There is a witticism that a good friend will help you move, but a true friend will help you move a body. If that's true, then Chas, the taxi-driving sidekick on NBC’s Constantine, is the greatest of friends, given that he has helped his occult detective pal put a hunger demon into a man, faced down against a killer ghost and chased down a baby-napping creature.
Add to that the fact he is setting out to exorcise the demon Pazuzu from John and has died and been resurrected multiple times in the line of duty, and Chas might deserve the BFF of the year award. At the very least, Charles Halford, the actor behind Chas, thinks his character and the rest of the ensemble cast of Constantine deserve another season for their effort.
Although the imposing, 6’6” Halford and his cohorts Matt Ryan, Harold Perrineau and Angelica Celaya regularly do battle against the forces of hell every Friday (now at a new time, 8 p.m.), Constantine’s true foe was a late start to the season and weak ratings. But the show is far from damned.
Fans of the DC Comics-based supernatural series have been active, utilizing #SaveConstantine on social media, and the Live+3 streaming numbers on the show’s Dec. 12 midseason finale were 64 percent over the live rating, which was 8 percent bump over its season average (to 3.3 million viewers). Still, there are only has five more weeks left in Constantine’s first season, which was capped at 13 episodes instead of receiving a full order.
But talk to Charles Halford, and you get the sense of an actor who doesn’t think there’s a devil of a chance Constantine is going away. While not cocky about the show’s life expectancy, Halford thinks the odds are in favor of the show coming back for another season. And, he hopes, that means more for him to do as Chas, Constantine’s friend from the long-running comic-book series Hellblazer.
When we last saw the Constantine crew, John was nursing a gunshot wound from Sister Anne Marie and being stalked by an invunche in the sewers of Mexico -- having just vanquished a Lamashtu and discovering the ancient La Brujería were behind the Rising Darkness (and yes, I loved writing that sentence). When we pick up tonight, with part two of “The Saint of Last Resorts,” we quickly learn that he has allowed himself to be possessed by Pazuzu. He is incarcerated by the local cops and begins to lose his soul to the demon, and it is left to Chas and the others to save their friend.
Halford joined me to talk about Chas’ role in tonight’s episode, as well as discussing the Jan. 23 Chas-centric installment “Quid Pro Quo.” We also touch on where the actor would like to take his character if the show is renewed, how Matt Ryan is like Constantine -- and if Halford is a jackass friend.
This episode has John stuck in a Mexican prison, and possessed by Pazuzu. Does Chas have to step up a bit as a result?
Sure, he’s got to. If John goes down, the jig is up. This episode requires everyone to get the job done. That includes Anne Marie; it is all hands on deck in order to achieve the goal. This is by and large one of my favorite episodes of this season because of that. Without Chas’ abilities, Anne Marie’s abilities, Zed’s abilities and the existence of Manny, we really don’t accomplish what needs to be done. It allows the episode to move at a good gait.
Anyone who knows the comics knows Chas does have a family we haven’t seen. Will we explore that on the show?
The next episode, episode 10, is a lot of Chas’ backstory. We find out where he gained his ability, how John is involved in that, and we meet his family and find out what happened there. You find out how he became estranged from his wife, and meet his daughter. It is pretty removed from the comics, where Chas is mortal and John tries to keep him away from the action to keep him alive.
Speaking of Chas’s backstory, he has a crazy origin involving a grotesque mother, an evil monkey and Constantine’s seduction of that monkey ...
That is one of my favorite issues of the Hellblazer comic! Outside of my bias towards Chas, it’s friggin’ hilarious. I talked to [showrunner Daniel Cerone] about it, and we’d all love to do it, but I don’t think that’s a television story. It is such a great story, it’d be great if everyone who watched the show read that story. It really sums up that character, the way John manipulates the situation. It makes good sense for their relationship and sets him and Chas on a good story.
There is also “The Knowledge” comic storyline in which John steps away and Chas has to save the day. Has there been discussion about pursuing that down the road?
I think “The Knowledge” would be an interesting episode. Down the road, there are a lot of options. And it would be great for Matt to take a break and catch his breath. That guy works so hard. In episode 10, “Quid Pro Quo,” that is pretty Chas-centric. That is a lot of Chas, and John kind of helps Chas through his dilemma. That gives us a taste of what it could be ... they could take a step away from John occasionally, but at the end of the day, the show is Constantine. He was in every panel of the comics, and in practically every scene in the show. But there’s room to get into these other characters.
What is your thought process when you think about acting out these comic-book storylines?
