David S. Goyer & Daniel Cerone Discuss Constantine: Part 2

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Question: How much of the Pre-52 influenced the series as well as the Post-52 and how difficult is it to ride that line of horror and suspense without crossing over to get the censors on your case?

David S. Goyer: I would say as the sort of the resident comic book nerd, I would say that the show is almost exclusively influenced by the Pre-52, you know – the Hellblazer comics, you know? If for no other reason then Hellblazer ran for 300 issues and the new Constantine is – I know it’s less than 20. I’m not quite sure where they’re at now, 15, 16. They’re just not the body of work that exists in terms of what we’re influenced by.

So without question, and I know this is really inside baseball, but the show is primarily influenced by and inspired by the Pre-52…

Daniel Cerone: Yes. If I can jump in on that part, David is completely right. I don’t think we’ve – other than, you know, we do look over – I mean, look, we have the whole sort of Constantine cannon at our disposal in terms of storytelling. We do look to the newer issues, you know, to see if there’s interesting story ideas for us or stories that we can use or adopt.

But, look, the Web described what we’re doing on the show as, you know, Constantine is this amazing mythology. And there’s this amazing character and, you know, it’s just like this fantastic car that we’ve been given the keys to, to take it for a spin and we’re doing that on network television. And, you know, the writers of the new 52 Constantine, they’re doing the same thing as we are. They’re basically rebooting the franchise. We’re rebooting for television. They’re doing it for sort of a new generation of, you know, of comic book readers.

So we’re kind of charged with the same task, you know, in terms of taking what was there, the foundation of what was there and, you know, just try to honor it and do the best that we can with it for our medium.

So yes, it’s all as cool. I mean, you know, one of the most fascinating things about Constantine to me is that it was the longest-running comic book series. According to my understanding of any imprint of any comic book publisher that was never in its 30-year run, it was never rebooted, it was never renumbered, it was never reissued, you know. It just stayed in continuous publication as a guy who can – who aged on the page, you know, in real-time. And I just think that makes him such a unique character.

And what we’re doing on our show is we’re going back to beginning. We’re basically meeting roughly the same time that you met him in Hellblazer in the very first issue. So our timeline, you know, when people are like “Wow,” you know, in terms of the cancer story and all the great arcs that he has, you know, we just hope and pray that this show has legs because we’ll get to him like we love those arcs, dangerous habits and all the arcs that everybody else is excited about, we’re excited about. And what’s great is that we’re choosing an entry point where the character is young and all those adventures are ahead of him and we hope to dramatize as many of them as we possibly can.

What is the second half of that question, David? I don’t remember.

David S. Goyer: Oh, network censorship or not – how was it – it’s not network censorship, per se, but it’s – I think has it been a challenge to sort of ride the line between, I guess, broadcast standards and coming up with something that’s scary and suspenseful. Right?

Daniel Cerone: Yes, but, look, we could give you, you know, if you read the network’s standards that we get, it’s like “Can we please not hear him urinating? It’s okay to urinate on screen but as long as we don’t hear it.” Or there’s a shot where Zed is like painting this young guy and he’s nude – like a nude model and it’s like “He can be nude but can we see him from the sides so we don’t see his butt crack because it’s like – it’s okay he’s nude but we just – we can’t see the crack.” So it’s – those are the kind of – those are the censorships…

David S. Goyer: It’s not too bad. Yes.

Daniel Cerone: No, it’s not at all. It’s not at all.

Question: Since there are other shows where someone hunting demons like “Grimm” and “Supernatural,” is there anything that you do to make sure that you’re not inadvertently copying them or do you have someone watching for that kind of thing or just do your own thing and hope for the best?

David S. Goyer: Well, first of all, let me just say that, you know, taking nothing away from those shows, I think what’s fundamentally different about our show versus like “Oh, well, just show people the Supernatural” is the John Constantine character. He’s amazing character.

And with all due respect to those shows, he was around a lot long – a lot earlier than they were. And I know there’s, you know, some people have said “Oh, this is the character on Supernatural” that Constantine is like that character was influenced by Constantine, not the other way around. And he’s been around for 25, 30 years.

