Matt Ryan Talks Raising Hell as Constantine on ‘Legends of Tomorrow’

Legends of Tomorrow
Jeff Weddell/The CW
(L-R): Maisie Richardson- Sellers as Amaya Jiwe/Vixen and Matt Ryan as Constantine in the "Daddy Darhkest" episode of DC's Legends of Tomorrow

You can’t keep a good demon-fighting Brit down. After being axed by NBC during his freshman season as DC Comics’ John Constantine in the series of the same name, Matt Ryan has resurrected the character for a guest spot on Arrow (to exorcise future-Legend Caity Lotz’s Lazarus Pit-crazed Sara Lance), an animated turn in the DC Animated Movie Justice League Dark and an upcoming Constantine cartoon on CW Seed.

But before that, he’s helping Legends of Tomorrow end its winter hiatus tonight with a genuinely scary mid-season premiere episode, “Daddy Darhkest,” that finds the Waverider crew in need of some spiritual assistance. Seems the demon Mallus that Sara ran into in the mid-season finale may have set his sights on the daughter of Damien Darhk (Courtney Ford) and, really, there is no one in the Arrowverse better suited for straightening out that sort of situation than our trench-coated, nicotine-craving Constantine.

I just watched the episode, and it’s a great Legends episode to bring the show back for people who’ve been waiting for it, but it also feels like a great Constantine episode.

Matt Ryan: It does, doesn’t it? Yeah, I thought that myself. I thought it turned out to be pretty dark, as well. I really liked that they went there with that. Yeah, I was really pleased with how it turned out.

Nick Zano, Matt Ryan, Constantine, Legends of Tomorrow

(L-R): Nick Zano as Nate Heywood/Steel and Matt Ryan as Constantine in “Daddy Darhkest” (Jeff Weddell/The CW)

Legends is usually pretty bright and light and funny, which they kept intact here, yet they really went out of their way to make this a horror episode, too.

I know, right? Yeah, I was actually surprised at that, because I did think that it would be slightly more watered down than it was. But when I read the episode, I absolutely loved it and I did feel it was very Constantine-driven. He was taking control of lots of the scenes. But yeah, I was really, really pleased actually with the tone of which they struck with it. There’s also those light bits in there as well, which you always get with John and the Legends crew, which is great.

How much backstory did you have to get filled in on this Mallus character before you came in? When you were reading the script, did you have any idea what they were talking about?

At first, I didn’t know anything! I had spoken with [executive producer] Marc Guggenheim, who’d been behind the storyline that they wanted to bring Constantine into this episode.

And we talked about mentioning Astra, as well. I thought that was kind of integral. These guys are time-travelers, and one of John’s major mess-ups in life—one of his major driving motivation factors— is what happened to Astra Logue [a girl he failed to save in the past] back in the day. So, one of my things was, why doesn’t he want to go back in time and change it?

Oh, right!

So we got a mention of that in there, which I thought was great for the character and also for the “Hellblazer” fans and the Constantine fans who know and understand John and that storyline, as well.

Nice. It’s funny, when we first see you onscreen, it’s like you are so at home in the Constantine costume.

Oh, thank you. It took a little bit of a while, you know. What was great about it is that it’s been a while since I played the character in a live-action show. So that first day that I was on set to shoot the last scene of Episode 9, it was great to just be there, put the clothes on and kind of fill them out again, you know?

I actually started going back and reading the comics, and the new “Hellblazer” books as well, so that I could kind of get back in touch with him. I had just finished doing a play in London where I was playing a guy who’s having a thick Yorkshire accent and so I started playing this guy again, working on the text, I suddenly was like, “that’s not his voice!” I was in the wrong voice, you know?

Clearly, you found the right one again.

Once I got that trench coat on, and I think after day two of filming, it was like a glove, man. It was so much fun. And you know, Caity [Lotz, who plays Sara] was great, as well. Obviously, I’d worked with her on Arrow, but she really made me feel at home here. I just kind of slotted-in with everyone, and it was a great experience.

You and Caity get involved in something that could rile up a lot of fans.

Hmm, it could do, eh? Who knows? [Laughs] I haven’t thought about that at all. I just try and do my job to the best of my ability, and the rest is up to everybody else, I suppose.

But what was great about it is the fact that, obviously, Caity’s character is bisexual, so to explore that a little bit and to see it’s easy for John, whatever takes his fancy at the moment, that was something fun to play with, as well. And I’m glad that they made something happen with those two characters because they’re both kind of commanding souls, you know? It’s kind of this perfect moment in a mental asylum.

People have been clamoring for Legends bringing Constantine on as a regular, and he would fit perfectly, but you sort of have the best of all worlds now that he’s also getting a cartoon on CW Seed.

Which I recorded last year or something! I’m about to go in and do another session on it. When the [NBC] show was canceled, it was a real shame, because I felt like we were really kind of getting some legs and we had figured out the tone of the show. There are so many great stories still in the “Hellblazer” canon, and John is such an amazing character. So it was disappointing.

But what’s been great is the fan power to bring me back onto Arrow. And then to do the Justice League Dark animated movie, the Constantine cartoon and Legends. I mean, look, he’s such a wonderful character to play, and for me, it’s the gift that keeps on giving. To get a chance to reprise this character in these different mediums is a real blessing, and I feel so lucky to get to play him.

Demons? Leave it to the expert. Constantine returns on a new DC’s #LegendsOfTomorrow TONIGHT at 8/7c on The CW!

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Now, for people who are just finding their way to this character, is there one specific “Hellblazer” book that you would suggest they pick up at the comic shop?

There is. I would say my favorite one is Dangerous Habits. It’s Garth Ennis’ [six-issue] run of the comics. That will tell you a lot about John Constantine. But I’d also say get into the new Hellblazer: Rebirth. The reason I say that is ’cause I just started reading it, and I think it’s really good because they’ve really gone there in terms of making it very slick. I’d say go for those two.

Legends of Tomorrow, Mondays, 8/7c, The CW