As we approach the Christmas season, our regularly scheduled TV programming prepares itself for hibernation until the New Year. Constantine is no different, but it is in need of your help.
It’s no secret that production is in a little trouble. But the show finds itself in a tough programming slot, against well-established genre competition, and has taken some time to find its voice. Well that all changes tonight with the “Saint of Last Resorts” part one.
I’ve seen both parts of the two parter, and recently sat down with Charles Halford to talk about his role as Chas in the show, what it’s like to play the best friend of a bloody bastard, the pressure of a comic book adaptation, and most importantly the future of Constantine.
Bloody-Disgusting: I just watched both parts of the two-parter and the past plays a huge role for both you and Constantine. What do you know about Chas’ past and why are he and John running away from it?
Charles Halford: We get more into John’s history in episode ten. To go further back to the Newcastle crew is to go back even further. I think a lot of the big traumatizing event in John’s life, Gary Lester’s life, and Richie Simmons’ life was this Newcastle incident. Which is this exorcism gone wrong, it was a summoning in the comics, but we have this girl who we’ve accidently sent to hell. It was a really graphic story in the comics and we’ve got every intention of revisiting it. I don’t know if we’d be able to get quite as dark as that story in the comics, but it definitely messed everyone up.
It sent Anne Marie to a convent, sent John to insane asylum, put Ritchie on pills, and furthered Gary’s problems with addiction. We haven’t reached some of the episodes with the rest of the crew. But that’s the plan for season 2.
Bloody-Disgusting: Why does Chas stick by Constantine despite the fact he’s an untrustworthy bastard? How does he keep Constantine grounded?
Charles Halford: It’s complicated. A lot of it does get sorted out in episode ten. I think John is a lonely guy by choice. He can’t help but hurt those close to him, or worse yet kill them. I think having a best mate, who is always by his side serves to give him some ground. A lot of it has to do with the world our show exists in, and Chas’ abilities. We’re in the ether between Hellblazer, a panel for panel recreation would just be Constantine walking around thinking to himself then bad things happen to him.
I had very little information on Chas coming into this show. So I did a lot of reading. In the comics John effectively takes out Chas’ mother. Who is this evil witch that keep Chas at home, doesn’t let him see light, she’s killed his father, and John finds out. Constantine takes care of Chas mother while he’s crashing on their couch. In so doing makes John Chas’ only family. John being the manipulative bastard that he is knew that in doing that he would have a guy in his pocket. The other variation on the show is that Chas has this survival ability. Now, Chas is part of the adventure. In the comics John made it a point to keep his mate out of danger.
Bloody-Disgusting: That’s an interesting distinction because the show has made you guys effectively partners with your supernaturally abilities, was there any pressure coming into a show, playing a beloved character that’s a little different than what people had come to know?
Charles Halford: Of course. As soon as I got the job, I was fully prepared to lock down a sloppy British accent. I had a dialect coach on the phone. Daniel wanted it to be accessible, for me as a comic fan; I’m in service to the fans. But, the fans are sort of murky when you’ve got comic fans, action fans, and horror fans. We’re trying to give service to everybody.
When the survival skill came into it, it was pitched to me pretty loosely. It became a concern. Chas wasn’t able to die, and that’s fantastic news for my contract. The actor in me said, if he can’t die it’s easy for him to be taken for granted. So we knew we had to answer that question.
I’m really happy with the story they came up with. We’ll soon find out why Chas is so loyal, what happened to his wife and daughter, and so it does pay service to all of those things and gives me a really nice direction going forward.
Bloody-Disgusting: The “Saint of Last Resorts” Part 2 really has some fun stuff for you to do in regard to your healing factor. I couldn’t help but laugh.
Charles Halford: [Laughs] Yeah, every time I get a new script I go “What are they going to do to me this week? How bad is it going to get?” It’s been a lot of fun. I had a great time with the scene you mentioned; it’s a unique brand. This is a genre show that gets compared left and right but it’s really something different.
With our rich history of source material we’re going to stand out within this genre. It’s ours as much as it’s DCs. We’re going to try to make it as authentic as we can.
Bloody-Disgusting: A lot of people have compared the show to Supernatural or Grimm but I feel like once the second part of this two-parter airs those comparisons will stop.
Charles Halford: I feel the same way. We got off to a slow start. We’re a new show in a tough slot. The show is character driven and incredibly serialized. In the scripts we’re unable to produce this season, we move the history along in inventive ways.
We’re coming into the second season swinging. Everyone’s sweating, but I think John Constantine has never had it easy. [laughs] He’s always in a tough spot and he has to figure his way out. The proof is in the next several episodes. We really hit our stride in the rest of this season.
Bloody-Disgusting: What are you most excited for people to see in this back half of season one?
Charles Halford: I think it’s huge fan service to payoff Chas’ backstory. There is a very evil cult of warlocks that is going to factor into the rising darkness in a huge way. A lot of little things that people will love. We free ourselves up to become more… I don’t know how much I’m at liberty to say. Zed develops more, Manny develops more, and how we go about our mission against the rising darkness really changes.
There’s a lot of really great twists. Everyone’s about to go through some really tough stuff, and pitted against one another in interesting ways. I’m really excited to get to the later seasons. We’ve got every intention of hitting the big storylines from the comics… there are plans of The Family Man storyline or Dangerous Habits.
That’s all in our wheelhouse. Plus DC’s been so supportive of letting us use other characters. We’ve been bringing in as much as the occult universe as we can.
Bloody-Disgusting: How did you and Matt Ryan develop your chemistry?
Charles Halford: Before I met with the network I did a chemistry read with Matt that felt really really good. That continued onto the casting phase, during the pilot we hung out quite a bit. That man has got a ridiculous schedule. Everyone on the show loves the story we’re trying to tell. We’re all really happy to be doing what we’re doing. Matt and I got on really well, even on the episodes that I wasn’t in, coming back was something else, such a warm welcome.
Out of everyone Harold [Prennaeu] got along brilliantly. But it remains to be seen if we’ll ever play against one another.
It’s one big happy Hellblazer family.
Bloody-Disgusting: How did you prepare your role?
Charles Halford: I just went straight to the comics. There is this certain aspect of a very loyal dog. But I really did dig into the comics. I was happy to find out to see Chas has a life. Chas has this other world, and John is like the worst friend that any family would ever want anybody to have. I did a lot of reading, and a lot of asking questions of Daniel Cerone.
Those first three or four episodes I had to play it pretty close to the hip. I had to figure things out. I could latch onto a friendship, I could latch onto John, and I grabbed onto that. You need something to ground you. Chas without John is just alone, he can’t go back to his life.
With getting uprooted and moving to Atlanta a lot of it came really naturally. I was a stranger in a strange land. This was my first time to be a series regular. It wasn’t until episode eight where I snuck an early draft of episode 10 from one of the production assistants where I really knew my character. Reading it, I couldn’t wait. It grounded me and let me know where I was going.
Bloody-Disgusting: How much do you get to channel your inner Reggie LeDoux?
Charles Halford: Well… [laughs] I don’t know if I have an inner Reggie LeDoux, but there are moments later this season where things get darker. With a show like this it’s bound to happen.
The Saint of Last Resorts Part 1 airs tonight at 10/9 central on NBC.