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EPs Daniel Cerone and David S. Goyer talk Constantine [+ “A Feast of Friends” Preview] 

Photo Credit: Tina Rowden/NBC
Photo Credit: Tina Rowden/NBC

Warning: Spoilers Ahead

I’ve seen the episode and I got really emotional at the end of it — and the only backstory I know about Gary Lester is the little bit we got in “A Feast of Friends.” I don’t want to give to much away, but I will say:

  • We get some great insight into who John is and how seriously he takes his friendships (this is especially great if you’re not that familiar with the source material).
  • There may be some jealous behavior when it comes to Zed.
  • Manny visits John a few times to give him some pretty good advice, actually.
  • And, oh yeah, we finally get more on the rising darkness.

Episode synopsis, from NBC:

When Constantine’s old friend Gary Lester (guest star Jonjo O’Neill) accidentally releases a powerful demon in Atlanta, John is forced to determine exactly what he is prepared to sacrifice in his battle with the underworld.

TV Goodness participated in a press call earlier this week with EP David S. Goyer and EP/Showrunner Daniel Cerone. We talked about why it was a good time to bring this John Constantine to the small screen, why they fought for this version of the character and how they decide which stories to tell.

On why David chose to adapt this particular DC property.

David S. Goyer: “One of the reasons why I always like John Constantine is he didn’t have superpowers, he didn’t have a costume. So it was refreshing for me to tell a story about an anti-hero as opposed to a hero. He is someone who was really damaged and I just feel like he’s one of the great characters of sort of modern literature and, I don’t know, it was a change of pace.”

On making your anti-hero a hero.

Daniel Cerone: “Is he doing it because he wants to save lives? Is he doing it because, frankly, chasing demons is a bit of a fix for him? Is he doing it, as he said early in his career, for the women and to get laid? Is he doing it because it’s kind of self-empowerment? It’s just never really clear.

And what’s great about him is I don’t even think he’s clear. But yet, he keeps doing it and he keeps fighting this fight. As David said, one of the funest things is that there’s no code of conduct that he operates by. He’s doing the good things that all the cops and lawyers and whatever kind of other heroes are out there doing. But there’s no checks and balances for him and that’s where he often gets into trouble.

I think when you ask what makes him relatable, I think that’s it because he has a self-sense to himself and he frequently goes over the line and he frequently makes bad calls. Anyone who gets close to Constantine dies. That has proven itself true for years in the comic books. Very early in our series, you’re going to see that, where he makes the hard calls and he loses friends over it, sometimes literally. And so that’s his curse and hopefully, that’s what makes it easy to [root] for him.

Photo Credit: Paul Drinkwater/NBC
Photo Credit: Paul Drinkwater/NBC

On getting into Constantine mythos.

Daniel: “We’re digging as deeply into the Constantine mythos as we possibly can. In fact, it really is inspiring much of our storytelling. “A Feast of Friends” is literally ripped from the pages of “Hellblazer.” It brings back Gary Lester, who is one John’s friend from Newcastle. It’s a fantastic story that translated so well to screen.

But in a broader sense- we’re breaking ep 17 right now and we have a fantastic ride ahead. Before the end of the season, you’re going to meet and get to know every one of John’s friends from Newcastle that were involved in the exorcism of Astra, [which] led to the eternal torment of John’s soul.
Papa Midnite, we have now in four episodes. Jim Corrigan comes back for a couple of more. I’m reading an outline right now for episode 16 that includes Terence Thirteen. We have Felix Faust. We have this incredible source material and we want to honor it and dig as deeply into it as we possibly can. At the same time, we’re a weekly network show and we have weekly stories. We’re trying to present the best of both worlds in terms of ongoing mythology, but wrapped around weekly stories the viewers can hook into.”

David: “We read responses to the various episodes. Some people said “Okay, so now we know what the formula is going to be week after week and we still haven’t heard much more about the rising darkness or Newcastle.” Well, you’re about to with the fourth episode. We’re not a fully serialized show. We’re a hybrid and we’re going to start introducing more backstory elements every few episodes or so.”

On if the fanbase helps them determine which stories to tell.

