When NBC axed the TV series Constantine in 2015 after only one season, it could have signaled the death of the live-action version of the Master of the Dark Arts. But actor Matt Ryan wasn't ready to give up the part. Constantine consequently found new life after network cancellation. Ryan reprised his role on Arrow, voiced Constantine on the animated feature Justice League Dark, and recently popped by Legends of Tomorrow for multiple episodes. He's even been promoted to series regular if Legends receives a fourth season.
In the meantime, Ryan once again voices the occult detective in Constantine: City of Demons. The CW Seed web series reunites Constantine with his former pal Chas for a personal mission that pits them against a new malevolent force. At stake: Chas' daughter.
Ryan jumped on the phone with SYFY WIRE to discuss Constantine's appeal, adapting the graphic novel All His Engines for television, and what to expect next on Legends of Tomorrow.
The TV series Constantine only lasted one season. How amazed are you to still be playing the character three years later?
Matt Ryan: It's pretty amazing, man. They won't let him die. But it's great to have gotten to revisit this character in all the different mediums that I have, and on all the different shows. I'm looking forward to, fingers crossed and the show gets picked up, exploring him even further in Season 4 of Legends of Tomorrow.
Audiences can't get enough of Constantine. What makes him stand out?
He's the ultimate antihero. At the end of the day, he's a working-class guy and a human being, but he also has this quick wit and charm and this nonchalant attitude towards things. He's a real guy, which is why people connect to him. He has real big problems and is just trying to find his way in the world. Constantine also has a lot of spells up his sleeve. I think that the working-class, street-magician element of the character is why people can relate to him.
Where do we meet Constantine in City of Demons?
Basically, there will be a few familiar faces we see in the web series. There will be Chas Chandler and, also, the Nightman Nurse. The actual series is taken from the graphic novel All His Engines, which I had read when I was studying to play Constantine back in 2014. We see that Constantine and Chas have become estranged, but they team up to save Chas and his daughter, Trish. It will be a really fun series. We will get to see John do some things he can't do in live action, because this is animation, of course. That's exciting.
Viewers often get little nuggets of information about Constantine and what makes him tick. What is his journey over the course of these episodes?
We explore the relationship between John and Chas. Every journey John goes on, he goes through something. He really does. He normally stumbles across some problem and has to solve it. The journey he goes on in this one is very specific. We see him come to Los Angeles, which we've not seen him do in any of the stuff I have done. The interesting thing is the dynamic between him and Chas, and that relationship. One of the most interesting things I found about John in the comics and the TV show that we did were those personal relationships.
That certainly was true in Justice League Dark, where Constantine was forced to intermingle with other heroes.
Exactly. What was fun about that was interacting with Zatanna, Batman, and Deadman. That was a real treat for me, because obviously the relationship between him and Zatanna is a famous one. It was interesting to explore that, albeit by voice. I also loved the interaction between John and Batman. Even though there wasn't that much dialogue between them per se, there was these quick-witted snaps that they would say to each other, when he would call him "Batsy." Batman and Constantine are quite similar in certain ways. They both have a dark side to them. They are both human beings. They don't have superpowers. They can't fly. It was interesting to explore that dynamic.
Can you talk about the tone of the web series? How dark do things get?
From what I've seen, it gets pretty dark. It's based on that graphic novel. It does stick to the tone of that. There's a lot of fun in there, which I think there is with John, but it's all juxtaposition with that really dark stuff that follows him around.
Even in the teaser trailer, there's plenty of dismemberment, death, and blood.
I was actually surprised by the Justice League Dark animated film we did. It started off with these babies turning into demons and people hallucinating. I was like, "Wow, this is pretty dark." So I was surprised by that. The little of what I've seen of the animated series sticks to that same kind of tone.
When you are doing the voiceover work in a booth by yourself, how metaphorically naked do you feel without Constantine's signature trench coat?
The thing is, when I first did the Justice League animation, I almost brought the trench coat to the booth. I was thinking of doing that. There is a certain physicality when you put on the trousers and the shirt and the tie and the trench coat. There's a certain physicality that I flip into, that I've gotten used to playing him in the live action. It is slightly different in my civilian clothes in the booth. But I mentally flip myself into that place and he's there ready to go.
As a fan of the comic books, how intimidating has it been bringing the All His Engines graphic novel to life?
From the beginning of doing this thing, when I first got the role of Constantine in the live-action series, it was a huge undertaking. He's such an iconic character, who is beloved by so many. After a show gets canceled after one season, a lot of that can rest on your shoulders. It was a great thing to see that the fans had supported me in the role. I'm still here four years later down the line, playing him. I always strive to do my best and stick to the DNA of the character in whatever situation I get to play Constantine in.
I've actually just started to go back to the comics now and read them again. I stopped reading them after we got canceled because I was obviously disappointed. I love the comics, but I didn't want to continue reading them when I wasn't playing the character. But I am at present picking up the comics again and delving in, to see if there is anything else I can mine from him. I will continue to do that while playing this character.
Constantine is slated to appear in the Legends of Tomorrow season finale. What brings the Master of the Dark Arts back into the fold?
It will probably set up the possibilities of what could happen in Season 4, if we get picked up.
Now that you have been upgraded to series regular if there is a fourth season, what path do you hope they go down with Constantine?
There are so many amazing storylines within Hellblazer/Constantine and the New 52. I think what is going to be interesting is seeing him in a team. How does that work? John doesn't work well in a team. So the most interesting thing to me is the dynamic of his interaction with the Legends. The relationship between him and Sara Lance, as we set up in Episode 10, that dynamic really works. They are both people with tortured souls. But it's going to be entertaining to see John explored in this context. That's the unknown and the exciting part of being on Legends.