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Interview: Matt Ryan (Constantine, Assassin’s Creed: Black Flag)

Wizard World Comic Con
in Columbus, OH (2018): AFA Writer and Artist-in-Residence Ali Cat had the opportunity to speak with none other than Matt Ryan, an innovative actor who has brought a fresh take to the iconic character John Constantine in the DC Universe.

For this exclusive AFA interview, Matt discusses his development of Constantine and his work on the CW Arrow-verse. Plus, Ali Cat learns about the smash-hit miniseries Constantine: City of Demons (available on CW Seed) and Matt’s unique experience with Assassin’s Creed: Black Flag.

Here’s what he had to say.

AFA: Now I will start with something everyone will want to know. How did you land the role of John Constantine in the DC Universe?

I was actually doing a play in London….I had long hair and a big beard and the audition came through and…I auditioned through it with a wonderful casting director. And Daniel and David, the producers, really liked me for the role. But, obviously, I had long hair so I had to do another tape and another tape and another tape, and I think I did about fourteen tapes in the end because I couldn’t fly over to Los Angeles.

Eventually – I think they auditioned about 400 people for the role – the role was still open when I finished the play. And I was able to fly over the Los Angeles, cut my hair off, shave my beard, and eventually, I got it.

It was a long process, but I got it eventually…and I’m very glad they chose me.

In a way, you’ve become Constantine, literally and figuratively. Everyone associates you with this character, now. Sort of like Mark Hamill with the Joker and Kevin Conroy as Batman. How does that make you feel?

It’s great, you know? It’s such an iconic character. He’s been around since 1985; I think it was his first appearance in Swamp Thing.

It’s such an iconic role, and to be playing this role four years after the original show got canceled…to still be playing it…is a testament to the fans and how much support they’ve given it. It’s great to take on an iconic role and be accepted by the fans.

And that’s another thing. I know a lot of the fans, especially the ones who fell in love with the Arrowverse, were very excited to see you appear on Arrow because they were very disappointed when Constantine got canceled. I think it was a very good idea to add you to the DC Universe.

Yeah, it was great.

We did get a pleasant surprise from CW Seed. Constantine: City of Demons looks really cool. Are you excited about that?

Yeah, it’s great. The first five episodes are available now to stream on the CW Seed, and there’s going to be several more episodes we’re going to drop in the fall. And, you know, it’s great to be able to play the character over different mediums as well as the animation I’ve done.

And actually, Constantine: City of Demons is based on the graphic novel All His Engines, which is a great graphic novel which I had read anyway. And I thought they did a great job in adapting the script. It was really fun to do, and I’m really looking forward to seeing the next couple of episodes when they come out in the fall.

I’m also very glad you brought up Constantine in animation. Justice League: Dark is a wonderful chapter in the DC Universe, and I know fans were excited you were voicing Constantine in the film. It’s always great to see DC taking that extra leap with darker animated films. I know I enjoyed it. What was your experience with voicing Constantine versus playing him in live action?

It’s funny because when I did my first day in the booth. It’s a different technique, obviously, because you don’t have to go through the hair, and the makeup, and all that stuff. There is a certain physicality that comes with when you put the costume on. I didn’t have that, but…at one point I thought I might wear the jacket in the booth. Then I didn’t.

At every step of this journey with this character, I’ve thought “it’s over,” and then they kept on getting me back. So, yeah. It’s fantastic to be able to play him across all the different mediums.

You said you have some experience with Shakespeare.

A little…yeah.

Would you consider Constantine the archetypic Shakespearean antihero in any way?

Oh…I don’t know. That’s interesting. I’ve never thought of that before. What I do love about him is that he’s such a three-dimensional character, you know? And he’s also…he’s a comic book character. He’s someone who’s a real person, who’s a street magician. He’s someone that I think a lot of people can relate to because he’s “of this world” as well as the comic book world, as well as the supernatural world.

He’s very grounded. And it’s great to play such a three-dimensional character…someone who’s so tormented and has been through so much in his life. All the people around him die, yet, at the same time, he’s got this incredible sarcastic, scathing wit.

And that’s a great, fun thing to play with.

Would you welcome the opportunity to play Constantine in a movie?

I think that there’s so many great stories that have been written and drawn in the comics (over the years) about him. To explore the character further on Legends of Tomorrow is a great thing so…


Okay, Matt. This one is for the fans. What is your favorite Constantine line?

There’s that great one that they took from the comics: “I’m the one who stabs from the shadows.” Something along those lines. It’s an actual quote from the comics, and I can remember doing the voiceover for that at the end of episode one of Constantine the NBC series. And I can remember going…

“Yeah…that’s John to a tee!”

Now, I’m sure a lot of people may not know this. You voiced an antihero before John Constantine. And that’s Edward Kenway from Assassin’s Creed Black Flag. How did you become involved with the game?

What’s interesting is that, when I was auditioning for the role, my agent told me that it was for a TV show about pirates. They didn’t tell me it was a video game. So I did the audition, and it went really well. And I got a call back, and then they told me “look, this is for a video game.” It’s for Assassin’s Creed. And I had actually played the first video game. So I knew about the franchise, and I really enjoyed the game.

And then they told me they were going to be using full motion capture, which I think was one of the first times they were doing that with video games. So I was really kind of interested in doing that because it’s another medium in the realms of acting that I hadn’t explored. So I jumped at the chance of doing it.

You actually answered another question for me. Do you play video games?

Yeah! I have, over the years, played a bunch of video games. And every now and then I’ll jump into Assassin’s Creed: Black Flag and go for a sail around. But I’m not very good at the ships. So I think what I need to do is get Ubisoft to send me the codes.

Cheat codes have always been my friend with video games, too.

Yeah, I think we’re going to have to!

Would you consider Edward Kenway different from John Constantine or similar?

Similar in a way…they have a certain arrogance about them, but they are very different, as well… they come from different periods, they both have different drives in life. What sets Edward Kenway aside from all the other assassins is he starts out not being an assassin. I think that’s what sets Black Flag apart from the other games in the Assassin’s Creed franchise.

Without giving away too many spoilers, what can we expect from Constantine in the future?

I think his Hellblazer fans will probably know what to expect. The great thing about John…you can drop him anywhere in the DC Universe and he’s going to cause some trouble, you know? Something’s going to follow him around in the dark. I’m looking forward to what they’re going to do this season.

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