Emmett J. Scanlan Seeks Justice as Jim Corrigan in "Constantine"

John Constantine needs help.

As unholy forces continue rise against mankind, the titular mage's allies are few and far between, but tonight's episode, "Danse Vaudou," could change all that with the introduction of a new player: Jim Corrigan.

Comic book readers recognize Corrigan as a murdered police detective who emerges as the human host for the Spectre, an avenging spirit hell-bent on punishing the guilty and eradicating evil. How -- or if-- that story unfolds on NBC's "Constantine," however, remains to be seen.

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To whet audiences' appetites, Scanlan spoke with CBR News about joining the growing "Constantine" universe. We discuss his character's supernatural baptism by fire, becoming the Spectre and look back at his other comic book adaptation experience experience as part of last summer's blockbuster "Guardians of the Galaxy."

CBR News: There's been a lot of buzz surrounding Jim Corrigan's appearance on "Constantine." How did you land the role?

Emmett J. Scanlan: In February, I was flown out to L.A. to test for the leading role in a new NBC/Warner show. It was between me and one other fella -- and soon to be close mate -- Matt Ryan. We both signed wonderful contracts for a gig we had yet to score. Such is the American way. It was a game changer. A life changer. I'd already spent the money I was going to earn in my head 10 times over. I flew back home feeling confident I did a good job.

The next day, I woke up to the news I didn't get it. I was happy for Matt, and watching him do this series, the better man won out, no doubt -- but that didn't stop it from hurting. For 45 minutes, I was numb. I was due on the set for the gangster movie "Breakdown," and all I could do was stare into space wondering what the point of all that was, what was my lesson? Why all those sleepless nights in L.A.? Don't get me wrong, I met some really great people. I worked with legends like Daniel Cerone, David Goyer, Neil Marshall and Felicia Fasano. People who are at the top of their game, with resumes that would make your sphincter clench. But what was the point of all that if I didn't book the job?

And then I realized: That was the fucking point. To meet them. My journey wasn't to play Constantine; it was to meet these people. I was just looking in the wrong direction. I'm working with these people again, just not as Constantine. And that's my story.

Every time we think we're being rejected from something good, we're being redirected to something better. You have to believe that. Don't take it personally. Otherwise, this game will destroy even the best of us. Hope is everything, because without it we have nothing. When the character Jim Corrigan came up and I had first go at it, I threw myself on tape, and within days, the part was confirmed and I was flying out to film my first ever NBC episode. The rest, as they say, is history.

Introduce us to your Jim Corrigan. Who is he and what drives him?

There are so many conflicting ideas of who Jim Corrigan is. In my opinion, thus far, Jim is a detective in New Orleans. He's the son of a preacher man, victim to an abusive father. He's a firm believer in justice, and if that fails, vengeance. He is his job. He eats, breathes and sleeps it. 

What drives him is protecting those falling victim to the scum of the world. He's a hunter and a protector. In a nutshell, he is what he'll become. How that will develop is anyone's guess, but it's exciting.

How did you prepare for this part? Were you influenced by any fictional police detectives or particular comic book arcs?

First of all, it's important to note that you're taking on quite an iconic DC character, and in that comes the respect, demands the respect, to read the material at your disposal. All of the comics I was given were post-Corrigan and present Spectre, so that side of him while, ultimately intriguing, was useless to a degree, certainly for this episode. That part of him doesn't exist. Or, only a shadow of him exists. 

I can only go on what I am, not be influenced by what will eventually be. It's important when developing any arc. I spoke relentlessly to Christine Boylan, the writer who brought Corrigan to life. We drank a lot and spoke more. It's always about Constantine, always about Corrigan. We spoke about who Jim was, who he is, his upbringing, what makes him tick, what drives him, what his favorite drink was and what side of the bed he got out of. She always made herself available to me, and I can be a relentless fucker in my pursuit for answers. Never once was she not hungry to share her knowledge. We both craved the authenticity of character, while at the same time putting our own stamp on things. I read less, asked questions more. That was my research. 

What is Corrigan's first taste of the supernatural and how does he handle it?

Corrigan tries to save the life of a woman in an alley who's attacked and killed by the ghost of Misaki Ross. He empties a full clip into her only to find it has no effect at all. Corrigan is a man of principle. He's old school. He thinks in black and white, he believes what he sees, and what he sees he can't believe. It isn't until Constantine and Zed come along that he starts to embrace the possibility of something supernatural, or, at the very least, something beyond his understanding. As an expert hunter, he needs to understand his prey. Constantine provides that understanding, however difficult it may seem to be

How does Corrigan initially size up Constantine, and what is their relationship moving forward?

Occult investigators are con men in Jim's eyes. Hocus pocus bullshit. Regardless of that first impression, he also sees something in Constantine's eyes that won't allow him to dismiss him completely. Maybe that's the cop in him, or maybe he sees himself in the reflection of John's eyes. It's probably both.

Considering Corrigan eventually becomes the Spirit of Vengeance, how would you describe his sense of justice and attitude towards the law?

Corrigan wants justice. He demands it. At any cost. Any cost. 

Corrigan is murdered before becoming the Spectre. What's fun about the slow journey of getting to that point instead of it all happening in one episode?

The unknown. Where it can go. What David and Daniel have in store in their manic brilliant wee heads. The journey is always better than the destination. The anticipation for the birth of the Spectre is intriguing, but I'm in no rush to get there. I just know that when it does, we got the perfect team to make the destination justify the journey. My reality is Jim Corrigan. Everything else is just hypotheticals and background noise.

Besides this episode, how much more can we expect to see of Corrigan?

I'm in Atlanta as we speak, shooting episode 13, written by Cameron Walsh. And it's gonna be a fucking doozy. I can't tell you any more about it, only that to be called back is, and will always be, an honor. 

Inevitably, Corrigan will become the Spectre. Would you like the series to keep the Spectre's classic ghostly appearance or how would you like to see it updated?

I haven't given it any thought to be perfectly honest. And I can't allow myself to do that either. That's entering into the realm of the "What if?" That's thinking too far ahead. I need to be present. The only thing consuming every part of me right now is getting this next episode right.

I just trust that whatever we choose to do, it will be in keeping with the integrity of the comics while also giving our own twist on things. You can never second guess the bosses, though. They're always a few steps ahead of all of us in development

Lastly, this isn't your only superhero gig this year. What was it like being involved in "Guardians of the Galaxy" and filming that chaotic prison scene?

Like a kid in a fucking candy store. James "Top" Gunn is the man. I loved the movie. It was such a beautiful experience, and I've taken from it friends that I will have 'til the day I die. That's the riches this job can bring.

Let me sum up the experience in this image: I turned down going to the screening in order to wait for it to come out in the cinema so myself and my 12-year-old daughter could see it together. Listening to her giggle throughout that movie was my "A-ha!" moment. This is why I do this! To sum it up, my daughters laugh -- there isn't a sweeter sound, or more rewarding gift. 

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