The star of NBC‘s new horror/drama, John Constantine (Matt Ryan) doesn’t hang around with ordinary folk. On the one hand, there’s his closest friend Chas (Charles Halford), who seems to possess one hell of a set of supernatural survival skills. Then there’s Manny (Harold Perrineau), an enigmatic angel sent to watch over Constantine.
Of course, viewers know that this inner circle expanded in “Constantine’s” second episode, “The Darkness Beneath,” when the British mage bumped into a psychic known as Zed. Since then, her visions and premonitions have proven invaluable in Constantine’s war against the Rising Darkness and its forces.
CBR News spoke with Angelica Celaya, Zed’s real world incarnation, about her character’s developing relationship with Constantine and Zed’s history, both in comics and on the small screen. We also discussed NBC’s decision to halt production on the first season at 13 episodes — even while the actors were reading the script for episode 15 — and the cast and crew’s reaction to the subsequent outpouring of fan support.
CBR News: The “Hellblazer” comic always had a loyal cult fan following. What interested you about John Constantine’s journey and the TV adaptation?
Angelica Celaya: John is the true anti-hero. He’s dealing with so much mess. There’s the whole thing with his mom and the way his dad brought him up. He’s trying to save his own soul, but he’s really trying to save people, without actually trying. He doesn’t want to be the hero. That is really cool. Instead of being like, “Hey, yeah, I’m that guy,” Constantine has a sassiness to him. He’s a little cocky.
The whole adaptation that executive producers David Goyer and Daniel Cerone brought to “Constantine,” they nailed it right on the head. Before I got on this project, I had seen the adaptation for the film. That was totally different than whatever Constantine really is. What we’re doing right now is taking stories from different volumes of “Hellblazer” and bringing them to homes across America.
The TV series was originally designed to follow Constantine and Liv (Lucy Griffith) until the producers switched gears. Were you in line to guest star and they expanded your role, or did you come in knowing Zed would essentially be replacing Liv?
It honestly caught me off guard. I was in Mexico City and I had just flown back to Los Angeles. I had no idea this was going on. When I went in, I did now then that they were doing this whole transition from following one story and picking up another. I just went in to be Zed. I knew that she was going to be included in the story. Later on, when I was invited to become Zed in this amazing project, I found out all the details.
I don’t like this whole thing of “replacing people,” because I don’t think anybody replaces anybody else. Everybody brings their own magic to the show. The executive producers said maybe Liv will return in season two. I don’t think Liv was replaced. It was more of the direction of the story they wanted to go in.
Did the “Hellblazer” comics help you get a better handle or understanding of Zed?
Definitely. I started reading the introduction of Zed in “Hellblazer.” She knows she’s tough. She doesn’t take crap from anybody. In the comic books, she just appeared as this badass chick. I wanted to show the process of how she got like that. There’s something beneath all that sass and sarcasm. That’s what I wanted to bring to the people at home. Next season, when Zed is becoming a little more sarcastic and a little tougher and playing with her sex appeal more, it will be because we understand exactly where she’s coming from.
The episode “A Feast of Friends” saw John sacrifice his friend Gary Lester (Jonjo O’Neill) in order to stop a demon. How did that move affect Zed’s perception of Constantine?
Zed did not like the way Constantine was abusing his friend’s trust. She could not understand why he would bring harm to anybody, let alone his friend, who came on a plane from across the ocean to be with John. All Gary ever did was look up to John. For John to do that to his friend, Zed was like, “Who are you? What monster are you?” She did not understand that Gary wanted to go out doing something positive for a change. He needed to do this, to go out with a more positive bang, [rather] than under a bridge doing some drugs. At that moment though, it’s like, “What the hell is wrong with you?”
She starts to understand John has a bigger load to carry than she thought, and there’s a deeper side to him than what he lets people see. That just brought Zed closer to him.
Can you preview this week’s episode “Blessed are the Damned” and where Zed fits in?
Zed has these wonderful visions, and she’s going to be having a lot more. Zed is questioning whether her visions come from God or the Devil. Are they evil or are they a blessing in her life? She doesn’t know, because she’s running away from stuff. In this episode, Zed starts questioning a lot of things around her. She starts to realize there is this amazing spiritual war. Whether it be dark or whether it be light, that world does exist.
