If you work with John Constantine, there’s a good chance you might not make it out of a job alive.
That’s a refrain John (Matt Ryan) has proven to be true for several weeks on NBC’s Constantine, but death doesn’t always have to mean the end of a friendship for John. His oldest pal, Chas Chandler (Charles Halford), has the uncanny ability to revive himself after a dance with death.
Chas has to take advantage of his gifts on tonight’s episode, “Danse Vaudou.” In anticipation of this larger showcase for the character, Charles Halford spoke with EW about what it’s like to play a guy who can come back from the dead, his history with the comic book source material, and teased about what fans can expect to learn about Chas as the season continues.
EW: Were there specific aspects about this version of Chas that drew you to the show?
CHARLES HALFORD: Well, it wasn’t like I was shopping. [Laughs] I got a breakdown and it worked in my favor. It’s a rare thing being six-and-a-half-feet tall and having a series regular opportunity come across your desk. So I saw it, and when I read the script, they had created sides for it because in the pilot, I’m in all of maybe two minutes of it … and I really liked it. I was relatively familiar with the comic book. I was far removed from it, years had passed, but I knew the content, and it just clicked.
While it hasn’t been explored fully yet, John and Chas’ relationship feels integral to the characters. How do you and Matt Ryan approach this aspect of the show?
Yeah I think that that’s really a vital part of it. Later this season, you get to see how Chas comes to have this ability to survive terrible things, and that bonds them further. In the comics, they go way back, and in our design we go even further back. John is just such a hard one to love when it comes to friendships because they usually don’t last very long. And so that history, understanding John’s lot in life, is a big part of Chas’ involvement with him. In episode 10, we really do explore the relationship, how he affected Chas’ life. You know, Chas has an [estranged] wife, he has a daughter, and neither—well, the wife doesn’t like John Constantine, and it gets worse from there.
I think it’s a nice element because the show is full of loners. And Chas wants to be normal and a family man, but that’s just impossible when you’ve got a friend like Constantine.
John, Chas, and Zed are definitely a gang of loners, and there seems to be even some mistrust between John and Zed. Is it fair to say they’re becoming a makeshift family that’s sorting out its issues?
I think there is a family unit that grows out of that. And the mistrust between John and Zed, it’s a fine line between mistrust and trying to protect her. He knows how things end when people try to get close to him, and I don’t think he enjoys that. Chas fortunately can take the abuse, which is removed from the comics. In the comics, [John] keeps Chas out of trouble so he can have one friend who doesn’t die some horrible, hell-bound death. But yeah there’s definitely a family unit that’s born there. As the season goes on, Zed’s a really big part of our season one arc, getting to know her and what her deal is and helping her figure out who she is and what she can do. And it takes a toll on that family unit.
What has your history been with the original Hellblazer comics?
I’m a huge fan now. I was familiar with the comics going in, but I read them in those early teen years, and outside of the blood, guts, sex, language, and violence that any early teen would appreciate, with all the colloquialisms and British slang, I think some of it was lost on me. But the imagery always stuck with me, and some of the characterizations. Again with the pilot, I was in Atlanta shooting it, we were there shooting it for three weeks, I worked three days. So I was realy just digging into Hellblazer trying to find as much information as I could about the history and try to find out where I could put my footing and really try and ground Chas in me and meet him halfway.
Is there anything specific from the comics about Chas you’re excited to explore on the show?
There are storylines in the comics where his family is affected by John’s world. At first I was a little apprehensive about this survival ability, but I think they’ve done a really good job in designing it. It’s not something he’s stoked about. It’s almost like an obligation to the world, and that all gets explored. There’s so many different elements that could be brought into it that could pit John and Chas in different corners because they’re best friends. And anybody has issues with their best friends, but they love them in spite of those things.
Now that Chas is out and more active on a case in “Danse Vaudou,” might we see him and Manny interact at all?
He’s aware of Manny and we’ve had this long-running joke, because Harold [Perrineau] and I get on really, really great off-camera, and we’re always just like, “I wonder if we’re actually going to get to play together?” He knows this angel shows up and gives John a hard time, and so he knows about Manny. I hope we have time to explore it because toward these later episodes that we’ve been shooting, Manny does really get interesting. And his and John’s relationship gets really, it’s fun. It’s fun and you don’t know who’s playing who.
Last week’s episode was dark, but it felt like a step in the right creative direction. Is that a trend we’ll see continue with tonight’s episode and in the future?
I think that creatively, we all loved that episode, and we all really love the idea of going in that vein. We’ve got 25-plus years of comics to dig into, and the writers, they’ve read the whole cannon. So we’d ideally like to make it a more serialized show, and there’s elements of that in this first season. I would like, personally, to be able to really dig into some of these great arcs. I would love to see “Dangerous Habits” or “Royal Blood.” I’m not writing it, but I’m still a fanboy.
But I think we’re still finding our voice and trying to meet this cult classic of a fantastic comic book with a network setting. And it’s a bit of a dance. It’s a fun dance. I always looked at is as, you had these fantastic comic book writers throughout the run of Constantine … and everyone of them put their won stamp on Constantine. Even the film, which I have yet to see.
Oh really, you haven’t? Do you know much about it?
Yeah it’s a little bit of a different take on it. But they put their own stamp on it. And I know some comic book fans have taken some serious issue with it, but I know a lot of people who just adore that film that weren’t familiar with the comic book. So I think somewhere in the ether, we’re putting a pretty unique and interesting stamp on the lineage and history of Constantine and Hellblazer, and it’s just a real gift to be able to be a part of such an iconic character.