Matt Ryan’s relationship with DC Comics TV series Constantine and its lead anti-hero role has been like a romantic comedy: Guy gets role, show gets canceled, guy gets to play role again on an episode of Arrow, then guy gets to keep doing the voice of the character for an upcoming animated series.
Then, of course, guy follows-up with a dramatic and super-stylish live-action rebound on The Halcyon.
In the World War II drama, Ryan plays Joe O’Hara, not a historical figure, but a journalist in the vein of history’s great reporters like Edward R. Murrow. For his backstory, Ryan says O’Hara was born in Illinois, but traveled the world and settled in New York for work. Now staying at The Halcyon hotel in London, O’Hara has a front-row seat to the European front.
Ryan spoke with Rotten Tomatoes by phone about his role on The Halcyon and what to expect from the Constantine animated series. But first he shared what he’s watching on TV.
I’m a huge fan of nature and science programs. I watch a lot of things like Planet Earth and Brian Cox’s Life of The Universe. So as soon as there’s a new science program that comes on, I jump all over it.
On my DVR at the moment is Game of Thrones season 7. I haven’t had time to watch it yet, and I’m trying like mad to avoid spoilers because everybody has seen it and everybody’s going crazy about it all over the internet. So that’s a little bit difficult, but I’m really excited to get into that show.
I’ve got to say, the second season of Stranger Things. I loved it so much. It’s such a throwback to my childhood and encapsulated all those shows that I grew up with. I love the setting. I love science fiction as well, so it was really one of my favorite shows when it came out. I’m really excited to see what happens in the next one.
Fred Topel for Rotten Tomatoes: Were you like one of those Stranger Things kids?
Matt Ryan: I wish I was, but I wasn’t quite as ballsy as them. They’ve got a lot of guts, but they’re fantastic. All those actors that play the kids are just outstanding as well. I think for everyone, kids and adults, watching those guys, they just really do it for everyone. Hats off to them.
RT: Did Britain have the same youth culture where kids rode bikes together and played outside in nature?
Ryan: Yeah, we did. I grew up in a little small town called Gorseinon just outside of Swansea in Wales. We all used to hang around the village and meet up on our bikes. We all had walkie talkies. It reminded me of growing up in a very rural setting. It was a real throwback.
RT: After playing Constantine in live-action and animation, were you looking for something completely different than a comic book show?
Ryan: Yeah, I was looking to do something completely different to Constantine. Constantine is one of my favorite characters I’ve played. He’s an amazing character, but I wanted to do something, one, that was so far away, and something in the U.K. as well, because I hadn’t done any TV or film work in the U.K. for quite a while, just theater. So I was looking to do something in the U.K., and also I wanted to do something in an American accent on television as well.
RT: Did you do more historical research for The Halcyon or comic book research for Constantine?
Ryan: You know what, I read about 150 of the comic books for Constantine. I always had a comic book with me everywhere I went, whenever I was on set. It was a constant reference to what I was doing to have the comic book with me.
What I loved about doing The Halcyon and doing the actual historical research — I had done plays like Henry V where I researched The 100 Years War, [and] that was a great undertaking as well — so I actually went back to World War I and studied all those books into World War II —where we are in The Halcyon — to kind of get a bearing on things. Also, I really looked a lot into journalists of the time, people like Edward R. Murrow, to get a feel for how they were researching and dealing with the times, as opposed to how journalists operate today. It was a great eye-opener into what happened, the two tragic World Wars that happened but also these incredibly brave people that stuck their necks out on the line to bring the news to the rest of the world.
Ryan: I love that. I’ve got to say, the costume designer and costume people were so great. To get to wear the double-breasted suits, the tuxedos, and the fashion of the time, all of that was a real joy. The one thing I didn’t like too much is I have to clean shave every day, because everybody was clean shaven back there. I hadn’t actually clean shaved for about six years. So when I started it, I had a bit of a rash, but I got used to it and it was fine in the end.
RT: When will we see John Constantine again in the animated series?
Ryan: I don’t know, man. I’m waiting to hear. I’ve recorded it and the script was absolutely great. I’m really looking forward to seeing it and hopefully soon. I have no news on that I’m afraid.
RT: Does it pick up right where we last saw John on Arrow and Justice League Dark?
Ryan: No, what we’ve done is we’ve taken a very popular Hellblazer story from the comics and then adapted that. The John Constantine that I play in the TV show, the DNA of the character is in the Justice League Dark movie and in the animated TV show as well. It’s all the same John, but we’ve taken a very specific story and adapted that. I was really pleased about that story because I was reading the comics and I was hoping we’d be able to do. It was great fun to play that out and John is such a beloved character by all the Constantine and Hellblazer fans. It’s just been a pleasure to play him in these different medias and hopefully I’ll get the chance again.
RT: Which Hellblazer arc was it?
Ryan: “All His Engines.”
RT: Is that a story they couldn’t have done live-action?
Ryan: No, we could’ve done that live-action, but I think where we were going with the show, we had plans to do some more comic book storylines, but we didn’t get there unfortunately. I don’t know if Daniel [Cerone] and David [S. Goyer] had thought of it. There are so many great comics out there to adapt. I hope that one day we would’ve got there, but it’s set in Los Angeles as well.