Inside Scoop: Chat With CONSTANTINE’S Matt Ryan [Part 1]

If you haven’t had a chance to catch Constantine yet, you’re missing out on some supernatural goodness. Matt Ryan plays John Constantine, a reluctant crusader against the forces of darkness. OHSOGRAY recently participated in a call with Ryan, who talked about the experience of bringing the Hellblazer anti-hero to the small screen. Here is part 1 of the interview.

Constantine airs Fridays at 10pm on NBC.

You’re playing a character that people already know from comic books or from the movies. How is that preparation different?

Matt Ryan: 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. 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 did the source material provide entry into the character?

Matt Ryan: The history is obviously very important to any character that’s had – when you create a character normally you create a whole back story for him no matter how big the role. All the backstory that you get throughout the comics, all the flashback stuff – his family, his sisters, his niece and all the aspects is fascinating.

His relationship with all the Newcastle crew is something that kind of – 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 backstory really which was something that you build upon from there.

Can you just take us through the casting process? How did you come to learn about this part and how extensive was the audition process for you before you got it?

Matt Ryan: 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. At the audition – it was pilot season obviously, so there were a lot of auditions coming up. 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? 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.

What was my favorite – I’d been on a movie called “Sunday Paper” about four or five years ago or something, and I actually bleached blonde my hair for that so it was kind of a similar look. So we sent out all the – but by that time I think I’d already done about four or four tapes or something, you know, with different notes. And I talked – I already had a conversation with Daniel and David as well, via Skype to give me notes and stuff.

So kept on doing all of these tapes and – but still, I had this – this big beard. And then I was going to kind of try and get a night off the play to fly over to test. But unfortunately due to some circumstances with a member of cast in the play, I wasn’t able to take a night off. I kind of had to let that test go really, in a way. And – and I think they used my tapes or something. But I think they couldn’t see past my beard. So I think everyone – they went back to the drawing board and started looking again.

[T]hey came back about a kind of week or so later and said look, we – we still really like you and, you know, we want you to – we want you to retape. So retaped again. So I ended up doing about – about six audition tapes or something. And I think one of the – one of the notes which was really funny was my agent said that David Goyer had mentioned that we really liked Sasquatch, no but he’d seen the beard. And eventually the play ended.

I ended on a Saturday night when I would have the kind of – the wrap party so to speak, of the play and jumped on a plane first thing in the morning, flew over. I think it was a holiday in America on that day so all of the – all of the hair salons were – were shut.

So I had to have a friend of mine come over – come over and cut my hair. And – and then the next day I went in and tested and then, you know, went to the – the studio – the studio network in process – testing process and then the – and then the network testing process.

And – and then eventually got there man. It was – it was – it was quite a ride to be honest with you. You know, it was quite a long process in that – it’s definitely the longest kind of audition process I’d been through. And it – and it was such a thrill then when I actually got the job, you know?

Coming from theater to this kind of show, what has been the biggest challenge for you in getting into this character?

Matt Ryan: First of all I think that – I always love switching between mediums. It’s – it’s always a great challenge. You do theater for six months and then you do a film and it’s just such a different medium, you know?

I think that that was kind of one of the biggest challenges at first is I’d been on stage doing a Shakespeare play swinging a sword and then the next minute, there’s a camera in my face. It takes you kind of a day of being on set to go oh, hang on, what’s this thing in my face again? Getting back into sync with working with a – with a camera operator and all that sort of stuff. So that was probably the biggest challenge.

I mean in terms of – in terms of character and development and all of – all of that, that’s all kind of based on – on the same stuff anyway and the same kind of techniques. You kind of approach it the – the same way. I think it’s more to do with the different kind of medium. That is the biggest challenge.