The truth is that TV shows come and go. Audiences sometimes connect with characters, but ultimately have to let them go. Everyone — from the people making the show to the viewers — tend to move on to the next thing. But every once in a while, neither side can really put it behind them. That’s certainly the case with the character of John Constantine, who, via actor Matt Ryan, has just made one of two guest starring appearances on the CW’s Legends of Tomorrow.
(Photo Credit: Getty Images)
The origins of John Constantine can be found in the pages of DC’s Hellblazer comic book. Comicsvine.gamespot.com describes him as “a working-class magician, occult detective and a golden-tongued con man. He is well-known for his scathing wit, endless cynicism, ruthless cunning and constant chain smoking. A roguish counterculture anti-hero, Constantine is also a strident humanist driven by a heartfelt desire to defend mankind from the forces of evil.”
He first appeared in the 2005 film Constantine with Keanu Reeves in the title role, though it was pretty much as far removed from the comic as you could get. Then, in 2014, Matt played the character in a single season of the television series that lasted just 13 episodes. That was it, game over. The actor hung up John’s trench coat and walked away. But then something happened and there was a growing groundswell for both actor and character. Maybe not enough for the series to go back into production, but certainly for John Constantine to live on.
(Photo Credit: CW)
“When we got to the end of the series,” the Wales-born Matt reflects to FHM, “I felt like there was a little bit of unfinished business there. I feel like there were so many gaps in the character in which we could have explored, and many different storylines. He’s a character I hold very close to my heart, so I wasn’t against exploring him in another context at all, to be honest with you. It’s something that I quite enjoy doing. After the show, I did a 1940s drama, playing an American broadcast journalist, and before that I was doing a play based on the 18th Century. It’s great to be able to do those other things, but then there’s this amazing, trench-coat wearing, blond, arrogant guy, who I always get pulled back in as to play. It won’t seem to go away.”
(Photo Credit: CW)
No complaints from anyone about that.
His first opportunity to resurrect the character was in the season four episode of the CW’s Arrow, where he interacts with Stephen Amell’s Oliver Queen in an effort to reclaim the soul of Caity Lotz’s Sarah Lance. Matt admits that because he had mentally forced himself to move on, it was initially a little odd reprising Constantine.
“Playing John again was a little bit of a funny thing,” he says. “I was preparing for another role, so I had to kind of re-jig myself and kind of think about where I was all those months ago. But after the first or second take, I was, like, ‘Oh, there he is.” He just kind of came back, and it was really good fun to get to play him again. And I was really lucky that everybody was so welcoming.”
(Photo Credit: Warner Bros)
Next came the chance to voice the character in the 2017 animated film Justice League Dark, which, while allowing him to interact with characters like Batman, is squarely focused on the supernatural side of the DC Universe.
“Obviously the TV universe is a little bit different to the animated universe,” he suggests. “For this one, I was just trying to bring what I knew of him, and the voice, and play him in this different context, having him interact with Batman or Deadman and Swamp Thing. All these relationships which we didn’t get to explore on the TV show, which was really fun to do. Also in animation, he can shoot magic bolts; the magic can be represented differently.”
His first appearance on Legends of Tomorrow ties in to his connection with Sarah Lance on that show, as well as series big bad Damien Darhk (Neal McDonough), which suggests that it’s an element that will continue to be developed down the road. Observes Matt, “There’s obviously another kind of relationship they’ve had, or a backstory between them, which has the potential to be explored.”
(Photo Credit: Getty Images)
Coming later this year is a new animated Constantine web series on the CW Seed streaming service, which, naturally, will have Matt providing the character’s voice yet again. And — you never know — if ratings for his appearance on Legends of Tomorrow spike significantly, at the very least the character will be back more frequently. And, if we’re lucky, he’ll be back in a new series of his own. There’s also a live action Justice League Dark movie in development, and while Matt’s name hasn’t been mentioned for the role of Constantine, he’s not alone in hoping that someone will think of him.
“Obviously they’re going to be looking at A-list stars and big names and all of that,” he muses, “and whether or not they wanted to crossover the Constantine I did with that world, I don’t know. But I would like to think that I have the pedigree to be able to do that. All I’d say is just let me in the room and give me a shot.”