading" when creating her version of Johanna Constantine, and that she didn't watch any other live action versions of the character's story. In 2014, NBC attempted to redo the "Constantine" story with a series starring Matt Ryan. Although it was cancelled after one season, Ryan reprised the role in the Arrowverse, and voiced the character for animated DC projects like the film "Justice League Dark" and the web series "Constantine: City of Demons." There's also a reboot series in the works, likely with a new lead. Regardless, Reeves' take is the one Coleman studied up on before playing the character's ancestor.

If you didn't like 2005's "Constantine" and have been fretting about whether or not "The Sandman" will be worth the wait, don't worry: it sounds like Coleman got all the inspiration she needed for the character from the new series' scripts. "I had a very instinctive reaction, which was kind of not infiltrated by anything else, just purely to the script and the page and the character, the person in front of me," she shared. "I just felt like I knew who she was instantly."

"The Sandman" debuts on Netflix on August 5, 2022.