Matt Ryan On His Role in NBC’s Drama Constantine
Matt Ryan stars in the NBC drama “Constantine.” Based on the popular comic book series “Hellblazer” from DC Comics, Ryan plays John Constantine, a demon hunter who strives to protect the innocent by sending the evil back where they belong.
Real Style had the chance to speak with the actor about his role in Constantine.
Did you always want to work in this industry while you were growing up? Or did you have other professions in mind?
Matt Ryan: Oh man. Well first of all, when I was – when I was a kid I – I used to – I was in Les Miserables. I played Gavroche in Les Miserables when I was like 10 I think, in the West End, in London. And then I always wanted to kind of do something in the arts, you know? But when I went to school it kind of all dropped away man. It just like falled all away and I was a dropout teenager kind of running around on the village green having a – having a crack, having a laugh and stuff. And my parents are great. They kind of like just let me go and be a kid.
And then I kind of came back to it. So – in the meantime, when I was on that kind of five – I think it was about five years when I – when I didn’t want to do anything in the industry, I was into motorbikes a lot and I used to ride motocross bikes.
And so I wanted to be a mechanic and a motocross racer at one point, you know? So that – that – that was another ambition that was – that was going to be mine. And I still have a huge passion for motorbikes now. But I’m – but I’m kind of glad that I didn’t go into it.
You’re playing a character that people already know from comic books or from the movies. How is that different in your preparation?
M: It’s different in the fact that there’s so much source material which is a great thing actually. It’s different and it’s a great thing when you create a character because you start from scratch and you kind of build it from the ground up.
But with this you have such amazing source material that you can keep on going back to that and keep on finding new things. There are so many amazing kind of obviously (unintelligible) on and so many amazing writers have written him.
And, you know, they all have their own little takes on him so it’s great that you have the opportunity to have so much material in terms of viewing and keep on going back to.
Was there one thing in particular that you really latched onto about John, like who he is and how that provided entry into the character?
M: I think – I think basically the – the – the history is obviously very important to any character that’s had – when you create a character normally you, you know, create a whole back story for him, you know, no matter how big the role.
And I think that all – all the back story that you get throughout the comics, all the flashback stuff, the stuff of his – his family, his – his sisters, his niece and all the aspects is fascinating.
His relationship with all the Newcastle crew is something that kind of, you know, you – it’s something you can root the character in, you know? So that was kind of probably the most important thing for me as – is the back story really which was something that you build upon from there.
How did you come to learn about this part and how – how extensive was the audition process for you before you got it?
M: Oh wow, it was – it was quite a ride to be honest with you. I was doing Henry V in London in the West End with Jude Law and the Michael Grandage Company. And at the audition – it was pilot season obviously, so there were a lot of auditions coming up.
So Kate Dowd was casting it in the UK so I went in for an audition, did a tape, we sat at the table. I actually had really long hair and a big – a big bushy beard. And I can remember them – my agent calling me and saying look, they really, really like you but I – they can’t really see past the beard, you know?
And I was like well, you know, I’m in the middle of a play. There’s – there’s not really much I can do about that.
Tell us a little bit about your character’s relationships with Zed and Manny and Chas and what’s coming up in the next few episodes.
M: Yeah, sure. Well with Chas, Chas is John’s oldest friend and closest friend and the only one who’s been around for – and who hadn’t died although Chas does die but, you know, has an extraordinary gift so he keeps on coming back.
But what’s great about – about Chas is that he – he kind of provides a logic to John, you know, whereas John is kind of someone – he’s an addict. He’s a demon addict if you – if you like. And he kind of provides a grounding to John. And also he’s – he’s helpful in a – in a fist fight as well.
You know, he’s kind of the brawn’s to John’s brain. And John’s scrappy, you know? He’s not afraid to get – get into a – into a fight. But at the same time he’s, you know, he – Chas could probably help him out in a lot of situations there.
With Manny, what’s really interesting is they’re – they’re – they’re almost like two gunslingers kind of standing opposite each other that, you know, that need each other but they could shoot each other at any time. Or it’s as if they kind of – with this relationship there’s – there’s a kind of conflict there.
