Ever since NBC announced it was taking on DC Comics’ character of snarky John Constantine, aka Hellblazer, some fans have wondered: Will the broadcast TV version played by Matt Ryan this fall be bisexual like in the comics? When asked about this at the Television Critics Association’s semi-annual press tour Sunday, executive producer Daniel Cerone ran down the various editions of the character that have existed since the demon fighter was introduced in 1985 to suggest his sexuality is not a crucial aspect of the character (nearly all of the character’s relationships in the comics have been with women). “In those comic books, John Constantine aged in real time,” he said. “Within this tome of three decades [of comics] there might have been one or two issues where he’s seen getting out of bed with a man. So [maybe] 20 years from now? But there are no immediate plans.”
The 2005 movie version of Constantine starring Keanu Reeves didn’t go there either. But then there’s the matter of Constantine’s love of tobacco. His heavy smoking is very much a part of the character (both the comics and the film included a storyline where the character gets terminal lung cancer and then tries to cheat death). For the show, producers say Constantine is indeed a smoker … just don’t expect to actually see him smoking. Producers say there’s not much they can do about this due to network content standards.
“He is a smoker in the show, we’re not shying away from it, but we’re not glorifying it,” said executive producer David S. Goyer.
When a reporter pressed what that means, exactly — do we see the guy smoking or not? — Cerone added, “That’s a question you probably should ask the network afterward, but they’re beholden to broadcast standards. So we get it. We know the universe that we’re existing within and, trust me, we heard pitches from all different camps — ‘Let’s give him a patch’ or ‘he eats a lot of gum.'”
“We thought [showing him] having to snub something out is more truthful,” Goyer said.
So in the often bewildering world of broadcast standards, a man can cut his own face off and feed it to dogs (plus eat his nose) on Friday nights on NBC’s Hannibal … but apparently not puff on a cigarette on Friday nights on NBC’s Constantine.
“It’s like, look, he’s a smoker,” Cerone said. “We’re on network television, so we’re limited to what we can do and what we can show. But within that framework we’re going to be very honest to the character … I believe Constantine has a very healthy sex life, we’re not going to see that on TV either.”
The producers noted they did insist to NBC that Constantine should be blond, English and scruffy — so they won those massive creative battles at least!
Producers also announced telenovela star Angelica Celaya has been cast in the show to play Zed, the show’s female lead. She replaces co-lead Lucy Griffiths, who NBC confirmed was leaving the show last week. “She’s someone who can go toe to toe with John [Constantine], and that’s ultimately something we felt like we needed,” Cerone said. “We wanted a more dynamic relationship, as opposed to someone who is a teacher/mentor and a student. It just didn’t feel as fertile and rich of an area as just a strong a man and a strong woman who are both very different.”
FULL COVERAGE OF NBC’S PRESS TOUR DAY: