“The thing that I loved about con­stan­tine i s he was a smar­tass”

DC’s de­mon slayer is com­ing to the small screen – Joseph McCabe dares to in­ves­ti­gate

SFX - - Contents -

Among the many ti­tles ap­plied to DC’s John Con­stan­tine – de­mon hunter, oc­cult de­tec­tive, trickster,

con­man – there’s one that’s of­ten over­looked: gate­way drug. For the star of the company’s long- run­ning Hell­blazer ( now reti­tled Con­stan­tine for its “New 52” re­boot) has in­tro­duced decades of comic book read­ers to the world of dark fan­tasy and the su­per­nat­u­ral, just as, in his ear­li­est ap­pear­ances in Saga Of The Swamp Thing, he in­tro­duced the book’s tit­u­lar muck mon­ster to the full range of his para­nor­mal pow­ers.

“Dur­ing that Swamp Thing run I ac­tu­ally have a let­ter printed on one of the let­ters pages,” says a proud David Goyer. The writer- pro­ducer on DC’s Dark Knight film tril­ogy and Man Of Steel is now tasked with bring­ing the blond, trench­coat- bedecked Brit to tele­vi­sion in Con­stan­tine. “I was a young teenager. Iron­i­cally, he was in­tro­duced in a story that had all this ris­ing dark­ness, and I was the­o­ris­ing as a kid as to what was be­hind the ris­ing dark­ness. So it’s ironic now that we’re do­ing a TV show and that’s our first sea­son arc.

“I turned out to be wrong,” laughs Goyer. “But we’re work­ing it out.”

The ex­ec­u­tive pro­ducer ex­plains how he came to chron­i­cle John Con­stan­tine’s screen ad­ven­tures. “The thing that I al­ways loved about Con­stan­tine is he was a smar­tass. In a world of su­per­heroes and a world of demons and an­gels, he was just a com­plete smar­tass. He didn’t have any su­per pow­ers. He was just a work­ing class bloke. He had a wicked sense of hu­mour. Re­cently, after the Bat­man and Su­per­man films, I met with Warn­ers TV and they said, ‘ Will you do a DC TV project? You can have any­one.’ I said, ‘ I want Con­stan­tine. He’s the one I want.’ I also felt like he was some­one who would trans­late into tele­vi­sion with­out us hav­ing to change the core DNA of the character.”

“At this point we’re re­ally try­ing to hon­our the character as he was put forth in the comic,” ex­plains Goyer’s showrun­ner Daniel Cerone, who’s joined him to­day in speak­ing with SFX. “That re­ally has be­come our mantra and our bi­ble. It’s very chal­leng­ing, be­cause there are go­ing to be fans who you know are hard­core Con­stan­tine fans, who are in­stantly go­ing to re­act when they see this character trans­lated to tele­vi­sion. Be­cause it’s not gonna be what they saw in their heads. But that’s not go­ing to stop us from do­ing our best to take this character and put him in a pro­ducible tele­vi­sion en­vi­ron­ment.”

too graphic?

Since Con­stan­tine is broad­cast on the NBC net­work state­side, fans may be scep­ti­cal as to how those su­per­nat­u­ral sto­ries – yield­ing some of the most graphic im­agery in main­stream comics – will trans­late to net­work tele­vi­sion. The pro­duc­ers point out that NBC also airs Bryan Fuller’s Han­ni­bal, with its once too- taboo- for- TV sub­ject of can­ni­bal­ism.

“They’re push­ing us,” says Cerone. “You know, I was a showrun­ner for the first two sea­sons of Show­time’s Dex­ter, and our de­vel­op­ment ex­ec­u­tive at NBC and the pres­i­dent of Show­time at the time, they were the two su­per­vis­ing ex­ec­u­tives on Dex­ter. That’s their sen­si­bil­ity. They want to bring that kind of edge, that kind of dark­ness, that kind of moral am­bi­gu­ity. They want to bring it to net­work tele­vi­sion, and they’re push­ing hard for it. We feel like we’re the ben­e­fi­cia­ries. What we want to do is find a bal­ance be­tween the dark­ness and the hu­man­ity. At the end of the day, Con­stan­tine is a hu­man­i­tar­ian.”

