There are a lot of DC Comics series coming to television this fall — but only Constantine is holding down the supernatural side of the DC Universe. Creators Daniel Cerone and David S. Goyer told us how they'll make a show that comics newbies can enjoy — and hinted at tons of cameos in the first season.
While in San Diego to show off the pilot episode at Comic-Con, star Matt Ryan sat down with reporters, along with Cerone and Goyer, and told us a bit about developing the show and what we can expect from upcoming episodes.
How important was it for you with this show to stick close to the text? Obviously there was a film before that kind of strayed from that.
David S. Goyer: Super important. We're huge fans of the comic book. We both have been fans of it for a long time and we wanted to make sure that it had that integrity. We're not adapting any one specific storyline. We'll be sort of weaving in and out of them, but I think hardcore fans of the books will feel that it's a very authentic interpretation of the character.
Daniel Cerone: We're going straight back to the source material. When Constantine first appeared in Swamp Thing, that's the timeline. That's when we're meeting him in our series. In fact, the American Gothic storyline heavily inspires our first season arc, so all the things that happen to Constantine over the course of the 30-year run in the comics, it's all ahead of him. So those are all things that we can explore and dip into and take viewers sort of along the journey.
Goyer: Yeah, so we might do a version of the Dangerous Habits storyline, but that would be season three or four or something.
This is a very edgy, dark character. How are you going to get into that character on network television?
Goyer: Have you seen Hannibal?
Cerone: No, they're pushing us. I was a showrunner the first two seasons of Dexter and our development executive at NBC and the president of Showtime at the time, Bob Greenblatt, they were the two supervising executives on Dexter. That's their sensibility. They want to bring that kind of programming, that kind of edge and that kind of darkness, that kind of moral ambiguity, they want to bring that to network television and they're pushing hard for it.
This time slot that we're moving into has been a challenging one for them, and I think some shows might have tried to push a little too hard. I think what we want to do is find a balance between the darkness and the humanity, and at the end of the day, if you follow the Constantine [pronounced Constantyne] character, he's a humanitarian.
Goyer: You said Constantine [pronounced Constantyne]!
Cerone: Oh my – good! We went through that too like, Constanteen, Constantyne. [Laughs] That was a big issue.
What can you tell us about how the show's going to span other DC realms?
Goyer: We've been given sort of permission from DC Comics, Geoff Johns and the rest of them, to use the other people from the occult DC universe, so as long as they're not in spandex, we can kind of use them. We don't want to make it guest star of the week and we want to make sure that even non-comic book fans get to know these characters, but we'll be rolling out a couple in the first season and, you know, hopefully the goal is, when we are rolling them out, they're here as recurring characters. It's not just in and out, so we will slowly be expanding that.
Cerone: I would say that our focus is really on getting this character right.
Goyer: Yeah, we have to start with John and have people fall in love with John.
Cerone: I mean, in success, we can branch out and do any number of things. If we were tipping too hard towards trying to introduce new characters or DC characters just for the sake of introducing them, I think we would be taking away from building a character that people are going to want to watch and fall in love with, so that's our priority, but, as David said, within the context of that, there are opportunities or Easter eggs that we will drop and that we fully intend to follow up on.
Goyer: And there are definitely Easter eggs in the pilot and there will continue to be throughout the show just because we and the crew love that stuff.
Where did you find your voice for John Constantine?
Matt Ryan: Oh, the comics, man. Yeah, I started reading them. I haven't read them all yet because there's a lot of them, but I just started reading them and using the source material. And then I've got this thick moleskin book of just all my John Constantine stuff with images and little different lines that I use from the comics and stuff, and just glean in as much as I can from the source material.
Were you aware of the character at all before?
Ryan: It's funny. I'd been told for years and years by a friend of mine who was a big comic book fan, he's got his own comic book company now called Improper Books and they've got some good stuff. He'd been telling me for years, 'John Constantine's my favorite comic book character, the Hellblazer stuff,' and when I got the audition, he just sat me down, man, and took me through the wringer. [Laughs] He was just like, 'Okay, it's gonna be like this.' And so, yeah, he's like my worst critic.
Did you have to work on the accent though because you're …
Ryan: My accent's different, yeah.
Exactly. That's been the fandom's first …
Ryan: Yeah, a lot of people have been saying I'm using my own accent. I'm not using my own accent. The funny thing is, Liverpool is right next door to Wales, but, the thing is, I thought about doing a full on Liverpudlian accent, but you'd have to put subtitles on it for America television. You would for a full on Welsh accent as well and so I kind of came up with the idea that he's from Liverpool - like, I'm from Wales, but then I left Wales when I was 19 and then I've traveled, so my accent isn't as thick as it would be if I was still living in Wales, so I applied that to John. It's like he was born in Liverpool, he was brought up there, but then he moved away, so we've taken the basis of that accent and the vowel sounds and the consonants and then just flattened it out. And then some of the vowel sounds are actually similar to the Welsh vowel sounds because they're right next door to each other anyway, so it's kind of a more accessible kind of traveled accent.
How grueling was the audition process?
Ryan: It was quite tough, man. Yeah, I was doing a play in London, I was doing a Shakespeare play, Henry V,in London. I had long hair and a big beard and when I did my first tape for it, they were just like, yeah. Daniel and David really liked me, but then some other people were like, 'I don't see it because of the beard,' so I went through this whole process, had to wait for the play to finish and then flew over to LA, chopped all my hair off, shaved my beard and I went from there.
Which character do you enjoy interacting with most?
Ryan: I'd say Manny because they're both kind of manipulators, you know? And they're both kind of trying to get one up on each other all the time, but there's also a mutual respect for each other, so there's this kind of dance, this toe-to-toe dance that they're doing all the time. They're uneasy allies, you know? I think that makes for a really interesting dynamic and interesting conflict between the two of them.