From executive producer David S. Goyer and director Neil Marshall, Constantine is based on the wildly popular comic book series Hellblazer from DC Comics. John Constantine (Matt Ryan) is a seasoned demon hunter and master of the occult, armed with a ferocious knowledge of the dark arts and his wicked wit, but his soul is already damned to hell.
While at the NBC portion of the TCA Press Tour, David S. Goyer talked about when he was first introduced to Constantine in the comics, what he loved about the character, why they decided to call the series Constantine instead of Hellblazer, how they saw over 500 people for the role of John Constantine, the comic book storyline they were inspired by for the start of the show, how they’ll handle things like the smoking and his bisexuality, the creative input they get from Geoff Johns and DC Entertainment, introducing other characters from the supernatural and occult universe, why they chose to replace the character of Liv (played by Lucy Griffiths in the pilot) with Zed (Angelica Celaya), and how he’d like to find the time to write a comic book again. Check out what he had to say after the jump.
DAVID S. GOYER: Constantine was introduced in a comic book called Swamp Thing. During that run, I actually had a letter printed in one of the letters pages. I was a young teenager.
What was it about the character that interested you so much, back then, and what made you want to do a show with the character now?
GOYER: The thing that I always loved about Constantine is that he was a smart-ass. In a world of superheroes, and of demons and angels, he was just a complete smart-ass. He didn’t have any superpowers. He was just a working-class bloke with a wicked sense of humor. And so, recently, after the Batman and Superman films, I met with Warners TV, and they said, “Will you do a DC TV project?” And I said, “I want Constantine. He’s the one I want.” I also felt like it was someone that would translate into television without us having to change the core DNA of the character.
Was Hellblazer ever a possible title for this show?
GOYER: I don’t think it was precluded. Constantine is the character. There had been a previous film that was released under that title. In The New 52, which is what DC Comics had re-booted the character with, they decided to name the comic book Constantine, as well. So, we just decided to go with the flow.
GOYER: Very hard. I think we saw over 500 people, but when we saw Matt, we loved him. He was doing a Shakespeare play with Jude Law and he had this giant beard, but we knew, immediately, that he was the guy. In order to convince NBC, we had to wait for his play to end and for him to shave his beard. If you know the comics at all, he just leapt off the page. It’s amazing.
What were the comic book storylines you focused on?
GOYER: It’s not like Game of Thrones where we’re saying, “Okay, we’re going to do book three and that’s going to be our first season.” I would say that the first season of our show is loosely tracking a version of the storyline in which John was introduced, which is American Gothic. That was certainly the inspiration for it.
How are you handling the fact that this is a character known for being a smoker?
GOYER: He is a smoker in the show. We’re not shying away from it, but we’re not glorifying it.
Constantine was bisexual in the comic books. Will that be touched upon, in the show?
GOYER: I think I get this question for every show that I’m working on. I will say that was a much later storyline.
What kind of creative input did you get from Geoff Johns at DC Entertainment?
GOYER: Lots. Geoff is one of my best friends, so we’re incredibly tight. I’ve got a long working history with DC and Geoff. First and foremost, what they do is make sure that the DNA of the character is true to the character. Geoff was at all the pitch sessions and at the read-throughs. We wrote the Dr. Fate helmet in the pilot, which is another character from the comic books that may show up later on. And then, Geoff said, “Hey, why don’t we throw in a bunch of other Easter eggs from the DC universe?” That was their idea.
Have you thought about the possibility of launching a number of supernatural properties from Constantine?
GOYER: Yes, we have said that. The intention is that we’ve got DC’s occult universe open to us, and the fact that we had Doctor Fate’s helmet in the pilot is a clear indication that we’re going to be doing that. We’re introducing another character from the DC universe within the first eight or nine episodes, as well.
In a major way, or just a cameo?
GOYER: In a recurring way. We’ll see where it goes, but it’s not just characters from Hellblazer. The occult world is open to us.
Should we only expect one other DC character to be on this season, or could we get our hopes up for more?
GOYER: It’s possible that there will be more than one. In terms of where we’re at in the storyline so far, we’re only working with one. I do want to be clear though that this show, hopefully, will be appreciated by people who aren’t just comic book fans. We’re not just making it for people like me.
Does the fact that you might want to use a character in a movie have any bearing on the show?
GOYER: I think there’s been a decision that it’s okay to cross-promote these characters, and that the audience can take it.