I’ve been hinting on Twitter that there’s going to be snakes on Zed. I suffered, because I had these two boa constrictors around me. I hope it looks good. I had a dress on and Zed never wears dresses. In this episode, she decided to wear a dress to art class. I was feeling the ice cold blood of the snake all on my skin. I had this one boa who was the laziest constrictor possible. He didn’t want to constrict. He was lazy and fat. They were trying to tie him around my waist. All of a sudden, it just flopped on the floor. I really thought, “Oh, my God — this boa is going to get angry. It’s going to bite my leg or fight with another snake. I’m right here in the middle of it.” That lazy boa didn’t even want to do anything. It just stayed there. But in the episode, there’s going to be a lot of angels and baptism and spiritual stuff.
One image shows Zed standing next to Manny. Now, they have not previously interacted, so how does that meeting go down? What’s her impression of him?
Well, I can’t really say much because as we all know, the only one who can ever see Manny is John. The question is, can that be Manny? Does she even know he exists? There is an encounter, but I can’t give you the details because it’s so good.
The mid-season finale, “The Saint of Last Resorts: Part 2,” is pretty Zed-centric. What were your thoughts on the script? Did anything in it surprise you?
It honestly surprised me that we really went there with “The Resurrection Crusade,” that we really went into Zed’s past. It was awesome. When I read that script and started playing with T.J. (Scott), the director of the mid-season finale, it was incredible. We played around with who Zed is, what she’s running from and exactly how badass Zed is. I guarantee you, viewers think, “Oh, Zed is a tough cookie.” You’re going to see Zed kick some serious ass. She’s going to lay it down good with the violence. You’re going to see exactly what she’s running away from.
“The Resurrection Crusade” is a story arc directly from the comics, dealing with her father.
Yes, sir. That’s exactly what I am referring to. Lots of juicy stuff. For the people who know and have been wondering whether we’re going to touch on “The Resurrection Crusade,” yes we are. For the people who don’t know about it, they are going to understand exactly why she doesn’t want to talk about her past and why she’s a little sketchy when around certain people.
In the comic books, Zed and Constantine are lovers. Are you enjoying the status quo on the show as it is, or have you been waiting for their relationship to evolve?
I am waiting for that relationship to evolve. I like playing around with it, too. Anne Marie (Claire van der Boom) comes in from the Newcastle Crew, and Zed doesn’t like it. She’s extremely territorial, and vice versa. There are a couple of guys that come into Zed’s life, and John isn’t happy about it. I like that we’re stretching it out. That’s what happens in the real world. You don’t just jump into bed with someone. You sort it out, but Zed is infatuated with John.
Episode 13 caps off the season and brings back Jim Corrigan (Emmett Scanlan). What are you excited for viewers to see?
I’m excited for the fans to see exactly what plays out with the Spectre, with Jim Corrigan. I’m so excited we’re touching on one of the original stories from “Hellblazer,” with the three young brides. That’s a creepy, creepy story that I’m pretty sure everybody at home will be cheering on. But the thing I’m most excited about is, we’re going to see what this whole Rising Darkness is and who, or what, is causing it.
It must be rewarding that the show keeps getting better and stronger as it goes on.
Yeah, it is. I’m glad people out there are responding to it. It’s not just because I’m on the show and I love what I am doing, but honestly, every single episode the writers get a little more inspired or they get a little more license to take it there and do more. The stories are getting crazier, and we’re really pushing the envelope towards the end of the season.
You were filming when NBC announced they were scaling back on season one and ending production with episode 13. What was your, Matt’s and the cast and crew’s reaction?
We have up to episode 15 in our hands, and we wish you guys could see what a riot that would have been. That’s going to get reworked for season two. I got contracted for 13 episodes. I didn’t get contracted for 15, 19 or 20. The funny thing is, everybody got scared. “They are canceling Constantine.” Well, according to my contract, I was only scheduled for 13. According to my timeslot, I knew I was going to have January and February and so on free. The true diehard fans got really scared saying, “Oh, my God. What happened?”
It’s like, “Wait a minute. There are other series that started off a little slow, trying to see what they were doing.” You see our episodes and the money going into those graphics and CG. When you are spending a pretty dime making these graphics look like you are going to the movies, it adds up.
Nonetheless, there have been quite a few “Save Constantine” campaigns. How does it feel to have the fans rallying and giving that kind of support?
Honestly, it’s so humbling. As of right now, we have very few episodes on the air because we started late in the season. To have fans out there rallying and voting for People’s Choice and making #SaveConstantine a trending topic on Twitter is very humbling. It only makes us want to get back into the groove, get back into the stories. All of us on set, when we saw the fans screaming and stepping up, we were like, “We have got to make this good. Forget us. Forget whatever the actors want. No, no, no. We have fans we need to please, so we better step this up.”