What to Know About Hob Gadling in The Sandman, the Comic Character Played by Ferdinand Kingsley
As the main arc of Dream’s captivity and artifact quest closes in The Sandman’s middle episodes, the series gives way to an anthological structure, imitative of the comics and allowing viewers to meet characters only briefly featured in the series’ source material. One of the more prominent of these figures, Hob Gadling, appears in Episode 6, “The Sound of Her Wings”—a reference to Death and her winged silhouette, seen several times off screen apparently sheepherding souls to the afterlife.
Just as in the comics, Dream meets Hob in a pub. What ensues: a centuries-long game of Is Life Worth Living?—Dream endowing Hob with immortality (barring some vague form of violent death), and giving him the choice every one hundred years to continue the game, or follow Death to the grave.
The immortality experiment, which resembles that of folklore and religious literature, continues on for some 600 years, Hob seemingly not done living—despite losing his family and friends several times over. The experiment’s outcome is somewhat surprising, given the subject’s treatment across other narrative forms; immortality is often a curse in fantastic literature. In The Sandman, immortality is a boon—at least for Hob, who’s life-affirming sentiment leads to a growing friendship with Dream, often chided for having little care for the mortals he serves.
In the comics, the experiment also turns into a long friendship, tested by the same charge made by Hob in the 1800s when he suggests, to Dream’s disgust, that Dream is lonely and in need of friendship. In both the series and the comics, Dream returns later with an apology: “I was always told it is bad manners to keep one’s friends waiting.”
Who plays Hob Gadling?
Hob is played by Ferdinand Kingsley, 34, the son of English actor Sir Ben Kingsley. (Netflix viewers may recognize Kingsley as Irving Thalberg from David Fincher’s Mank.)
Kingsley originally auditioned to play the lead role of Dream. After the audition, he was asked to read for Hob. Kingsley, a long-time fan of the comics, says he was pleasantly surprised to then be cast. His role allowed him to witness some of the most intricate set design changes throughout the entire season, with one pub reimagined to exist in several different centuries.
In an interview with GameRant, Kingsley described set designer Jon Steele’s work.
The team would build one set—one pub—that we were shooting in, and then next door to it, they had the same pub but it was for the next century. A few days later, we go to shoot on that one. Then they take apart the one that we were in before and build it for the next century. It was amazing. There was one day when I walked in to this medieval pub with goats and dogs, and fires and food, and more people than I’d seen in about a year and a half because it was in the middle of the international meltdown, and I thought, “God, this is the dream.”
Joshua St Clair is an editorial assistant at Men’s Health Magazine.
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