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Why Joanna Constantine From Netflix's The Sandman Looks So Familiar

"The Sandman" is the long-awaited upcoming adaptation of Neil Gaiman's classic comic book series about the immortal godlike being Morpheus, who's finally freed after more than a century of imprisonment at the hands of a charlatan occultist, and who sets out to regain his dream-kingdom.

One of "The Sandman's" main characters is Joanna Constantine, who's replacing John Constantine from the original series. Joanna is also the great-great-granddaughter of Johanna Constantine, a 17th century occult adventuress. Gaiman calls Johanna, "Brilliant, tricky, haunted and probably doomed" (via Netflix). Gaiman himself clarified the somewhat confusing situation on Twitter, noting that John Constantine is absent from the series due to a rights issue. 

Both Joanna and Johanna are played by the same British actress, Jenna Coleman. Coleman's first onscreen credit came when she was cast as Jasmine Thomas on the ITV soap opera "Emmerdale" in 2009 (via IMDb). Since then, she's appeared in several movies and TV series, mainly in England. Here's where you may know her from.

She was the Doctor's Companion Clara on Dr. Who

In 2012, Jenna Coleman landed one of the most coveted roles in British television when she was cast as Clara, the schoolteacher-turned-Companion to both the Eleventh and Twelfth Doctor on "Dr. Who," who were played by Matt Smith and Peter Capadli, respectively. She played Clara as a spunky and fearless adrenaline junky, and she was originally cast in the role because she could talk faster than Smith.

For Coleman, playing a Companion to two Doctors required an adjustment. With Smith, she had a fun and flirtatious dynamic. Once the older and more gruff Capadli came in, the character not only had to mourn the loss of the previous Doctor, she also had to navigate her feelings of responsibility towards the new one. It was yet another shift in a show that Coleman described as "genre-pushing." "It moves from comedy to action film to farce; it's domestic and epic," she told The Guardian. "Peter and Matt do takes in so many ways, throw so many balls in the air – it's an invaluable experience."

When her contract was up, Coleman decided to leave the show so she could take a starring role on "Victoria."

She played Queen Victoria in the ITV series Victoria

Playing a head of state is a tall order for any performer, but Coleman handled the task with aplomb when she was cast as the lead in the ITV series "Victoria." The show follows a young Queen Victoria as she navigates her political responsibilities from the 1830's into the 1850's, including multiple assassination attempts and the Irish Potato Famine. The series also examines her tumultuous relationship with her husband Albert (Tom Hughes).

Overall, "Victoria" ran for three eight-episode seasons from 2016 to 2019, plus a Christmas special. The show was never officially canceled, but as of 2021 there were no plans for a fourth season (via Radio Times).

For Coleman, the role was both challenging and rewarding. It was a challenge because she wasn't previously familiar with Victoria or Victorian culture, but rewarding because the role allowed her to break away from the working-class roles she was known for thanks to her work on "Emmerdale" (via BBC Radio 4).

She had a major supporting role on the Netflix crime drama The Serpent

After "Victoria," Coleman took on a bit more of a morally complex character than she had previously. "The Serpent" is an eight-part Netflix series based on the crimes of serial killer Charles Sobhraj (Tahar Rahim) and his accomplices. Throughout the 1970's, Sobhraj, his girlfriend Marie-Andrée Leclerc, and his friend Ajay Chowdhury (Amesh Edireweera) drugged and robbed tourists they met on southeast Asia's "hippie trail" backpacking route, and Sobhraj murdered those who resisted. Coleman plays Leclerc, who aids and abets Sobhraj under the alias Monique.

The challenge for Coleman was playing a character whose real-life motivations are still a mysterious. To this day, it's still unclear whether Leclerc was an accomplice, a victim, or both. "It's something I had to wrestle with. I'd never encountered anyone like her before in terms of her psychology, and her background was really interesting," Coleman explained to Vogue. "She was a romantic and her self-esteem was low. She meets Charles Sobhraj and within three weeks she was drugging people. We don't know how much she truly knew about what else Charles was doing, but he almost became like her religion. She allowed her moral compass to be totally buried."