Daniel: “We fell in love with all the things about John Constantine that the fans did. We needed that smartass, wise cracking, gallows humor, scruffy blonde-haired, trench coat-wearing, cigarette-smoking, fatalistic attitude, this deeply humanist point of view for reasons that he doesn’t even understand. We like that character. That was someone that just appealed to us. So we’re going to be true to that no matter what.

Then you take that foundation and you have to figure out, ‘Okay, how can we pour that into a show that can last and sustain itself on a weekly basis?’ And NBC had certain desires for the show. They wanted stories that were told every week, so as David mentioned before, this is a bit of a hybrid. For us, it was ‘Okay, how do we figure out how to, as fans, tell the story we want to tell about the evolution of this character and his relationships, as well as some closed-end stories to broaden out the fan base?’ So yes. I mean, we came at it as fans.”

Photo Credit: Paul Drinkwater/NBC
Photo Credit: Paul Drinkwater/NBC

David: “Because we were fans of the character, when we first met with NBC, we said ‘Look, we know that the movie is out there and [Constantine] wasn’t British and he didn’t have blonde hair’ and I think that that movie had a lot of great attributes. But because we had fallen in love with the John Constantine as depicted in the comic books, it was our mission to try to bring to life the character that as accurately reflected the character we had fallen in love with as possible. So when NBC says ‘Well, does he have to be British? Does he have to wear skinny tie in a trench coat? Does he have to be blonde? Does he have to smoke?’ we said ‘Yes.’ And they said ‘Why?’ And we said ‘Because that’s the character we fell in love with.’”

Daniel: “Every step of the way, they did ask those questions. They were very open and accepting and loving and they wanted to embrace the fans, too, but at a certain point when it came to casting, Matt Ryan does not have blonde hair. Initially, they’re like ‘Do we really need to lighten his hair’ and we’re like ‘Yes we do.’ They got the first draft of the script and they saw sort of all of the kind of British euphemisms and colloquialisms written into his dialog and they’re like ‘That might be off-putting. Does he really need to be British?’”

David: “We said “Yes.”

Daniel: “He does. So at every step of the way, we fought for that. To their credit, they were very open and they understood our passion and I believe the fans’ passion for the character.”

David: “It’s important because we were fans of the character and have been fans of the character for decades ourselves. So we were really determined to try to bring to life a version of Constantine that was accurate.

Photo Credit: Paul Drinkwater/NBC
Photo Credit: Paul Drinkwater/NBC

On Chas and his backstory.

Daniel: “When David and I developed the show, [we] sat down to figure out what characters we want[ed] on a continuing basis. On one hand, Chas was a natural because he’s the most constant, long living companion — maybe the only living companion of John Constantine’s. But he’s the muscle and he’s the driver, you know? So we want to include Chas. He is definitely the strong, silent type, very laconic kind of character we wanted to roll out slowly. I know there’s been a couple of issues where they dig in his backstory but there’s not a lot there. So we’ve really enjoyed opening him up. We will open him up deeper, Episode 10. In the pilot episode, you see that Chas comes back to life. For some reason, people started translating that to the idea that he’s mortal. We promise you he is not a mortal.”

David: “He’s not mortal.”

Daniel: “There’s very good reason that he’s coming back to life and the only spoiler I will give is that those lives are not infinite. We do have an episode that involves flashbacks where we basically tell that story and we get to know more about Chas, we meet Renee – they’re separated right now — and his daughter. We dig into that story and figure out what makes Chas tick.”

David: “Even when the first 13 episodes are done, people will be surprised at how much background we filled in on various characters and even in terms of the relationship with John and Manny and Zed’s back story. It’s not just a case of the week.”

On if NBC asked them to change anything.

Daniel: “They have pushed us to go bigger. They have pushed us to go darker. They pushed us to go scarier. That’s what they want to see. So it’s been really framed for us. We have to do what we do within budgetary limitations and capabilities. But no, they have not censored us at all.”

Edited for space and content.

Constantine airs Fridays at 10/9c on NBC.

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All images courtesy of Tina Rowden/NBC.
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