Matt Ryan was a guest at Wizard World Comic Con Cleveland this weekend and took the time to sit with fans to talk about his experience acting and playing Constantine.
Below is some of the Q & A from the panel:
Q: How did you get introduced to acting? Did you always want to be an actor?
A: Well, my mom was a dance teacher so as a kid, I was in dance and plays, but during middle and high School, I dropped out of theatre. When I went to college, I wanted to be a sound engineer, but the program was fully comprehensive so you have to sing, dance, act, do lighting, all of that, and while I was there I met two of my best friends Joseph Morgan (The Vampire Diaries, The Originals) and Leon Davis, and they got me back into acting and right out of school I got a lead role in a production for the Royal Shakespeare Company.
Q: You have been in a lot lately from TV to video games to theatre, which is your favorite?
A: It’s always really hard for me to pick a favorite medium because I always love having that variety. Since I started branching out into TV shows I always try and get back to the stage in between things because switching between motion capture, voice acting, live action, and theatre keeps me diverse. I have always loved theatre though because you are the tool for your own vision. In TV and film you are sort of acting out what the editors and producers will turn into the final product.
Q: Moving on to Constantine, had you known anything about the character before you started auditioning and filming?
A: I was doing a play in London, another Shakespeare play, and I had long hair, and a big beard running around plying a 14th Century Welshman, and I had heard of Hellblazer and Constantine through a friend of mine who is a huge comic book fan of the Hellblazer comics and also had his own comic book company in the U.K. and I had watched the Keanu Reeves movie but had not equated the two characters together. When I started to read the comic books, I was like “Oh, he’s a Brit with a yellow trench coat and yellow hair” Then I just sort of dived into the comic books and I read a bit of Dangerous Habits before the first round of meetings. I went through quite a long audition process because I was in London and I couldn’t get to Los Angeles to meet everyone so I was putting myself on tape, but I had long hair and a big beard so the producers really liked me and the creators really liked me, but I think there were a few people who said, “Well, I just don’t see it.” I had to wait until I finished the play and luckily, they still hadn’t cast the role, so I flew to LA, cut my hair off, shaved my hair, walked in and eventually got the role, but I think I must have done about 14 or 15 tapes before getting the part.
Q: Yea it was such a great series and it was a real shame that it got cancelled. I think it was due to a delayed audience or whatever the industry term is, but how did it feel having a network come in and basically shut you down?
A: The difficult thing was, we had done 13 episodes, and they didn’t actually cancel us. They said, ‘we’re not going to pick you up, but we’re not going to cancel you, so I was in this kind of limbo. I was sort of glad we weren’t doing another nine episodes because I was so exhausted because John is the title character, and I was in every scene every day doing 16 or 17 hour days sometimes and it was just like I need a rest. I was happy for that but I was in this kind of limbo where I couldn’t look for other work because I was committed to the show, but I also wasn’t working so I just took a long holiday. I was disappointed when the show didn’t get picked up, and I think because were at 10:00 on a Friday and most of the demographic wasn’t home at that time on a Friday night, that didn’t do us any favors. I love that there was a large following for the show, and I have to say that the best thing about the show getting canceled when you’re the lead character is when it’s not your fault. I am so glad it wasn’t my fault and the support from the fans has been amazing and that’s why I am still playing the character today is because of all of you guys. I am forever grateful for that.
Q: How do you like the character in Legends of Tomorrow?
A: It’s great. After the episode of Arrow, I thought he was done. I thought that would be the last time I would play the character. Then they called about the Justice League Dark animation and I thought that was cool. Then they called about the Constantine animation series and then about Legends of Tomorrow and not they will not let this guy go will they? I obviously had worked with Caity a little it on Arrow, so I was excited about how John would fit into that storyline. What was great about it was that it felt natural that John was in the mix with all those misfits and those guys are so cool to work with as well. I really like the dynamic between John and Sara.
Q: Let’s talk about the Arrow episode that really kept the character alive. How did that come about?
A: Well they decided not to pick the TV show up and I had just accepted to do a play on Broadway with Kiera Knightly and I was really excited about it, and heard they had talked at San Diego Comic Con about me doing something as John on Arrow, and I thought, “That’s interesting, no one told me that,” but I was busy doing this play so when they asked if I could do it, I had to tell them no because it was at the same time as the play. They then moved the episodes around and changed all of their schedules so that they could fly me in, dye my hair blonde, play John Constantine, fly me back, dye my hair black, and do the play. They shuffled everything around to fit me in, and I was really pleased because that gave birth to the character in the Arrowverse and then continued to where we are today which is great.
Q: How did the animation come out?
A: Well, it’s really funny actually, because by that time, I really thought the character was dead. I was on holiday and I get an email from David Goyer talking about an animated series, and he asked if I would do the voice, and all I had to say was, “I’m in.” I love the character so much, and doing the character in the medium and doing the voice work is so much fun because you’re in a booth all day and you have such a good laugh. I actually asked them if I could play the voice of some demons as well, so that’s pretty cool. Those [animation] guys are so talented. It takes them a long time but they are so talented and the work that they put in. They know these characters so well, and they get to know them so well because they are drawing them and embodying them in a different way like actors do in live-action.
Q: Do you think the CW will pick up a live-action Constantine?
A: I don’t know. I am always the last to know these things. What’s great is that I am here today because of you guys and because the fans like the show so much. I can only say that I love playing the character and it wouldn’t be something I am against at all. Never say never though, but at the moment there are no plans that I know of.
Q: Do you feel like he fits better in that Legends role or as is own series?
A: I don’t know. What’s great about that character is that in all of the Arrowverse or DC worlds is that you can drop the character anywhere, and he is bound to make a bit of a mess and stir things up a bit and that’s what’s great about him.
Q: Are there any heroes or villains that Constantine hasn’t teamed up with yet that you would like to see?
A: I always thought, “How would he be with the Joker?” Most of the time, when I think of John in a situation with other heroes, I can kind of picture what would happen. But the Joker, I don’t know, it’s really a different one. With the Joker, I think the Joker would like John Constantine because he’s a dark soul. They could almost be friends, but there is a bit of John’s soul that won’t let it happen. It’s an interesting dynamic.
Q: How do you memorize all the spells?
A: That is really difficult. It’s easier on Arrow and Legends of Tomorrow because I have time. When I was doing the live action show, I hardly had any time, so I would get the script for the next episode as I was trying to learn Aramaic for this episode. What they would do is have language experts teach us the language, but what was difficult is that I was always trying to get the sounds right. One episode, I spoke Aramaic, Arabic, Latin, Greek, and there were like four or five different languages. I could get the pronunciations right, but I couldn’t remember them. It was difficult, but the good thing is that you can’t be precious about things. You have to jump in head first. It was a lot tougher on Constantine than on the others. Somebody on Arrow said, ‘but you know all these spells,’ and I was like, “You think I remember these spells from four years ago? I couldn’t even remember them then.”
Q: If Constantine was picked up, would you want to start where you left of or start fresh?
A: I would like to know what happened. I would like to see what happened, but then my favorite storyline from the comics is Dangerous Habits, so I’d like to get to that storyline as fast as possible. I think where we were very far away which means there were so many great stories to explore, but I’d like to find out what happened. The Family Man as well was one of my favorites, and I would like to see John explore his humanity.
You can see Matt Ryan play John Constantine again on Legends of Tomorrow on March 19th and the animated web series Constantine premiering on the CW Seed on March 24th.