John Constantine, the sarcastic occult detective who was a staple of the Vertigo line throughout its history before making a jump to the main DCU, has recently made another unexpected leap — headlining NBC’s primetime “Constantine” series. As longtime fans have tuned in to see how the translation from page to screen gets made this time around (after the much-maligned 2005 film starring Keanu Reeves), one character’s centrality to the show has been a particular source of joy for readers of “Hellblazer”: Constantine’s old friend and dependable cab-driver Chas, played by Charles Halford.
Fresh off his brief but attention-grabbing turn as Big Bad Reggie Ledoux on the hit HBO series “True Detective,” Halford is looking to settle in to a long-term gig on “Constantine.” The emotion and humor he brings to the role of Chas has been one of the highlights of the show so far, playing the straight man (and conscience) to the anti-hero Constantine. CBR News spoke with the actor, finding out more about how he came to the series, what audiences can anticipate from his portrayal of Chas and what other comic books he’d like to see on the big screen someday.
Charles, how did you get connected with “Constantine?”
Charles Halford: It was pretty regular. I got a casting breakdown and they were looking for a guy like me for Chas. The rest happened really fast. I went in and read with [casting director] Felicia Fasano. I hadn’t met her yet, so that was an exciting thing to do. She was impressed with what I did, so two days later I was meeting with [showrunner] Daniel [Cerone] and Matt [Ryan] doing a chemistry read. About three days after that, I was meeting [writer/producer] David Goyer. Two hours later, I got the call and a week later we were in Atlanta shooting. It was pretty fortuitous that my part in “True Detective” was pausing the same time as the casting, so that helped as well.
Were comic book movies and shows something you were interested in pursuing?
I’ve always been a fan of comics. In my early teenage years I kept up with comics, or tried to. I had a lot of friends that were really into it and do comic book podcasts and are into the movies. With “Constantine” it was particularly exciting, and sort of kismet, because that was a comic I was really into. I didn’t fully understand it when I was younger but I liked the graphic imagery. I remember when the film came out — which I still haven’t seen all the way through — scratching my head and going, “This is the comic I used to read…?” My comic book fan friends weren’t into it, so I continued to pass on seeing it. Then when I read this pilot, I thought it was so cool, especially that they were revising that property. I really wanted to be a part of that world. It’s the coolest job in the world.
What makes “Constantine” such a cool adaptation?
We’re really trying to adapt it as well as we can — that’s our main goal. I went into the writers’ room on one of my first trips back to L.A and I talked to [series producer] Mark Verheiden and I said, “So what’s the vibe for the show? How big is the story arc?” and he goes, “Read the comic books.” They’re structuring the story lines like the through lines for the comics. Like episode 4. When I read that episode I thought, “This is straight from the pages of “Hellblazer.” There’s been a couple of episodes like that, where it just feels like it jumped right off the page. We’re really trying to serve the mythology of the comic books. I mean Matt has done a fantastic job of interpreting John Constantine. DC has really opened up their occult universe to us and have been really supportive of us putting characters in that are straight from the pages, and kind of helping keep it really in good service to the comic.
I’m glad that you mentioned the occult elements. So far we’ve gotten to see your character, Chas, display some of his powers. What is it like playing a character with supernatural abilities?
Well, it’s a lot of fun. Of course, his ability is to take abuse and come back and that’ll get explained a little bit later, but I really like the way that they’ve developed that. I feel like we operate in this realm in the occult but also try to keep the show hyper-natural, you know? Like there are all these things that go bump in the night, but it’s like it’s just happening. Chas in particular has a good grasp of that after running around with Jon as much as he has. You find later, as in the comic books, that Chas has a family, so to try to balance a normal life with meanwhile rising to the call of duty by Constantine’s side after awhile becomes an interesting dynamic. In terms of supernatural ability, I almost consider Chas’ situation more of a detriment to a real life, you know? It’s in the scripts that it’s not a pleasant experience to die and come back! And we see more of that as the show goes on as well.
Do you get used to seeing your own death in the scripts over and over?
Yeah, it’s kind of a fun little game to see a) if they kill me and b) how brutally!
Are you doing any of your own stunts for the show?
I do as much as I can. I don’t mind taking some lumps, but there are some things where they just won’t let me!
What have been some of the coolest situations you’ve gotten to film as Chas so far?
In episode 10, Chas really opens up in the storyline. For me as an actor it goes from like a two to a ten, just in terms of information. I’ve spoken with the show’s creators and the showrunner about Chas in the show. I love the comics, but there’s obviously some inventions for the character in the show with, the supernatural abilities and things like that. So I was really trying to dig in and get information, but when I finally got my eyes on that script — it was emotional to see the various aspects of this character, and what all happened to lead up to the events in that episode. We go back and explore how John and Chas have bonded and what their loyalty means.
We have a lot of great guest stars coming — every week there’s something amazing. From the sets they’re finding and building for us to live in, to the recurring characters and actors we have joining us. Everyone is going to love Papa Midnite. Michael James Shaw is great in the part. It’s such a fun ride and I’m really happy that it’s on television. We can have a weekly installment of “Hellblazer!”
Any roles you’d like the opportunity to play?
I don’t wanna jinx it! I’m staying open but I’m a little superstitious. I feel really lucky to play the roles that I’ve played so far.
Any comics you’d love to see make it to the big or small screen?
I love “Animal Man,” so I’d love to see something done with that. Like any other “Hellblazer” fan, some adaptation of “Swamp Thing” would be great. Anything else would fall below those two. Those two would be my little comic fan dream.
“Constantine” airs Fridays on NBC, with the fourth episode blazing your faces off tonight.
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