So I think once people see a few more episodes under their belt, particularly the episode that’s going to air Friday night, I don’t think – it’s a very, very, very different show than those shows. And I also think there’s room for all of that.

Daniel Cerone: I will say this, though, as a storyteller, you can’t pay attention to what other people are doing on similar shows. I think that’s where you get into trouble, frankly, because if it’s in your head, “Oh, they did this creature” or “They did this scare” or “They did this sort of legend or mythology.”

You know, then you start comparing yourself and, look, we’re just trying to channel the character John Constantine as clearly as we can. I mean, funny, one of the first shows that I came in on as a young writer was “Charmed” and I spent, like, the first four years of my career on “Charmed.” You know, we’re doing this on “Charmed” before they’re doing on “Supernatural.” “Supernatural,” you know, “X-Files” is doing it before us. “Buffy” was in the middle of it all. You know, all you can do is trust your characters, you know. That’s, hopefully, what people are tuned in to every week and, you know, within that framework, we try and tailor, you know, we might do a vampire story or a zombie story. In fact, look, we’re doing – you know, there’s elements of a zombie coming up for us but look at filtered to the world of Papa Midnite. So it’s voodoo zombie. It’s more old school, you know, raise and assault and, you know, bring in, you know, recently-deceased humans back. It’s not the sort of zombie – apocalyptic zombie virus that we’re all accustomed to.

So, you know, we’re always going to spin it through our filter and – but you can’t worry about what other people are doing and really tell good stories. I don’t think.

Question: What are you doing to really help the non-comic book fans, how could they best get into the show because you’ve got to have – and you talked about this a little bit before, you’ve got to have that contingent in order to make this show a success on the network.

David S. Goyer: Sure. Sure.

Daniel Cerone: Yes. Look, I actually think in the whole wide spectrum. I actually feel like we’re tipping closer to creating the show for the non-fan and the fan, truthfully, because there isn’t a single episode or story we tell where we’re just not seeing down to tell a coherent story and every week introduce a danger and characters that you can relate to and care for and, at the same time, you know, we’re trying to spin out this, you know, the central character of John Constantine as someone who is fully of aches and pain and guilt and torment and is going about doing something because he feels personally compel to do it.

I feel like everything we’ve served and talked about this phone call is, you know, it is a little inside baseball. I mean, for anybody who knows of this, you don’t have to know of the character Papa Midnite. You don’t have to know about The Newcastle Crew. You don’t have to know about Felix Faust or the Doctor Fate Helmet or any of these elements that we’re using to enjoy the show. I mean, every week, we’re just trying to tell the most sort of honest and accessible and humanistic stories that we possibly can.

But there’s an added layer on top of that for the comic book fan where if you know the world, if you know John Constantine, if you know Hellblazer, if you know some of the iconic images and people on the DC world, it’s value added. It’ll provide that much more entertainment and fun hopefully.

David S. Goyer: And I would say one more thing, like, let’s talk about, for instance, the introduction of Jim Corrigan, who’s a character the comic book fans will know. You know, the working rule of thumb that we’ve gone by is, you know, as fans, it’s exciting for us to introduce a character like that and we know it will be to the comic book fans but…

David S. Goyer: He becomes another DC character called The Spectre as supernatural figure ultimately. But the point is it’s fun for us as fans to say “Hey, let’s get this character in there.” But we don’t want to do it just as a stunt cast and we won’t do it unless it’s organic to the story and we can introduce the character in a way that people who never read the comics will understand who he is and won’t be lost without his back story.

So we have to make sure that every time we introduce a character or a plot element like that, we can do it in a way that stays true to the source material but doesn’t alienate the broader audience and they feel like they’re missing out or they don’t understand the story because they haven’t read the comic books.

Daniel Cerone: And, you know, Jim Corrigan is a great case study. I mean, if I can sort of present for an instant, like, how the Jim Corrigan character came into being on our show, for Episode – it’s Episode – it’s called “Danse Vaudou.” It airs not this Friday but a week from Friday. We did an episode where we’re like all right, we want to do – let’s start it with urban legends. And like, look, there’s a perfect example. Everybody does their urban legends or like “Let’s sort of do just” – but we’re not going to call them urban legend. Let’s just do – let’s just bring some urban legends to life and let’s do serve a thematic urban legend episode.

