Every now and then an actor lands a role that somehow becomes almost synonymous with their name and face, and you could probably say that of Matt Ryan. After completing a performing arts course and graduating from the Bristol Old Vic theatre school he moved through a variety of television and movie roles before landing a part on American TV series Criminal Minds. His character Mick Rawson ended up in a spin-off series Criminal Minds: Suspect Behaviour which then lead into him landing that synonymous role of John Constantine on the NBC series Constantine.
He’s a memorable comic character, with his trenchcoat, cocky attitude and Master of the Dark Arts moniker. Constantine has been around for over 30 years in comic form. But more recently subsequent film and television adaptations have brought him to more mainstream audiences. The film version got nabbed up by Keanu Reeves, and though decent to watch he didn’t quite channel that rough around the edges feel of the comic version. Ryan on the other hand has been portraying the character across multiple television shows in both live action and voicing the animated version of the character since 2014, but does he feel like a second skin?
“I’m not sure about if he feels like a second skin. I think I’ve gotten to know him pretty well, through all the research I’ve done, and I’m currently reading all the Hellblazer comics, or as many as I can get in before we start, and I’d probably be reading Enduring, as well. But it’s a great character to play. It’s fun, he’s dark and he’s witty, he’s a real three-dimensional human being, and I loved that about this wisecracking street magician in this universe.”
It began with his initial run on the stand-alone NBC show, that only got a half-season of 13 episodes and was brutally cut short. We shouldn’t be surprised since the character is involved in all things supernatural but for some reason (most likely the cult fanbase) the character of John Constantine, and Ryan’s portrayal in particular, seems to repeatedly be resurrected. Even after his character “gets put to bed”, Ryan however is always pleasantly surprised to get that call back to put the coat on again.
“The fact that the show was originally short-lived, we only did 13 episodes, and with every corner of this journey with this character, I thought that it was the end. The show was cancelled, I thought that was it, and I was about to start to do a play on Broadway, and they asked me to do the episode of Arrow, and I was really pleased about that.
But, again, I thought then, that it was over. Then I went and did the Justice League Dark animation movie, and then Constantine: City of Demons, so at every corner, I thought of this character as being over. And then, they keep on getting me back, so it’s a great privilege, really, to be playing such an iconic character in, over all these different mediums. Now I’m really looking forward to having a good run at the character over a full season on Legends of Tomorrow.”
As has already been briefly mentioned, Ryan hasn’t just done live action but also voice acting for the character. Obviously there’s differences in the approach to how an actor brings that character to life. Though luckily for Ryan, he already had experience with the character before diving into voicing him.
“It is a different technique that you use, just using your voice to when you get to live action stuff. But some of these guys who do this work all the time, I mean they are so talented. They work so hard, it’s absolutely amazing. I’ve been very lucky that I’ve come into it, through a character that I played. It’s always been about just serving the story and the text, and trying to bring my embodiment of the character, then, through my voice, into the animation, and I just feel really lucky, to be able to have done that. And I’d like to do more.”
As an actor though the challenge of the business is ensuring there’s a flow of work. It also means keeping yourself open to the opportunities that present themselves. Weirdly enough those opportunities just so happen to be reprising this character across a variety of shows. From the NBC series that lasted 13 episodes, to jumping over into the CW Arrowverse on both Arrow and Legends Of Tomorrow, and for Ryan he’s been surprised that they seem to keep bringing him back.
“Yeah, totally was. I think I was on holiday at one point, and I got an email from David Goya about the Constantine animated series, and he wrote this lovely e-mail to me, asking, would I do it? My answer was just, “I’m in.” It was as simple as that, and it was a really great thing, at that point, to be doing the character again.
I mean, you have to let it go. At each point, I’ve let it go, and gone, “Okay, well, that’s done, and there’s lots of other interesting roles out there, but who knows all where my career will go?” There’s always an exciting element when you finish a job, and you don’t know what’s on the horizon, because it could be anything, which is interesting.
But I always was surprised at every turn, and turn of the key, with this role, that I was still playing him. At one point, I was like, “God, it’s four years ago now, when we started the Constantine show for NBC, and here I am, still playing the character.””
With Ryan now being confirmed as a series regular cast member for Legends Of Tomorrow in Season 4, there’s now an opportunity to potentially explore some of the aspects of the character that he didn’t get the chance to do in the stand alone show. And even though Legends tonally has a lighter feel, the universe the show lives in is the sort of place where Constantine can fit right in and not feel out of place.
“Well, doing Constantine on Legends of Tomorrow is different to, obviously, Constantine, or even the Hellblazer comics. There’s so many different elements of the character, which I think the writers of Legends, Arrow, and of Constantine, always did a great job of bringing those out. In terms of particular storylines, we did, and start to explore, we explored a few of those on the NBC show. That was great, to watch those writers kind of adapt in those stories, and see them through the medium of television. But there’s so many great stories in the comic books, and as I say, what’s great about them is just reading them, kind of gives me a little bit more, kind of history to the character, and a little bit under more my skin towards him, as well. And there’s always other elements of the character, and it’s great, but we can bring those to the fore in this show. That’s one thing I love about John is, he has so much going on and there’s so much more to explore that keeps you interested, and how they make of it in the character, as well. Because there are all these weird story lines that are being written over the years, that people always draw on them.”
For Ryan however, before he throws the trenchcoat on again to film Legends, he’ll be popping to Australia for his very first trip down under for Supanova Comic Con and Gaming. Stopping by Sydney and Perth to meet and greet fans and talk about his work.
“I have never been to that part of the world before, and it’s always exciting to travel all the way around the world, and meet the people there, and hang out with them.
I’m so looking forward to Sydney and Perth, and as you know, meeting all the fans there, and then having a little bit of time in between the cons, as well, to do some activity and stuff. I think it’s going to be a good one.”
Matt Ryan will be making appearances at Supanova Comic Con and Gaming Sydney and Perth.
Sydney – 15th – 17th June – Sydney Showground Olympic Park
Perth – 22nd – 24th June – Perth Convention & Exhibition Centre
For more information go to the official Supanova website or visit their social media channels.