You would be hard-pressed to find an actor as passionate about a role as MATT RYAN is about portraying John Constantine. It's a shame that hopes for a multi-season CONSTANTINE show were dashed early on but luckily, good news wasn't far off. Following CONSTANTINE's cancellation in 2015, Ryan only had months to wait before returning to the character, this time in the CW's popular ‘ARROWVERSE’ continuity. He appeared in an episode of ARROW and was later bumped up to series regular on LEGENDS OF TOMORROW, giving him ample room to explore and enjoy the fan-favourite character. His live-action turn as the chain-smoking occult detective eventually took him into the DC Animated Universe (DCAU), where he portrayed Constantine in JUSTICE LEAGUE DARK and now its series-capping sequel, JUSTICE LEAGUE DARK: APOKOLIPS WAR. We chatted with Ryan about the new film, Constantine's role in it, and how the character evolves after the world goes to shit…
STARBURST: Tell us a bit about what John Constantine is up to in Apokolips War for our readers who haven't seen it yet. We’re also interested in how he's challenged as a character and as the leader of Justice League Dark.
Matt Ryan: So John is obviously the leader of Justice League Dark and he's in a relationship with Zatanna, so that's sort of what pulls him into this situation and he's there to help out with this world-threatening situation. And what's interesting is that all of the Justice League and all of the other heroes in the whole canon of the DC world are up against this terrible, terrible power. And ultimately they need John Constantine to help them but John's not as reliable as most people. So he goes through a little bit of an emotional struggle before he can really, really get involved.
Constantine is definitely the highlight. He kind of takes over the whole Justice League. He's kind of the one who leads the charge.
What I like about it is you look at all the different superpowers and all the heroes in the DC world and it's little John Constantine who really gets things going. John Constantine was a blue-collar, working-class street magician, and you've got all these superpowers, Batman, Superman, Flash, he's the one they need. And I really like that.
Do you think he changes or grows during the movie? What kind of evolution does he go through here?
A huge one. He really does go through a transformation with the world being what it is. The world is in complete disarray and John definitely does best in those circumstances. He turns to the bottle and he needs a real kick in the ass to get him going again. But I really do feel that he goes on a huge journey with loss and love and a struggle to save the world and overcome his own inhibitions to team up and join with these unlikely companions to save the world.
Something that's really different about this movie is its emphasis on consequences and how the heroes have to deal with them. And Constantine doesn't do well with consequences. He tends to drown them. Like you said, boozin' it up and chain-smoking and stuff like that. Do you think he rises to the occasion and meets these consequences head-on?
John is not good with consequences at all. But there's something that I absolutely love about this character. When you take him to the edge, he will stand up. There's something about him that even when he's in the depths of hell, sometimes literally, or when the world has literally gone to shit, that I love. There's that spark of humanity in him that will drive him to save the world. He deflects, he drinks, but eventually he gets there and rises up to the occasion. He's just this blue-collar guy and we need him to save the world.
There's a moment in the film where shit's kinda hitting the fan and there's a moment where Constantine goes, “Well, it's too late to turn back now so we might as well see it through.” And that kind of encapsulates what you're saying. He changes by the end. He's in it to win it. Or give it his best shot, at the very least.
Yeah, totally. He does things off the cuff but if he focuses his attention on you and really goes after you, his adversaries better be quivering in their boots.
Can you expand a bit on what appeals to you so much about playing Constantine? You touched on it earlier but I'm really curious about it and kind of what goes through your head when you play him.
He's so three-dimensional and he's got all these complicated, human, normal kind of things going on, as well as all the demon shit. And that's something I love digging into and navigating that and playing the character in all these different mediums and scenarios. It's been great to flesh out the character across the board, really. He's a normal guy and the closest character to him in the DC world is Batman. They just share something in common there and there's something that attracts me to his humane kind of quality. Working class, normal guy quality. How he deals with torment and with the world how it is. His courage is questionable at times on the surface but below, the character is full of courage. I love playing John and working through scenes where he struggles with that.
JUSTICE LEAGUE DARK: APOKOLIPS WAR is available now on digital download, and on DVD and Blu-Ray