Audible’s audio adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s Sandman, spearheaded by British producer-writer Dirk Maggs, has captured the imagination of people across the world, while introducing the iconic 1990s’ comic storyline to the newer generations.
It helped that it featured in its cast names like James McAvoy as Morpheus, Kat Dennings as Death, Michael Sheen as Lucifer, Taron Egerton as John Constantine, Samantha Morton as Urania Blackwell, Riz Ahmed as the Corinthian, Andy Serkis as Matthew the Raven, Bebe Neuwirth as the Siamese Cat, while Gaiman himself served as the narrator.
A series from DC Comics’ now-dead imprint Vertigo, Sandman tells the story of the titular character, also called Dream or Morpheus, who is one of the Endless. One of the seven metaphysical entities, Endless (others are Destiny, Death, Destruction, Desire, Despair, Delirium, and Destruction) have been in existence since the dawn of time.
The Hindi version of the Audible adaptation debuted earlier this month and is similar to the original. Its cast includes Tabu (narrator), Vijay Varma (Morpheus), Kubbra Sait (Death), and Adarsh Gourav (John Constantine).
Indianexpress.com got to discuss the audio production with Kubbra and Adarsh. The two discussed whether they were aware of the story before they joined the cast, how voice-acting is different from screen acting, and so on.
How familiar were you guys with Sandman before you were approached for this?
Kubbra: I grew up reading Tinkle comics. So Sandman was really new for me. And when I realised that I was a part of this is when I actually started doing my research and started understanding what is this universe that I’ve been a part of. So in that sense for me it was more than exciting, because I didn’t realise how massive this show is, and what it means to be a DC character. And I was like, ‘What? Nobody told me in advance that it’s this big!’ That was my reaction to it. I’m currently starstruck by the fact that I’ve been a part of such an incredible, elaborate universe.
Adarsh: I also had no idea about the Sandman universe. I’d heard about the character being a DC fan. But I didn’t read comics at all when I was a kid. So when I was recording [for Sandman], I had no idea who the other actors were and what they were voicing. I only knew that they’d asked me to read for John Constantine, who is an amazing character. So I just jumped at that opportunity. And then, once I opened my Instagram, I saw that I was tagged by Tabu on Instagram. I was like, ‘Wait, what the hell?’ And that’s when I realised what I’m a part of.
So you guys are screen actors. And obviously, voice acting is a lot different. You have to emote through your voice because you don’t have the luxury of facial expressions. Was it difficult for you at first?
Adarsh: It was for me. I started off as a singer. So for the longest time, my only active faculty was vocal. But I was a terrible performer and had a lot of stage fright as a kid. I’d close my eyes or look above the audience. I’ve always enjoyed using my voice a lot. Growing up, I was told by a lot of people that I should try voiceovers and dub for characters and stuff, but I didn’t know how to do that, how you get into that space. Acting happened very organically for me. And then when finally I started dubbing for ads and stuff around six to seven years ago, I found my way to audio. And yes, it’s very different than acting on camera. But at the same time, it’s also similar. It’s different in the sense that you don’t have people around you in person, but it’s as immersive as that. And it’s as engaging as acting on camera when you’re doing it. You kind of get lost in it when you’re inside a studio, and everything is left to your imagination. I really enjoy doing voice work.
What was about Death that appealed to you, Kubbra?
Kubbra: Death is one of the most feared conversations to have. We forbid the conversation of death on people we love, or people we even remotely know. I’m the worst person when it comes to, say, typing a condolence message. It’s really hard because you don’t understand how to relay conversations around death. What I loved about playing Death is that it’s the only reality you have. Sometimes it’s your time, sometimes it’s not your time. And if you ever do get another chance like in Pixar’s Soul, you discover that the purpose of life is to actually… just live. And when you are living you realise that the last thing you should fear is death.
I think I’ve made peace with death over the last two years. I’ve lost dear friends, I’ve seen my friends losing their parents, losing their siblings, and it’s very difficult for you to say ‘it’s gonna be okay’ as just because you made peace with death doesn’t mean that everyone else around you also did. We speak of nutrition, we speak of mental health… I think we also need to address consequences of death and what it does to the grieving people. It leaves an indelible mark on people’s lives and normalising the conversation around death is one thing we should add in our conversations.
A very profound answer that I wasn’t expecting at all.
Kubbra: Expect the unexpected from Kubbra. (laughs)
So this question is for you both. If given a chance to play a live action DC character which one would you choose?
Adarsh: Penguin. And my choice has actually got more to do with the portrayal of Penguin in Gotham [the TV series] by that actor [Robin Lord Taylor]. And of course, I’ve always been a Batman fan but when after I saw his portrayal of the Penguin I was like man, this is a next level character. It’s very different physically from the Penguin we know. It’s amazing how a an actor’s portrayal changes your favourite character.
Kubbra: Catwoman. Just out of my love, appreciation, and obsession with cats. I think I will just make a great Catwoman.