The Inverse Interview

“The Hardy Boys on Acid”: Inside Netflix’s New YA Mystery Show

Dead Boy Detectives is Supernatural meets X-Files wrapped in the Sandman universe.

The Inverse Interview

Dead Boy Detectives wasn’t meant to be a spinoff.

The upcoming Netflix series, based on Neil Gaiman’s comics of the same name, began as a series ordered by Max. It contained all the hallmarks of a classic CW show — a strong episodic structure, DC Comics source material, and Arrowverse architect Greg Berlanti as an executive producer. But in early 2023, the series found a brand-new home at Netflix.

Even though Dead Boy Detectives was a spinoff comic from the Sandman series, showrunner Steve Yockey made sure that the series didn’t tread on Netflix’s toes at first. “We wanted to make sure that we kind of worked around the Sandman Universe so that the shows could exist side by side,” he tells Inverse. “When we moved to Netflix, they were like, ‘Hey, have you ever thought about doing some Sandman Easter eggs and cameos?’ We were like, what a great idea!”

Just like that, Dead Boy Detectives was born — a young-adult-skewing supernatural mystery series that combines the best of CW-style teen adventure with Gaiman’s patented eerie tone and macabre personifications. “Sandman is Drama, with a capital D,” Yockey explains. “Our show is the Hardy Boys on acid.”

The Dead Boy Detectives themselves, Edwin and Charles.


The titular dead boys are Edwin Paine (George Rexstrew) and Charles Rowland (Jayden Revri). In many ways, they’re an odd couple. Edwin, who died in the 1910s, is the brains of the operation, while Charles is a 1980s punk who provides the muscle. “They're a total double act, Edwin and Charles, they are the yin to the other's yang,” Rexstrew tells Inverse. “I think initially it was a product of their circumstance. They're two lonely boys who have evaded death and are meandering around the streets of London.”

Meandering around town is something the two attempted while filming in Vancouver. “We took a stroll and we were like, ‘OK, we're going to walk, but nobody can see us,’” Revri adds. “I didn't go as far as trying to walk through walls. Maybe I did it once, but we won't discuss that.”

But no supernatural mystery show is complete without a Scooby Gang of allies, and Edwin and Charlie find that in Crystal (Kassius Nelson) and Niko (Yuyu Kitamura). Crystal, a psychic with a demonic ex-boyfriend, initially turns to the boys for help, but eventually finds herself a crucial ally for every mission. Niko, on the other hand, is Crystal’s housemate who doesn’t always know what’s going on but has her own unique (if often hard to understand) insight.

Niko and Crystal may be alive, but they’re still helpful in afterlife investigations.


“Niko is your fun, kooky friend,” Kitamura tells Inverse. “She just loves to get involved. But in her own way, her sensitivity and her openness are her superpowers, she ends up helping her friends more than she realizes just by being herself.

To Kassius Nelson, Crystal is just the opposite. “She's very closed off and quite blunt and quite tough in her own way,” she tells Inverse. “But I think ultimately that's just covering up a much softer side and vulnerable side. Niko wears her heart on her sleeve, whereas Crystal’s is very much tucked away.”

The original Dead Boy Detectives in the comics (and in their brief appearance in DC’s Doom Patrol) are significantly younger, but by aging them up, the drama is able to twist itself both around the supernatural mysteries and the interpersonal drama, like awkward flirting with the Cat King (Lukas Gage) or the perils of trying to navigate the world as a young adult. The cast proved themselves more than capable of the more complex work. “As a show creator, that's what you're looking for, actors that really become caretakers for their characters,” Yockey says. “It's really important to them that they're presenting really interesting dynamic versions.”

Dead Boy Detectives balances a season-long arc with Pacific-Northwest-based cases of the week.


Together, Edwin, Charlie, Crystal, and Niko explore both fun monster-of-the-week episodes and a terrifying season-long arc that will shake viewers to the core. “We love playing with structure and kind of messing it up,” executive producer Beth Schwartz tells Inverse. “I feel like that's the fun of the show, even though it is a case of the week, you don't know where the case is going, you don't know how it's going to wrap up.”

One thing is for sure, though — there will be plenty of Easter eggs and references if you know where to look; even some that are so obscure that they can’t be seen with the naked eye. “In Episode 4, we meet a character called Dagfinn, and the jumper that Dagfinn is wearing was actually a jumper that Neil Gaiman owned,” Jayden Revri reveals. “It's a straight link that most people wouldn't put those two pieces together, but now you know.”

So what’s next for these boys? If the hype for this show is anything like The Sandman, then a Season 2 renewal is looking likely. After filming in Vancouver, the wish list for the mostly British cast is short and succinct: more stories set in London. But with ghosts, there’s no limit to where their cases could send them.

“I could really see a case in the Maldives, at an all-inclusive resort,” Rexstrew jokes. “Yeah, I was thinking the same,” Revri adds. “The case of the haunted dolphins.”

Dead Boy Detectives premieres April 25, 2024, on Netflix.

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