Matt Ryan on bringing Constantine to animation and Legends of Tomorrow

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Mar 25, 2018, 11:55 AM EDT (Updated)

After only a single, abbreviated season on NBC, Matt Ryan was done with Constantine. However, Ryan’s take on John Constantine continued to resonate with fans and creators, and he was retroactively added to The CW’s Arrowverse. After a one-off guest spot on Arrow, Ryan’s signature character is back on two fronts: a potential series regular role on DC’s Legends of Tomorrow and Constantine: City of Demons, the new animated serial on CW Seed.

“One thing I’ve learned from playing this character is never say ‘never,’” said Ryan at WonderCon 2018. “Because every time I thought it was was dead, they pulled me back in.”

Ryan briefly spoke with Syfy Wire and other outlets about how he learned Constantine was making his comeback in animation. “I was actually in Thailand on a holiday when David Goyer said, ‘We’re going to be doing this, would you please do it?’” recalled Ryan. “And I was like, ‘I’m in, straightaway.’ To get to play the character in any different medium is a great thing. And you can do so much with animation that you can’t do on the live show, which was a treat as well.”

City of Demons is a loose adaptation of Mike Carey and Leonardo Manco’s Hellblazer graphic novel, All His Engines, which numbers among Ryan’s favorite Constantine stories. Earlier in the day, Ryan watched the first few episodes alongside fans at the Constantine panel. 

“I thought it was really quite gory,” shared Ryan. “It’s not for kids, which is great. I think it’s really character-driven, and you get the relationship between John and Chas, and also the Newcastle stuff as well. It’s a great comic, All His Engines, I thought when I read the script. I’m excited to see what you guys think in the later episodes, when it gets even more personal for John. That’s the one thing I really enjoyed about it. It’s a proper John Constantine story.”

While Ryan is proud of the adaptation, there’s still one Constantine tale he’s dying to adapt. "The one that really sticks with me is the first one I ever read, ‘Dangerous Habits.’” said Ryan. “The other one I was really interested in when we were shooting the show was ‘Family Man,’ because I think it’s really interesting seeing [Constantine] interacting with the dark side of humanity. He can be almost fine with demons, but when it comes to human beings, it’s slightly more difficult. It would have been interesting to explore in live action; also I think it could help with the budget. (laughs) There are so many great comics, and I’m looking forward to reading them again.”

The CW has yet to officially renew Legends of Tomorrow for a fourth season. But if it does come back, Ryan will be a series regular. This comes after Ryan filmed multiple guest appearances for the third season, and he is eager to explore Constantine’s place on the team.

“On Legends, how is he going to interact with those guys?” asked Ryan. “What kind of dynamic is it going to bring having him on that ship? He doesn’t really work well with the team. Those are the kind of interesting things to see how it develops in that world as well. I hope the fans will enjoy it. My job now is to go back to the comics and see how much more I can gain and gather from what I haven’t read and reread the stuff I have read, and find more interesting things to bring to it... I think I read about 150 (issues) when I was originally doing the show, and then I stopped. And I’ve just picked up Hellblazer: Rebirth, so I’m gonna read that.”

Ryan also offered his thoughts on Constantine’s enduring appeal and why he thinks his humor and the darkness go hand in hand. “He can be funny, and he has that wit and charm,” said Ryan. “But it has to juxtapositioned with the darkness, with the torment in his soul. Otherwise it just becomes cheesy. You need to be rooted in that, and that’s really important to me.”

Constantine: City of Demons is currently streaming on CW Seed.