Appropriately enough, John Constantine, born in the pages of DC’s Swamp Thing and, then, Hellblazer, is the character that simply will not die. He was brought to life in 2014 as the single-season NBC series Constantine, starring Matt Ryan in the title role. Since then, of course, Ryan has reprised the role vocally in, for instance, the animated film Justice League Dark, and in live action on Arrow and a recurring role on Legends of Tomorrow that will see him become a series regular in the fourth season.
In preparation of that, what follows is the start of an exclusive weekly behind the scenes look back at each episode of Constantine, featuring the voices of Ryan, series executive producer Daniel Cerone and others.
Episode 1: “Non Est Asylum”
Written by Danel Cerone from a story by Daniel Cerone & David S. Goyer; Directed by Neil Marshall
Original Airdate: October 24, 2014
Summary: John Constantine, the self-proclaimed master of the dark arts, is recovering in a mental institution following a failed exorcism that resulted in his soul being damned. He comes into contact with Liv Aberdine, who is threatened by supernatural forces. He provides her a pendant that had belonged to her father, which provides her with the ability to see trapped souls. What he eventually learns is that she is being pursued by the demon Furcifer. Teaming with Ritchie Simpson, the hacker who had been a part of the failed exorcism, they manage to send Furcifer back to hell. In the aftermath, Ritchie convinces Liv to stay away from Constantine, while Constantine, in turn, finds himself forming an uneasy, tentative alliance with an angel named Manny.
Daniel Cerone (executive producer): I’ll always remember the pilot fondly — God, it sold the series. We had an amazing creative team, and NBC gave us a fair amount of money to spend, so we were really able to blow it out for the pilot and really create some expectations. Probably the biggest challenge of the pilot was that by the end of it, we felt that one of the main characters, Lucy Griffith’s character, wasn’t working in the context of the show. Her character was Liv, and the series was set up to be a two-fixture between John Constantine and Liv. She was created as this sort of window for the audience into this dark and unexpected world, but when the character didn’t work, it really left us in a lurch. We had to reshoot a couple of scenes at the end and figure out a way to write the character out. It created challenges moving forward, too, because then we had to introduce a new character. So the pilot was probably the best of times and the worst of times. On one hand, a beautifully produced production and the fun of discovery. And Matt Ryan just nailed John Constantine.
Mark Verheiden (executive producer): I thought the pilot was very well done. Matt was Amazing. I’ll tell you the truth: I enjoyed the CGI stuff they were doing, but I think I was hoping, going into the show, that we could get a little creepier, a little less sort of CGI riffs in hell type of thing. But in the pilot, I thought some of the scares were good. And the opening in the insane asylum where Constantine is with all the bugs coming out of the wall and the place goes crazy? That is so Constantine. If I remember correctly, when I signed on, I’d only see that scene. I don’t remember actually seeing the pilot until I was on the show, but it felt like Constantine just based on that scene. Beyond that, if you talk to David Goyer and Daniel Cerone, there’s a love from those two guys for the character that made it clear that this wasn’t just some knockoff that you’re doing in between whatever else you happen to be doing. They cared enormously about the character. When you get into a show, you want to make sure everybody really gets it. Obviously, they did.
Matt Ryan (actor, “John Constantine”): On the pilot, I felt the pressure, but also the way that Daniel Cerone and David Goyer and everyone kind of got behind me stepping into this thing. And obviously, you know, shooting something so fast after getting the part, you’ll only have a certain amount of time to do your research. I always felt that I needed to read all of the comics before I even started, but obviously, that would have been impossible. I still haven’t read them all, and I always felt there’s something in there that I could’ve gotten to. But the pilot is the first time you’re doing anything. You’re figuring out the character and the tone of the show. At the same time, this is the pilot, so you have a little bit more time than you do with all the other episodes, you know? I think we filmed it in 14 days, and we filmed the other episodes in nine days. Neil Marshall is just a fantastic director. He had such confidence me, which was amazing. Those are the things I really remember, just feeling my way into the character. I had a really, really good time on it.”
We’ll see you next week for a behind-the-scenes look at the second episode of Constantine!
Images: NBC, Warner Bros