An accomplished stage actor, and former member of the prestigious Royal Shakespeare Company, Supa-Star Matt Ryan had no idea what was in store for him when he was first cast in the role of DC/Vertigo’s fan-favourite Master of the Dark Arts, John Constantine.
Ryan had barely begun work on the pilot episode of the 2014 Constantine TV series when he first encountered the fandom which would come to embrace him whole-heartedly and refuse to let go.
Having only a small handful of television credits to his name, and with his own show still in the early stages of production, Ryan’s first-ever real public appearance at San Diego Comic-Con was a real eye-opener.
“We had only just shot the pilot and I flew in, and the next minute my face was on buttons. There were big billboards everywhere, and it was just crazy. It was absolute mayhem, but a wonderful, wonderful experience.”
With a portrayal of the DC character that nearly all agree is perfect casting, and with Ryan being so intent on ensuring that his own performance is loyal to the source material, it was only natural that everyone rallied behind him so early in the game. Ryan counts himself extremely fortunate for landing the role and the following that came along with it.
“I feel really lucky to have got to play John Constantine, and really engage with this fanbase, this demographic. I think they’re the best, and they’re so loyal and such nice people.”
Though not everyone, Ryan least of all, thought that the run he has had in the role would have lasted as long as it has. After only 13 episodes, NBC announced the cancellation of Constantine and many assumed that would have been the end of his turn in the magician’s trench coat. But, just like someone with access to his own personal Lazarus pit, Constantine simply refuses to go quietly into that long, good night.
“At every point in this journey with this character I’ve always thought it was over, you know? The NBC show got cancelled, I thought it was over then. Then they brought me into Arrow, and I thought it was over then. Then they got me to do the Justice League Dark animated film, and I thought it was over then. Then the Constantine: City of Demons animation, I thought it was over then. And then, obviously Legends of Tomorrow. At every point in this journey, I thought it was over, and they keep pulling me back in.”
It’s clear that people want more of Ryan’s take on the street-wise magician. Even years after the initial NBC cancellation, people are still launching a swathe of online petitions and social media hashtags aimed at bringing a second season of the show back to life.
Given the history of the character and his origins in the Swamp Thing comics, when asked if there was any possibility of him popping up in the forthcoming Swamp Thing series being produced for the DC Universe streaming platform, he had this to say:
“I’ve heard that they are doing that on the DCU online, on which I recently watched Titans which I absolutely loved. I loved the fact it was able to go a little bit darker with it, swear and stuff like that. There’s no news yet if I am going to be, I don’t know. I mean Constantine was introduced in Swamp Thing, so I suppose at some point they will have to have a Constantine on that show, but whether that’s me or not, I don’t know. But I’m sure that Swamp Thing will be a great show and I’m looking forward to seeing it.”
Either way, Ryan seems more than willing to keep wearing Constantine’s trench coat for as long as they want him too, having become a massive fan of the original comics since first landing an audition for the role.
“When I found out that I had the audition, I talked to a friend of mine, he has a comic book store, and he actually has his own comic book company. I knew that his favourite comic book was Hellblazer and his favourite comic book character was John Constantine, so as soon as I was up for the role I gave him a call and he gave me the Dangerous Habits run and he said, ‘There you go, you’ve got to read that.’
“He told me a bunch of tips and jokes about the character, and then after that, I was hooked, I just carried on reading the comic and I’m still reading them now. But I’ve read so many of them now, and I continue to read them because I absolutely adore them, especially all that early stuff, you know? I think it’s so gritty and political and very current of the times as well.”
While Ryan’s fans can probably all agree on how well he brings his character to life, when he heads to Australia, they will be pleased to know that he is nowhere near as cantankerous in real-life as he appears on the screen. Instead, he is really just a friendly, down-to-earth guy, unlike Constantine who is “a selfish, arrogant git”, who “is someone who would sacrifice his best friend for the greater good”.
That said, Ryan still does manage to share a good dose of his character’s trademark “roguish charm” and is someone who clearly loves what it is he does and hopes to continue doing it for as long as he possibly can.
When asked if he had any final message to Supanova attendees he said, “Just come and say hello, don’t be shy. I’m a very personable guy and I’m looking forward to meeting everyone in Melbourne and on the Gold Coast, and I’m just really looking forward to being back in Australia.”
Matt Ryan will appear at Supanova Comic Con & Gaming Melbourne (6-7 April) and Gold Coast (13-14 April).