NBC's “Constantine” wraps up its 13-episode first season on Friday (February 13) with an episode titled “Waiting for the Man,” which promises the return of Papa Midnite and Jim Corrigan, plus some new information about the Rising Darkness.
Although “Constantine” has struggled with low ratings in multiple time Friday periods and NBC opted not to order a back-nine, all involved parties are still referring to Friday's episode as a “season” finale and there have been more than a few [entirely unsubstantiated] rumors about steps that might be taken to keep the DC Comics adaptation around for a Season 2.
I chatted with “Constantine” star Matt Ryan on Thursday afternoon and Ryan is hopeful. Very.
“I am very, very, very hopeful,” he told me. “Obviously he's such an amazing character and I feel like we've got so far to go with it. I think there's so much potential with the series, with the source material, with the character and it's something that I would really love to continue exploring. Yeah, I'm very, very hopeful. Obviously it's out of my hands. It's in the hands of the Gods, as they say, but I'm very hopeful, very, very hopeful.”
Ryan isn't basing his hope on any tangible renewal negotiations, but at least he hasn't been told to abandon hope, which is the important thing.
A relative unknown to American audiences who didn't watch CBS' “Criminal Minds” spinoff, Ryan has been widely admired for moving John Constantine back in the direction of the character from the “Hellblazer” comic, rather than whoever Keanu Reeves played in the “Constantine” movie. He's given the character a nervy attitude and an often prickly edge.
In our conversation, we talked about maintaining Constantine's bastard streak, the moment Matt Ryan felt “Constantine” found its creative groove and some of the things he's hoping to see if Season 2 somehow happens.
The big takeaway from the conversation? There are a lot of things Matt Ryan would still like to explore about John Constantine.
Check out the full Q&A below before Friday's finale…
HitFix: Let's cut to the chance. If I asked you right now, how confident/hopeful are you about your chances of getting to play this character again for a second season?
Matt Ryan: Well, I am very, very, very hopeful. Obviously he's such an amazing character and I feel like we've got so far to go with it. I think there's so much potential with the series, with the source material, with the character and it's something that I would really love to continue exploring. Yeah, I'm very, very hopeful. Obviously it's out of my hands. It's in the hands of the Gods, as they say, but I'm very hopeful, very, very hopeful.
HitFix: Are you having constant conversations with people? Or is it one of those, “When you know something for sure, just let me know please,” things?
Matt Ryan: It's one of those, yes. When they know, I think that I'll know and I'm trying to just kinda focus on what's right in front of me at the moment, rather than trying to endgame it, because sometimes I think these things can drive you crazy, especially with such a great character that I've enjoyed playing so much. It can drive you a little bit crazy thinking about it. So I'm trying to just enjoy my life at the moment and get on with things and hopefully good news will come soon.
HitFix: Where do you feel like the finale is going to leave viewers? Satisfied or ready to come out with torches and pitchforks making sure the show gets renewed?
Matt Ryan: Well, I'd like them to come out with torches and pitchforks and make sure that the show gets renewed! But I think it will leave them satisfied. It'll wrap a few things up, but also give them some great anticipation as to where the show can go. That's the kinda aim of the episode and I think that they should be fulfilled by that.
HitFix: Back when you first started promoting the show, you talked a lot about a friend who was a passionate Constantine/Hellblazer fan who you expected to be your harshest critic. What did he end up thinking?
Matt Ryan: I actually haven't spoken to him a hell of a lot over the last couple of months, but the last time I spoke to him, he was saying what I think everybody's been saying, is that the potential for the show, we really found the groove of the show and he kinda just wants to see where we can take it and how far we can take it now and explore lots of the other storylines and deepen the characters and all that sorta stuff. He seems fairly satisfied, I think. I think like all “Hellblazer” fans, he wants us to go further, as we want to. So hopefully we'll get the chance to do that.
HitFix: You mentioned “finding the groove.” I felt like the two-parter in Mexico was kinda the show, to some degree, finding its groove. Did it feel like that to you?
Matt Ryan: Yeah. Actually, the first couple of episodes, I think, of a show, we're finding our feet. I think the Gary Lester episode, I started to really find John and sink into John roundabout there and I think that all of the elements of the machine sorta come together. We started to find our groove after that and then my favorite episodes are that two-parter, “The Saint of Last Resorts” and I think that for one reason, it's because it was serialized. It's a two-parter and you really get underneath the character's skin with his relationship with Annemarie and stuff. But I do feel that that is the place where we found our feet and I think that if we were to continue, then there's endless possibilities for the potential of the show.
HitFix: Talk a bit about finding the character and what made him tick, your journey. When did you feel like you “got it” and what was the answer that allowed you to lock in on the character?
Matt Ryan: I think it's something where you just live with a character for so long. It's like you do a play, you do 200 performances and the character grows with you and even though you've got the DNA of the character under your skin through a rehearsal process in a play, actually performing it, you find new things all the time. It's a similar kinda process, I think, with TV. It's a great thing as well with the medium, is that you can really explore a character over a period of time. And for me I think it was the Gary Lester episode, actually digging into that Newcastle stuff, tapping into that a little more after the pilot really rung home and I found some really interesting stuff with him. Then just living with him every day and researching the comics, you're picking up a comic every day, you're reading and playing him every day and things happen naturally then. That's kinda what happened, I think, after about the third or fourth episode.
