As Pop Culture-y’s self-appointed Hellblazer expert, I feel that it’s time to round up the info we have so far on the upcoming Constantine pilot that’s been picked up by NBC. A full series isn’t guaranteed yet, but given the considerable hype around the show already, it seems unlikely we won’t see at least one season.
Like the DC films, David S. Goyer will produce, and is co-writing the pilot with show-runner Daniel Cerone, who wrote episodes of Charmed and The Mentalist, and worked on the first season of Dexter. Neil Marshall, British director of The Descent and Dog Soldiers (as well as episodes of Games of Thrones) will direct. Last week, Deadline announced that Welsh actor Matt Ryan was cast in the starring role. He’s a relative unknown, but attentive viewers may recognize him from episodes of Torchwood and Criminal Minds. Gamers may recognize his voice from Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag, where he played Edward Kenway. John should be blonde and sporting his signature trench coat and rakish attitude, although no word yet on the Silk Cuts. Some sources are also placing emphasis on his mother’s death (from complications during John’s birth), so I’m curious to see how that will play into the show. It’s reported that TV’s Constantine will hail from London (as opposed to his Liverpudlian roots in the comics), but he will be located the United States. Bleeding Cool is reporting that the show will take place predominantly in New York, where the show will relocate some of the comics’ most important settings – such as the Ravenscar Psychiatric Hospital.
It seems that Ravenscar could feature heavily into the pilot episode, possibly with John institutionalized after the recent loss of a young girl’s soul. Sources mention a new character named Liv, the daughter of one of John’s dead friends, who teams up with John to fight demons that are coming after her. A casting call also mentioned a new character called Manny, as well as John’s best friend Chas, who I’m hoping will be the surly London cabbie we know and love, unlike the American sidekick of the 2005 film. Papa Midnite will reportedly be a recurring figure too, and I hope he and John are portrayed more as rivals than as enemies; Midnite could be a dangerous character to adapt, given how steeped he is in dated “voodoo” stereotypes.
Due to the American setting, it’s speculated that the show will based on DC’s New 52 version of the series (also called Constantine, unlike the original Hellblazer series from DC’s Vertigo Imprint). Matt Ryan is around 33, which is close to the age John would have been when he first appeared in Alan Moore’s Swamp Thing, so that’s not necessarily an indication that the newer series will be a more prominent source. However, the stress in press releases on John’s magical ability could be telling, as he tended to rely on his talent for lying and manipulation to get him out of jams in the older comics. The setting and political context of the original series would be a hard sell for the current American market, so I’m not opposed to bringing it to America (which was the least of the film version’s problems). I’m trying to be optimistic; while I’m not a fan of Goyer’s, this isn’t a bad creative team, and the network doesn’t necessarily mean that the content will be watered down. NBC is making Hannibal right now, so while we might not see John swearing as much as is his wont, the show could still have teeth. Besides, I don’t really consider “swearing” a character trait, and can live without it. Hannibal gets away with a great deal of dark imagery and themes, so I think NBC is the best home for this series on network TV.
This isn’t going to be Hellblazer as we know it, but it could be watchable. I’m willing to wait and see.
Update: Deadline reports that we have the rest of our major cast. Lucy Griffiths, of True Blood, has been cast as Liv, “offbeat young woman tired of her ordinary life who comes to discover that she has the ability of seeing the supernatural world among us… [and] teams up with Constantine to save lives, master her power, and learn more about her late father.” Harold Perrineau will be “Manny, an authoritative angel assigned to watch over Constantine who has the power to step into other people’s bodies, and although he is meant only to observe, Manny will not hesitate to help out if he can save a life.” And Charles Halford (of True Detective) is our Chas Chandler, “Constantine’s oldest friend and staunch companion who possesses powerful survival skills that might possibly be supernatural.” Comics fans might be a bit worried that Chas is being given supernatural abilities, but at least he hasn’t been demoted to apprentice/sidekick.