That side of the character is ex­am­ined in the pi­lot, in which Con­stan­tine learns his soul is damned to hell, but that he might still save it through fac­ing Goyer’s “ris­ing dark­ness” ( a premise bor­rowed from his first Swamp Thing sto­ry­line, “Amer­i­can Gothic”).

“That’s one of the age- old ques­tions un­der­lin­ing a lot of our re­li­gions,” says Goyer. “Should we be good be­cause there’s a re­ward or should we be good to be good? That quandary is some­thing we’ll be deal­ing with.”

Join­ing Con­stan­tine in his mis­sion is Hell­blazer’s Zed, a street­wise psy­chic with a trou­bled back­ground, played by Mex­i­can ac­tress Angélica Ce­laya, whom Cerone says, “can go toe to toe with John.

“Any­body who knows Con­stan­tine’s mythol­ogy knows her story and what hap­pened to her. She just opens up all kinds of pos­si­bil­i­ties for us too. There’s all kinds of great fod­der there. So we are stak­ing out tent­poles that we can build on in the fu­ture.”

Though the pi­lot fea­tures Lucy Grif­fiths’ Liv Aberdeen as its lead­ing lady, Goyer and Cerone elected to re­place her with Con­stan­tine’s long­time comic book col­league.

“Liv is a great character,” says Cerone. “She’s very wide- eyed. [ But] she doesn’t have power, and when we started look­ing at sto­ries we felt like this was a character that was al­ways go­ing to be re­ac­tive. She was our in­ven­tion, and we felt a bit ham­strung by her, frankly. Whereas Zed is some­one who al­ready has pow­ers when she meets John. She has a very dark past. Ul­ti­mately that’s what we felt like we needed. We wanted a more dy­namic re­la­tion­ship, as op­posed to some­one who was al­ways a teacher and a stu­dent.”

back­ing crew

In ad­di­tion to Zed, Con­stan­tine also re­ceives support from Manny, an an­gel, played by Lost’s Harold Per­rineau. Goyer is quick to de­scribe Manny as “an Old Tes­ta­ment an­gel”.

“He re­mem­bers the Old Tes­ta­ment days,” adds Cerone. “He re­mem­bers the god that’d wipe out Sodom and Go­mor­rah, and he’s like, ‘ Those were the days when stuff got done!’”

“We’re go­ing to play around with it,” teases Goyer. “That there’s all th­ese dif­fer­ent de­pic­tions of God and the an­gels in heaven.

Sea­son one’s sto­ry­line also sees Per­rineau’s fel­low Lost star Jeremy Davies in the re­cur­ring role of Con­stan­tine’s “Q” – Dr Richie Simp­son – along with True De­tec­tive’s Charles Hal­ford as Chas Chandler, Con­stan­tine’s near im­mor­tal old­est friend.

“We’re not adapt­ing any one spe­cific sto­ry­line, “says Goyer. “We’ll be sort of weav­ing in and out of them. But hard­core fans of the books will feel that it’s a very au­then­tic in­ter­pre­ta­tion of the character.”

Like the gate­way drug he is, Con­stan­tine, Goyer con­firms, will open the door for DC’s uni­verse of su­per­nat­u­ral he­roes. Doc­tor Fate’s hel­met, a har­bin­ger of things to come, is one of sev­eral Easter eggs vis­i­ble in the pi­lot.

“We’ve been given per­mis­sion from DC Comics to use other peo­ple from the oc­cult DC uni­verse,” says Goyer. We don’t want to make [ each one] the guest star of the week. But we’ll be rolling out a cou­ple in the first sea­son. The goal is that they’re here as re­cur­ring char­ac­ters. It’s not just in and out.”

“In suc­cess, we can branch out and do any num­ber of things,” says Cerone.

But, adds Goyer, “We have to start with John.” Con­stan­tine is broad­cast on NBC in the US from Oc­to­ber.

“fans will feel it’s very au­then­tic”

The mak­ers prom­ise not to stint on the de­monic ac­tiv­ity.

Quite lit­er­ally play­ing with fire.

Sea­son one will take place across Amer­ica and in some very spooky places…

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