HitFix: When you've been reading the comics, have you had moments where you've gone to the writers and been like, “I just read dot dot dot and we've got to do this at some point”?
Matt Ryan: I've talked to Daniel [Cerone] a lot about the different storylines that we could do and obviously “Dangerous Habits” is my favorite one of the comics. Yeah. Man, there are so many endless possibilities for storylines for this TV show and we're constantly talking about what we could do. I think in terms of specifically what's happened this season, there haven't been many points where I've gone, “Look, we've gotta do this within the 13 episodes,” but in terms of the long-game of the show and the possibilities there, there's always an ongoing conversation and Daniel and David [Goyer] have been very open about that and it's been great to bat that back and forth in terms of where we can take it and what storylines we can do.
HitFix: One of the fun things about John is that quite often he's really not the most charming guy in the room. He's a bit of an ass. Have you had to fight to keep that side of him in there?
Matt Ryan: I think that in writing, it's kinda been there. That was the goal from the outset, is to keep him a bastard. I think we could go further into that if we come back, but I think also in the first season of a show for new viewers, you can't come out with someone who's a complete and utter bastard straight-away, because you're not gonna like him. I think that you have to draw a new audience into you before you can actually really take it to those places. Hopefully we've done that.
HitFix: Are there any conversations, though, a point at which Constantine goes too far? The point at which he becomes too unlikable?
Matt Ryan: I don't know. To be honest with you, I think there's a few moments like that. With the Gary Lester episode, I think what we achieved with that was the fact that he's actually manipulating him and tricking him and he's a bastard, but we do feel some empathy towards John in that situation as well. I think that there's always a really fine balance with getting that stuff right. If we come back, I would love to get to that position where John does take it too far. I'd really love that and I think that the show has the potential to do that as well. So that would be a great thing.
HitFix: Going back to the Mexico two-parter. How much fun was the demonic possession side of that arc? It felt like you got to do a lot of heavy-lifting, both physically and emotionally.
Matt Ryan: Yeah, it was great, man! Just as an actor, to get into that stuff is really fun. It's playing another side of John as well and I really had a ball with it. It was exhausting, obviously, but that's what great about it. It's physically and mentally and emotionally exhausting and then hopefully the rewards are great and I just enjoy playing all that sorta stuff and playing different sides of the character. I think there's so much more potential for that as well. There's lots of other sides to John that we haven't seen and I think that we started to do was see those different sides of him through the characters that were introduced, the Newcastle characters that were introduced. There's still a lot more to come, then, if we come back. It'll be interesting to see some other sides of John as he interacts with those characters.
HitFix: What has the process been from your point of view in terms of finding and feeling out the relationship between John and Zed? That was something that wasn't in the original pilot and then it was added in and it's had to be finessed in gradually. How has that been for you two playing it?
Matt Ryan: It's been great and Angelica [Celaya] is just great. We have such a laugh and she's so easy to work with. I think that the relationship between Zed and John is a great one because she's in his face and she stands up to him and doesn't take his shit and that's easy to play against. We just have a lot of fun with that and I think there's a lot further in that relationship to explore as well. I think with all the relationships, obviously, there's so much further we can go with them and lots of other colors to explore. There's also the romantic side between John and Zed. Is that there? Where does that lead? All that sort of stuff. Obviously in the comics that's very prevalent, but it'd be interesting to see where that goes if we come back.
HitFix: Over the course of 13 episodes, have you gotten more comfortable acting opposite effects or creatures that aren't there?
Matt Ryan: Yes! You know what I love about it? It reminds me of when I was kid and I used to run around in the woods and I used to pick up a stick and the stick could be a sword or it could be a gun or it could be anything else. It's kinda like that. I did some motion capture for a video game called “Assassin's Creed: Black Flag” and that's kinda the same part of your imagination you have to use, so you do get used to it as it goes on as well and it's an interesting skill to learn.
HitFix: Do you have any favorite stories of difficult acting challenges sharing scenes with nothing?
Matt Ryan: One thing is when you're looking at something and there's “eyeline.” You've gotta look at something, but something that's not there. And if one actor's looking somewhere else and you're both trying to imagine the same thing, but you're both looking in different places? There's always those little funny things that you have a laugh with and you can get quite silly with. It's great fun.
HitFix: How easy has it been to shake off the character since you wrapped and how did that impact your selection of a follow-up role?
Matt Ryan: I'm gonna be doing a movie where I'm playing a very nasty piece of work in a movie called “Away,” with a couple of great actors. He's kinda a drug-dealing pimp, who isn't very nice to people at all, but in a very different way to John. He's actually a nasty piece of work. So I'm looking forward to doing that and getting underneath his skin. But I've still got the blonde hair at the moment, so I haven't quite shaken John off yet!
“Constantine” ends its first season on Friday, February 13 at 8 p.m.