And we basically decided to do three of them. One was like the vanishing hitchhiker. One was the slit-mouthed woman. That’s like the woman who carries a surgical mask in Japan. And the third was – what’s that third character? There’s the hitchhiker, the woman – oh, it was the golden – what is it, the golden – it’s the golden paw. What is it? The monkey’s paw basically…

David S. Goyer: Yes, yes.

Daniel Cerone: Somebody’s loved one comes back.

So we decided to have three ghost stories and all based loosely on those urban legends. And they all end up being ghosts that are brought to life by Papa Midnite unknowingly because of the rising darkness. So within the context of the episode, we realized we needed to cap character. There is a cap that, you know, was coming across various dead bodies that were connected to his ghost. And so we’re like, “All right, we’re going to expose a police officer to the supernatural world here.” And so right away we’re like “All right, is there anyone in the DC world that we can plug into that could, you know, sort of” – again, it’s a value added. Kill two birds with one stone and we thought “Well, Jim Corrigan is this cop, very much like Constantine, kind of takes the law in his own hands, you know, really hard charging, will do anything, you know, for the arrest and he ultimately is killed and comes back as The Spectre character.” We’re like “What if we meet him now as a cop. He can come into this case. He can see those” – you know, we’re sort of seeing like a bit of the origin story of Jim Corrigan where he sees the supernatural world open to him for the first time.

And so, you know, A, we’re introducing Jim Corrigan; B, we’re giving John Constantine a friend of the force for future episodes, and that’s just sort of how that happened. But it came from very organic story, different place. It wasn’t about servicing DC fans. It was literally about just trying to tell a good story.

Question: Another one of the characters for the show so far is the music. Can you talk about working with Bear McCreary about the inclusion of kind of tech specialist in the funk music so far?

David S. Goyer: I’ll – this is David. I’ll start. I mean, Bear – this is the third time I’ve collaborated with Bear. Most recently, he does the score for my other show, “Da Vinci’s Demons.” He actually won the Emmy last year for it.

And so as soon as Constantine, the pilot was going, I think I just said to everyone Bear is doing it. There’s no – there’s not going to be a conversation. He’s doing it.

Bear is also a huge, huge Hellblazer fan. And one of the things that’s great about Bear is he’s incredibly versatile. I mean, his score for “Walking Dead” is nothing like his score for this. There’s nothing like a score for “Battlestars,” nothing like “Da Vinci’s Demons.”

We also used, which is unusual, a full orchestra on the show. A lot of people just go with sense and, you know, might have one or two instruments. We have a full orchestra.

And if you want to handle the funk thing, Daniel, it’s sort of part and partial. That speaks to a character when John Constantine was introducing the AAP. He was part of that funk scene. He used to be part of a funk band, which we referenced in the last episode and we thought even though it’s bit anachronistic, it would be fun to still utilize a lot of that funk music whenever we’re using, you know, source pieces.

Daniel Cerone: But, you know, look, here’s the deal. I mean, John Constantine was funk. I mean, it’s as simple as that. I mean, he’s – you know, it just so that ecstatic just so embody his, you know, that of rebellious ecstatic, free-thinking completely embodies who John Constantine is and, look, I have a 13-year-old daughter who just – that’s all she listens to is funk. So, I mean, I don’t think, you know, I don’t even think it’s throwback really. I think it’s just, you know, it’s such a part of sort of culturally now, you know, the music scene and there’s so many shoots of it. I just think it’s, you know, so to bring that into the show as a flavor just felt like a really honest thing to do.

Like David said, look, when John left home in the comics in his timeline, I think he went straight into the London, you know, underground funk scene and yes, that’s all long gone but that doesn’t mean that, you know, as a character, that can’t be a music and that can’t be his musical style because it just feels honest to who he is. And for us, it’s a lot of fun to try to find cuts that we can use for the show.

Constantine airs Fridays at 10 p.m. on NBC.

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