As a fan of the comics, I have to pinch myself sometimes, because I’m living in the panels of these comics. When you get an episode like four, the hunger demon episode, I was like, “That’s Gary Lester and that’s John Constantine putting a demon inside him!” It was like this is actually happening in real life. I think this is a really authentic comic-book show. Obviously, Hellblazer is an extreme comic, and we’re a prime-time show, but what we’re able to do is pay service to the comics. We’re toeing a line really well, and hope to toe it to a complete destination.
Being immortal isn’t necessarily a great thing for Chas. Is he pissed at John for doing this to him, and what’s the breaking point for their friendship?
That is incredibly astute. You do see that. You’re right in thinking that. I’ve heard people call Chas’ ability a lot of different things, but it is a funny line between blessing and curse. That is a trying piece of their relationship. It gets explored in episode 10, but I’m with you in thinking in the future, that could be interesting. How much is enough? At what point does the dog bite? How much can you whip at me? These are interesting questions, questions that make me go, “Let’s just do this thing for five more years!” Our show is growing toward what it will become.
We all have that friend who is a jackass, but he’s our jackass. Have you ever had a friend like that whom you were incredibly loyal to, but who was toxic?
Yeah, yeah, yeah. There have been a couple of them. You know who you are if you’re reading this! It is something that’s really relatable. It is a lot of fun to play. It makes the interplay between TV Chas and Constantine interesting. Constantine is the last person you choose as a friend. Anyone with a lick of sense, unless you needed something from him, he’s the last person you’d want to hang out with. That’s true to the comics where he was a bad boy, no stranger to danger. When you go back to the Chas and Constantine Slag/Queenie story, John became his family in that moment by offing Chas’ witch mother through monkey seduction (If that doesn’t get people to read, nothing will). John became his brother, father, mother, and left. When Constantine was around, Chas had that. Constantine did cool stuff, but didn’t want Chas in trouble. When you look at family life ... wait, I wonder if I’m that jackass?! Now that you mention it, I wonder if I’m that guy who goes home and calls my married buddies. “Charles is in town! Sorry, honey.”
When we first met Chas in the pilot, he didn’t do much. Did you know whether your role would get meatier?
I knew very little. It is funny; within two hours or so of booking the part, I was celebrating with Matt and Daniel and other castmates. There’s a good family dynamic with the show, and we’re all madly in love with each other. And we’re all in love with the show. Anyhow, Daniel pulled me aside and said Chas is a real slow rollout. He said I wouldn’t have much to do in the beginning but I’d be there, and we eventually get to his story. I had to have trust in Daniel and [executive producer David S. Goyer]. I kind of knew the details but didn’t know how they designed it until halfway through episode eight. Moving forward, this gives a lot more meat to Chas’ deal.
If this show does end after these 13 episodes, are you happy with where you get to take your character?
Sure. I think we’ve made 13 good hours of television. I believe, firmly, there is plenty more to come. But it has been a good ride. It took us a couple episodes to find our footing, but as we did that, as the season progressed, it’s obvious. It has already been shown from episode three or four and on, it has become more serialized and character-driven. You get to learn more of the inner workings of the characters and their relationships. The uniqueness of the characters and dynamics are there -- and the originality. Constantine is the O.G.; this is a comic that ran nearly 30 years. We’re obviously not going to run the show for 30 years, but we can run it for a while. The stories are there.
Matt Ryan seems pretty perfectly cast as John Constantine. As a friend, colleague, co-worker, what have you seen in him that’s the most Constantine-like?
He’s got a great attitude and swagger for this. Arrogance is a funny term to call a quality, and in life he’s incredibly humble, but when he puts on that trench coat, he really takes on this other being. Hanging out with Matt is not hanging out with Constantine. But Matt is a great fit. Like everyone else, he settled into his shoes and sunk his teeth in as it progressed. He is a fantastic Constantine, and I think his name should be synonymous with the character. The reality is that will take more time and those big Constantine story arcs. I’m dying to see -- no pun intended -- how he’ll play “Dangerous Habits” or “Family Man” arcs.
What would you like to say to the fans using #SaveConstantine” and trying to keep this show around?
We live in a day and age where the dynamics of television and entertainment are shifting. The fans do have the power to keep a show on the air. I feel like #RenewConstantine is more accurate. Everyone is interested in the show moving forward, and it requires people tuning in and buzzing about it. There are a lot of people who watch the show but don’t get accounted for. Watch it within a couple days of airing, and that helps us out immensely. Keep blogging and tweeting, and telling friends to watch. Tell them to go back and rewatch, and you’ll get more thank-yous than F-yous. We appreciate the support and don’t have a show without the fans. We’re doing it for the fans. We want to do that as long as they’ll let us.