Constantine Star Matt Ryan Talks the Influence of the Comics

We spoke with Matt Ryan about playing John Constantine, how awesome Warren Ellis is, and much more...

At New York Comic Con it was our pleasure to join other members of the media in a chat with Constantine star Matt Ryan, the man that bringing John Constantine to life. In this interview, Ryan talks about what characters we may see pop up on the show, what Hellblazer writers and story arcs he has enjoyed, and what he is doing to transform himself into the trench coated con man. 

Den of Geek: So, you’re getting close to the premiere, how does that feel after all your work?

Matt Ryan: We’re at the point, we’ve been working on it so long, we kind of just want to get it out there. When you do the pilot, we’re on episode nine about to do episode ten, it’s like such a journey you know, you’ve been working on it for years, it’s such a journey.

With the show and the character, I’m having an awesome time.  As a an actor I’ve never done anything this intense…every day, trying to set a tone, set the foundation for something to blow the right…it’s important to build your house on bricks not on sand. It’s funny because the episodes kind of blend into each other but then they don’t. It’s been a hell of a ride.

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Is there anything that’s jumped out at you in the nine episodes you filmed so far?

As a fan, it’s fun to do cool and spooky and edgy. We are doing some episodes with the Newcastle Group from the comics, so you’ll see Gary Lester in there and we are introducing Jim Corrigan. That episode with Jim Corrigan is awesome. Emmett Scanlan is fucking off the charts, pardon my French.  We’ve had so many great characters coming in with great actors; it’s so exciting that this world is expanding.

What do you think of John Constantine as a person?

His biggest redeemable quality is that he’s a humanist. He’s trying to achieve what he needs by any many means necessary, but he has to save his humanity. He doesn’t want Hell to interfere; he doesn’t want Heaven to interfere. He’s a man of the people, like in the earlier comics. He’d kill his best friend to save a thousand people but if the best friend is the one he needs to save, he’ll kill a thousand people.

As an actor, are there any past films or past characters you draw from for Constantine.

I’ve been watching all the Exorcist films plus researching actors. It’s funny, we’re doing an episode at the moment, and I’m not sure I should say it; I needed to watch the Exorcist for it. I get freaked out, man, you go to work for fifteen hours and then you read a comic or watch a movie. I was so much brighter at Comic Con at San Diego!

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There was a great film Neil Marshall told me to watch, The French Connection. I took some brashness from Gene Hackman. I tried to keep as much things outside the script as possible like following the comics. Warren Ellis, fucking hell!

Did you watch Keanu Reeves as Constantine? Did it inspire your performance in any way?

It’s funny I saw the movie long before I knew anything about this world. A good friend of mine who owns his own comic company called Improper Books, he was always talking about Constantine and how he’s his favorite character. I see the movie as a standalone thing, but I hadn’t read the material, it’s a different thing in my head.

What characters do you hope appear in the series, like Swamp Thing? Or is there any Hellblazer you read that you would like to adapt?

Oh, yeah, Swamp Thing, that would be cool. We’re starting where comic books kick off, we’ve got the whole canon in front of us, we’re actually taking stories directly comics. My favorite story is “Dangerous Habits.” It’s badass, it’ll take us a long time to get there but that’s good a can grow before we get there. The pilot till now has been such a journey, but everything gets better…I feel like we are in a place where true fans of the comic will be happy. Lots of episodes will be lifted out of the comics with a few tweaks.

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Matt Ryan, thank you very much. Constantine premieres on NBC on October 24th at 10 pm.

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