Dead Boy Detectives Interview: Kassius Nelson & Yuyu Kitamura On Joining The Sandman Universe

Disclaimer: This Dead Boy Detectives interview contains plot spoilers for season one, and has been edited for clarity and brevity.

Dead Boy Detectives is more than two teenage boy ghosts solving cases. It is also an endearing story of found family among four characters. The two girls rounding out this group are Crystal (Kassius Nelson) and Niko (Yuyu Kitamura). Crystal is a psychic whom the Dead Boy Detectives exorcise a demon out of in episode 1. Niko is a human girl renting out a room across from Crystal. Niko has an accidental brush with some Dandelion Sprites which jump-starts her entanglement with Team Dead Boy Detectives.

DEAD BOY DETECTIVES. (L to R) Yuyu Kitamura as Niko Sasaki and Kassius Nelson as Crystal Palace in episode 8 of DEAD BOY DETECTIVES. Cr. Ed Araquel/Netflix © 2023

LadyJenevia: Both of your characters have these really cool arcs where they find a way to be brave even when up against life or death stakes. Yuyu, can you give an insight into Niko’s unwavering kindness, and how she maintains and finds that even when she’s thrust into violent, horrific circumstances?

Kitamura: Niko is a character that wears her sensitivity on her sleeves. That is her superpower. That is her addition to the group. Her journey of bravery… at the start of the season I think she has a lot of emotions around grief and entering new groups and new spaces. By the end, she risks her own life for these people and if that’s not a transformation in itself, I don’t know what to tell you. She’s a character that is constantly rooting for all of her friends. To be surrounded by that kind of positivity, that optimism, I think is so refreshing in a world where there’s so many hard feelings that these characters go through.

DEAD BOY DETECTIVES. Kassius Nelson as Crystal Palace in episode 1 of DEAD BOY DETECTIVES. Cr. Ed Araquel/Netflix © 2023

LadyJenevia: Kassius, Crystal’s story with David the demon is a clear allegory for domestic violence. What sort of lasting impact do you imagine this relationship will have on how you play Crystal?

Nelson: I think it approaches that idea of domestic violence in a really interesting way because it shows just how even when that relationship has ended, the ripple effect of that can still haunt that person even after the relationship has finished, and it affects her trust with people and letting people in and feeling safe even within herself, and the embarrassment I think she feels to the part that she played in allowing it to happen and letting herself down. Moving forward with Crystal’s character, there’s still a lot she has to work through in forgiving herself for allowing that to happen. It’s not her fault and I think Crystal has this underlying thing of blame or shame that she that she sort of internalises towards herself.

DEAD BOY DETECTIVES. Yuyu Kitamura as Niko Sasaki in episode 5 of DEAD BOY DETECTIVES. Cr. Courtesy of Netflix © 2023

LadyJenevia: As a Japanese woman, I would love to know, Yuyu, what collaborative feedback did you contribute to make Niko a three-dimensional culturally accurate Japanese character and not a stereotype?

Kitamura: It’s an important question and one I very much had with Steve openly. It was welcomed with open arms because these questions are important and they matter. When I first learned about Niko’s look there were elements of it where… she’s already really larger-than life-and her fashion was so Harajuku style and that is fun but I also didn’t want that to overshadow the person that she is. We had a conversation. We toned it down where she can still really play in that world and her look can still exist but I wanted it to be grounded and truthful. A part of her and a part of me collided in that look.

Her love of anime and all of her background and who she is tells us about her want and need for her friends to be happy, and her want and need to connect. She lives in her own fantasy and getting to be a part of their fantasy is where they collide. It was important that she wasn’t stereotypical. The things that she really represents are love, light, and support, and I feel like those are not stereotypes. Those are important things to really champion. I am Japanese, I love anime, and I love what she represents so getting to showcase that to the world is really important and it’s been so fun.

DEAD BOY DETECTIVES. Kassius Nelson as Crystal Palace in episode 5 of DEAD BOY DETECTIVES. Cr. Courtesy of Netflix © 2023

LadyJenevia: Kassius, just quickly before I wrap, can you offer up one big existential takeaway that you would like for the audience to take away from watching Dead Boy Detectives?

Nelson: Oh my gosh, I kind of feel like the show opens itself up for people to take whatever they want. It’s a weird and wonderful show. It’s got some high moments and some low moments that I think… ultimately it’s kind of about chosen family and how people can support and show up for each other amongst all the crazy things that are happening in this show.

Dead Boy Detectives is available to stream now on Netflix.

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