Vivienne Acheampong was caught off guard by the fans.
It’s the day after the London premiere of “The Sandman,” and the British actress — who stars as Lucienne in the series — is still adjusting to the exposure that comes with being part of a beloved story. She arrived, wearing Valentino, to a sea of fans calling her name and asking for her autograph, an experience she describes as “incredible, surreal, weird.”
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“When I got out of the car, they were like, ‘Vivienne, Vivienne,’ and I didn’t even clock it was me,” she says. “People have pictures of you in character, and you’re like — this is nuts.”
Acheampong is at home in London, reflecting on her journey with the show one day before its wide release on Netflix. Unsurprisingly given its fan base, “The Sandman” ranked in the number-one spot for the streamer in its first weekend and has clocked solid reviews for its visual interpretation of the story’s ethereal dreamscape.
“The Sandman” is the first screen adaptation of executive producer Neil Gaiman’s popular DC Comics graphic novel from the early ’90s, and was several decades in the making. The stakes to get it right were high, and it took the team almost a year of auditions to cast Tom Sturridge in the lead role of Morpheus, aka the titular Sandman. The series also stars Jenna Coleman and Kirby Howell-Baptiste.
“The best advice that Neil gave was, ‘we’ve picked you for this part. Trust yourself,’” says Acheampong, who portrays Lucienne, a female version of the character that appears as Lucien in the comic. “I wanted to bring my own take, but very much still be loyal to who that character is in the comics, those characters that we know so well.”
Her character is the faithful adviser to Morpheus — who controls the act of dreaming — and Acheampong shares most of her screen time with Sturridge, a costar she describes as generous and detailed. “It was incredible to work with him; he just made me up my game,” she says.
“What I just love about Lucienne is that she’s loyal to a fault,” says the actress. “Morpheus means so much to her. I loved this dynamic that they have, because even though it is a relationship where essentially he’s her boss, there’s something so much deeper than that with them. She is the person that he has spent the most time with for eons and eons.”
Although intimately familiar with the characters now, the actress admits that she was unfamiliar with the particulars of the story and premise before getting cast.
“I’d heard the title floating about, ‘The Sandman,’ but I wasn’t that familiar with the literature,” she says. “When I started delving into it and seeing what it was about, it blew my mind. It’s about the human condition. It’s about love, loss, desire, your fantasies, the light inside of you, the darkness — it really delves into these things in this fantasy setting.”
It’s also about dreams and the origin of stories that emerge while sleeping, which resonated with Acheampong on a personal level. “I love dream interpretation. It says so much about us, about what our unconscious mind is telling us. It’s something that I’ve always been really interested in.”
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The actress is currently in production for another Netflix project, “The F**k It Bucket,” which also features Acheampong’s “The Sandman” costar Stephen Fry. The forthcoming series is a departure from the fantasy genre; Acheampong portrays the mother of a young woman who is released from a mental health facility and has to contend with the teenage milestones she’s missed out on. “It’s a gift because it’s so different to what I’ve just done with Lucienne; she’s such a different character,” says Acheampong.
As for what she hopes to do next, the actress offers an unexpected answer.
“I’d love to do an animation,” she says. “I just think that would be so fun. But I’m open to everything.”
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