Could the actors move between TV and film?
GOYER: That, to me feels, like a huge headache, but I guess we’ll see what happens.
GOYER: I’m not the first person to say this, but I’ve long said that comic books are the modern equivalent of our Greek myths. It’s also what the farm team is for baseball. You can beta test all of these concepts, but you’re dealing with these outsized characters and these outsized themes. Part of it is also that the technology is catching up. Even the stuff that we did in Constantine might not have been possible, 10 years ago. I’m just fortunate that the stuff that I’m interested in happens to be big with the audiences right now.
Why do you think you’re the DC guy?
GOYER: I have done Marvel. Blade was Marvel. I don’t know. When I was a kid, I read many more Marvel comics than I did DC. As I got older, in high school and then in college, I started reading more DC. I’m not sure why. Like begets like, to a certain extent. Geoff and I hang out all the time, and I’ve written DC comics. At a certain point, it just felt like that was the more comfortable universe to play in.
Comic books are serialized, so does that make them fit better on TV?
GOYER: Well, I’d like to think that I’ve adapted them for movies fairly well, but I think that they can lend themselves to TV. We haven’t seen a lot of comic book shows, in recent memory. There was Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. last year, but one of the things that’s nice about TV is that you can do more serialized storytelling. Our show is both episodic and serialized, so that’s exciting. One can argue that comic books lend themselves to that medium a bit more.
What are the dangers of too many comic book shows?
GOYER: I guess it’s always possible that we’ll saturate the market. The thing I think sets us apart from some of the other shows is that he’s not a costumed superhero. He’s not a vigilante. He doesn’t have any superpowers. Comic books aren’t just about guys with tights. American Splendor was based on a comic book. Road to Perdition was based on a comic book. Ghost World was based on a comic book. Persepolis was based on a comic book. This is another genre. It’s not a superhero genre. It’s a horror genre, and a suspense genre.
Could a character from an NBC/DC show appear on a CW/DC show, or vice versa?
GOYER: You mean the same actor, or the same character? Obviously, you could see the character because it’s up to DC. The same actor, I guess if legal could work it out. We’ll see. Listen, we want to get on the air first.
You recently announced that you’d be dropping the character of Liv, for creative and storytelling reasons, and instead add Zed to the story. What led to that decision?
GOYER: One of the things that happens in the writers’ room, after the pilot, is that you sit down and say, “Okay, we’re going to break the season.” We started beating out the stories, and we had originally thought about Zed when we were writing the pilot. Then, we started writing ourselves into a corner and we said, “Why didn’t we use Zed?” And we just decided, “Let’s use Zed.”
Liv was able to sense crimes on the map of the U.S. What does that look like, moving forward? Do you still intend to follow that, around the country?
GOYER: We’re re-shooting one little scene from the pilot. John has the map. At least initially, that’s a very useful tool, in terms of where the blood stigmata has billowed up on the map of the country. The show is a road show, and sometimes we’ll even be going outside of the continental United States.
Are you worried about setting up the Liv story with audiences, and then dropping it?
GOYER: No. Sometimes that happens in a pilot, where you’ll recast a character and re-shoot it. But, we decided that we didn’t need to do that. One of the hallmarks of John is that his friends drop like flies. People tend to die around him. They almost all die. It’s his curse. It’s the price of doing business. At the end of the day, he is this classic noir character who often ends up alone. We thought it was actually consistent with the character. Lucy did a great job in the pilot.
Will Jeremy Davies be a regular?
GOYER: He’ll be recurring.
Where do you want to keep up the DC comic book work, and where do you want to make time to do your own thing?
GOYER: I’ve got another show on TV, right now, that is not comic book, called Da Vinci’s Demons. I have a number of projects that I’m developing that aren’t comic book based. Hopefully, I’ll spend some time doing some comic book stuff, and spend some time not doing comic book stuff. I love comic books. I was weaned on them, so it’s not like it’s a stretch for me, but I have other interests, as well.
Do you have your original Constantine or Hellblazer issues?
GOYER: I do.
Do you have any plans to write a comic book?
GOYER: I would love to, if I can find the time. I’ve been trying to kick around something with Geoff Johns again. It’s just a question of finding the time.
Might there be an adaptation of this show in DC?
GOYER: It’s possible.
Constantine premieres on NBC on October 24th.