The pilot episode of NBC’s brand new comic book-based series Constantine premiered at San Diego Comic-Con 2014 this week, starring Matt Ryan (Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag) as John Constantine and Lucy Griffiths (Robin Hood) as Liv, a young woman with psychic abilities whom John swoops in to save from malevolent forces. Griffiths has already been dropped from the show and replaced with Angelica Celaya, who will be playing comic book character Zed (apparently two female supporting characters would have been too much to handle), and showrunner Daniel Cerone has hinted that Jim Corrigan AKA The Spectre could also appear in the first season.
Earlier this year a report over at Bleeding Cool spilled details about the pilot, including the fact that it would be partially set at Ravenscar Psychiatric Hospital, and that the series would be set in New York. This turned out to be true, but despite the report’s claim that the pilot episode would also introduce classic Hellblazer character Papa Midnite, he hasn’t shown up yet.
It would make sense to have Papa Midnite in the show, since it’s set on his turf. In the comics, Midnite is a voodoo practitioner and mob boss who more or less runs the New York underworld. He and Constantine have a pretty tense relationship, and have both worked together and against each other at various points in their history. Screen Rant got the chance to sit down with Cerone as well as co-writer and executive producer David S. Goyer at Comic-Con 2014, and we asked if they’re planning to introduce Midnite in the first season.
Cerone: Yep, he will. We’ve already got him pencilled into two early episodes.
Goyer: He’ll be a recurring character.
Cerone: We’re literally casting this week.
The response to the Constantine pilot has been mixed so far, but it’s important to remember that shows can change a lot beyond the first episode, which is primarily designed to convince networks to order a full series. Because of this, pilots generally involve a lot of exposition, which is often delivered a little clumsily. When asked about the casting reshuffle between the pilot and the rest of the series, Cerone and Goyer explained that Zed is a better fit than Liv for the rest of the season, now that the essential concepts and characters have been established.
Cerone: Liv was a character that didn’t come from the comic books. She was an invention, she was meant to be our sort of gateway character and the audience’s perspective into this world.
Goyer: Which is a very common thing when you’re creating a pilot. You want to give the audience a point of view character. Someone they can relate to.
Cerone: But she was very… reactive. She did a lot of listening to John and staring wide-eyed. And we thought we should give him someone who can go toe-to-toe with him, who has a little more grit. And then we were sitting around the writers’ room saying, ‘Why don’t we introduce Zed? Let’s go back to the source material.’ I mean, Zed is the first woman that we see Constantine hook up with. She’s got her own supernatural abilities, in terms of being a psychic. She’s got a great backstory which we are going to use, and tease out as a mystery over the course of the first season. So she just felt like a much more dynamic and active character.
Another awkward topic is the subject of smoking – a long-standing and extremely enthusiastic habit of Constantine’s, which cannot be shown on-screen due to NBC’s policies. Goyer has spoken in the past about the negotiations that have been going on with the network, and we asked him to outline exactly what they can and cannot show Constantine doing when it comes to cigarettes.
Goyer: Here’s the deal: We cannot show him inhale.
Cerone: We can show him putting out and lighting up.
Goyer: Our hope, our fervent hope, is that fans will see that and appreciate the attempt. Because, look, we can’t change broadcast standards, but what we can do is try and get away with as much as we can… I mean, he’ll talk about it, he is a smoker. We’re not saying he’s not a smoker. It’s not inconceivable that we could do in another season a version of that ‘Dangerous Habits’ storyline.
Outside of smoking, however, Cerone and Goyer assured us that they’e not going to be limited to nice gentle stories and themes.
Goyer: I’m glad we’re at NBC, the home of Hannibal and things like that. They want us to be truthful, they know it’s dark source material.
Cerone: As network writers we both get in the habit, you learn to censor yourself, because you know what you can get away with and you know what you’re going to get notes on. To NBC’s credit, they are literally… like, ‘No no no, kill that guy. Can you go a little darker here?’ They’re pushing us to really… Which is just, the floodgates open for us creatively. It’s just nothing but opportunity because it allows us to… honor the Hellblazer material.
The Hellblazer comics are known for having extremely dark and bloody stories, so it’s reassuring to hear that NBC isn’t prohibiting the writers from heading down gruesome paths. As we’ve mentioned previously, the success of NBC’s prestige project Hannibal and its surreal, gore-heavy horror elements has set a good precedent for similar content in Constantine.
Screen Rant also sat down with Constantine cast members Matt Ryan, Charles Halford, Harold Perrineau and Angelica Celaya, so stay tuned to the site over the next few days as we reveal more details about what’s to come in the first season.
Constantine premieres October 24th on NBC.