The Indy Pop Con, July 7 – 9, hosted many different entertainment guests, including the star of Constantine, Matt Ryan. During his panel, he discussed early roles, working on a video game, and returning to Constantine.
When an actor starts their career, the parts available may not be stellar. The moderator started the panel with questions about Blood Monkey. From his reaction, we can tell he doesn’t consider the 2007 film to be quality cinema. Matt remembers he thought it would be an amazing experience because he would be working with Academy Award winner F. Murray Abraham (Amadeus), but the cast ended up running around a jungle in Thailand chasing a monkey that wasn’t there. “It’s probably not worth your time watching or downloading,” Matt said. “It’s about an hour and a half of your life you’ll never get back.”
You can watch a trailer of the film, featuring Matt with glorious long hair, here. Currently, Blood Monkey is available on Amazon.
After more TV and film projects, Matt got the role of Edward Kenway in Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag. When he first auditioned, he was told the project was a TV show about pirates. Matt made it to the second round, and he was told the truth – this was a video game, and he would be expected to do the voice and full motion capture. In film and television, actors usually get full scripts, but that is rare in video games because the script can be hundreds of pages long, which was the case for Black Flag. Armed with portions of the script, Matt put his trust in the director and creative team. About the experience, Matt said, “Now it’s become this amazing medium which so many actors want to work in, but at the time the whole mo-cap industry wasn’t that big. But it’s great. It’s like doing theater and television at the same time because there’s cameras all around you, but, unlike television, you can’t stop doing a take; you have to do the take all the way through because of the way the cameras work. Now maybe this has changed because this was a few years ago, and I know they’ve gotten much better at it. But it’s a kind of weird hybrid in terms of technique of acting of between stage and screen. And to do something that I’ve never done before was a real challenge that I was really looking forward to.”
In 2014, Matt starred in NBC’s Constantine, a DC comics character. John Constantine, created by Alan Moore, first appeared in Swamp Thing #37 as a spiritual advisor. Over time, the magician has morphed into a hard-smoking con-man with an immense ego who is always on his own side. In 1998, Constantine starred in his own series, Hellblazer, which was rebooted as part of DC’s Rebirth event in 2016.
Matt had to jump through multiple hoops to land the part. During the audition process, he starred in a play in London, and with long hair and a beard, he didn’t look the part. Fortunately, after seeing over a hundred actors, the role was available. Matt hopped on a plane, a friend in LA got him a trim and a shave, and after more auditions, the role was his. To research the role, a friend told him to bypass the Keanu Reeves film and dive into Dangerous Habits, a story arc (issues 34-46 of Hellblazer) written by Garth Ennis with art by Will Simpson.
The comics were a valuable resource during filming. Matt described carrying the comic with him; when he needed a reference, Constantine was there on the page, all the physical mannerisms and speech patterns. He read as much as he could, and he trusted the writers because they knew the characters very well. Matt said Constantine was a “dream role, such an iconic role.”
Unfortunately, NBC didn’t like Constantine as much as the fans did. Matt was disappointed the show got cancelled, but relieved the fans enjoyed his performance. For Matt, the love of the fans “has been the most amazing thing about this whole experience,” and the fans’ appreciation is why he returned to portraying Constantine on Arrow, Justice League Dark, and the upcoming CW Seed animated series.
Going back to Arrow was unexpected. Matt was starting a play at the time, so the producers rearranged the production schedule. They flew him in, dyed his hair, and flew him back to New York; in between takes, he learned the play. Matt admitted it took him time to find Constantine again and thought he walked like a duck during the scene where he held Oliver at gunpoint. Constantine appeared in the fifth episode of season four, “Haunted.”
Justice League Dark was released this year. The animated film has John working with Deadman, Zatanna, Swamp Thing, Jason Blood/Etrigan, and Batman to fight against a supernatural threat. Matt jumped at being the voice of Constantine, “It was great doing that movie because in the live-action television show, we didn’t get to interact with characters like Batman and Zatanna and Deadman and Swamp Thing and all these great characters. There are all these different relationships that John has with these characters so to explore that was brilliant.”
We got a clue about the upcoming CW Seed series when a fan asked him about speaking various languages on the show. Matt said about learning languages for the show, “That was probably one of the most difficult parts of it and one of the most time consuming as well in terms of learning your lines or the preparation you have to do to get the episode to the place where it’s ready to shoot.” He doesn’t remember any of the spells he learned for the show, but all the work prepared him for the new animated series, “I do a big voodoo spell in that. That was cool.”
Another fan asked Matt if he would be willing to voice Constantine if the character ever appeared in Injustice 2, a fighting game developed by NetherRealm Studios and published by Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment. The game, which is a sequel to Injustice: Gods Among Us (2013), is set in a dystopian timeline; multiple DC characters are in the game, but not John Constantine. Matt would be willing, saying Constantine can take on others by using spells. During his answer, Matt asked the audience, “Has Constantine ever interacted with the Joker?” The crowd couldn’t think of any such event. Matt went on, “That would be interesting, right? I mean, what would happen? Constantine could just like bind him with a spell or something, but I don’t think he would; I think they’d probably get on a little bit in some weird way or they’d certainly have a laugh before John went, ‘No, sorry, out.’”
By the end of the panel, it is clear Matt Ryan has enjoyed playing Constantine multiple times and experiencing the different takes each creative team has brought to the character. “For me, I think, it’s just been such a pleasure and honor to play a character like John Constantine, and for all you guys to like me playing him, that’s the great thing, so if I have a chance to play him again, I would probably jump at it.”
And your fans hope you get that chance again.