They – they both kind of don’t really – don’t’ really kind of want to be in each other’s company particularly. But they know that they – they have to and that they’re both useful to one another. So I think there’s a really interesting – interesting kind of conflict there.
And we – what we see with Manny developing is that – that John and Manny – how – how Manny helps John and kind of how that relationship sort of develops is there’s a – there’s a very interesting dynamic actually – I don’t know how much I’m allowed to say about it – between them.
After about episode 4 where John and Manny kind of – their – their relationship takes a shift and moves in a slightly different direction. But – but it’s a kind of uneasy kind of relationship which makes for kind of a lot of tension and a lot of conflict.
Zed is – she’s a feisty one, let me tell you. She’s great because she’s someone who gets in John’s face, doesn’t take any of his shit. She’s not afraid to smack someone in the face when – when it comes down to it. And – and she also has this unique ability which John – it’s very useful for John.
So they – they – they need each other as much as – as much as the other. But at the same time, you know, there – there’s a chemistry between them which – which could develop into – into something more. She’s mysterious. She has a mysterious background.
And what’s interesting about these two characters is they work together on some level but then they’re both reluctant to reveal each other’s past to each other. So, you know, there’s a constantly kind of looking out of the corner of each eye with each other which is really interesting.
And then – then there’s the kind of sexual chemistry between them as well which – which leads to a really kind of fun play in between the two of them. And – and that relationship throughout the series, will kind of develop in a very interesting way, I must say.
Did you have any hesitations taking the role knowing that it’s based on the DC Comic and there are a lot of fans that are dedicated to the comics?
M: Oh, interesting. Well first of all, like when I was auditioning I’d actually just been offered a play in London. And I think there was a time where the play was going to go away. They need – they needed to know before I had the time to kind of fly out and test.
So there was a moment of me going should I – should I just do the play, you know? It’s a pilot, I don’t know if I’m going to get it. It’s a pilot, you don’t know if it’s going to get picked up. I was offered a lead role in a – in the National Theater in – in London.
And I was kind of going I don’t know if this is maybe something I want to do. But after a kind of – the more research I did on the character I was just like it’s such a great opportunity to play – to play a character like this that I couldn’t kind of pass up on it.
But I didn’t really have any reservations in terms of, you know, how – how iconic the character is. I think that’s something that, you know, that can make you nervous but at the same time it’s a challenge. And I like that challenge.
And I think that, you know, you throw yourself into it and, you know, you give your interpretation of it and try and stay true to the DNA of the character and hope that the – that the fans of the comics, you know, kind of like it. But – so there is always a little bit of pressure.
But, you know, you just throw yourself into it to be honest. And what was – what was the last part of your question?
What character from the comics would you like to see on a show?
M: Well we – we get to see a bunch of the Newcastle crew. We meet Gary Lester, we meet (Annmarie Flynn). But I would – I would most like to see the – Satan, to be honest, the first of the fallen. But I think that would, you know, take a while for us to try to get there.
But he’s a – he’s probably the – the biggest one, right? So to have – have that showdown it goes back to that Dangerous Habits one again. It’s the fact – that whole bit where you face the devil, you know, and he (unintelligible) and it turns out to be holy water and all that.
It’s just – it’s just – it – when I read that I was like this is awesome, you know? So probably – probably Satan.
What do you feel sets Constantine apart from other shows of its kind? There are a ton of supernatural shows out there but none quite like Constantine. And why is that?
M: To be honest with you, I think that it’s – it’s down to the central character of John. And that’s what made the comics – the comic books unique, you know? The kind of anti-hero, working class anti-hero, wisecracking street magician, you know?
He’s someone who sacrifices his friends to get what he needs. And – but you still love him as well because he has this – this compelling urge to – to save humanity even though he does it with a cigarette and a whiskey all the time, you know? So it’s – I think – I think it’s – it’s him. It’s him.
And then in effect the relationships that he has with the other characters around him. And I think that – that’s kind of what’s unique to him. He really is an anti-hero. And – and he’s not a superhero in tights, you know? He’s a working class man that is for the people.
And I think that really kind of sets him apart from – from those things.
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