“Constantine” Exclusive: Charles Halford Vs. Shia LaBeouf
by Fred Topel
Of the three new comic book shows coming to TV this fall, Constantine might be the most unknown to general audiences. Everyone knows Batman even if Gotham isn’t suiting Bruce Wayne up. The Flash is pretty self-explanatory too, but Constantine is based on the DC Vertigo character from Hellblazer. General viewers are more likely to know the Keanu Reeves movie than the original source material.
Matt Ryan plays TV’s John Constantine, a demonologist with plenty of bad habits of his own. Also appearing from the comics is John’s faithful human companion Chas. Chas was played by Shia LaBeouf in the movie, but TV’s Charles Halford looks more the part, even if the pilot does give him some supernatural resurrection powers. The show features new characters like an angel named Manny (Harold Perrineau), Ritchie Simpson (Jeremy Davies) and a human named Liv (Lucy Griffiths), whom series creators David Goyer and Daniel Cerone have decided to write out of future episodes in favor of the character Zed (Angelica Celaya) from the comic books.
When I met Halford over the summer for the Television Critics Association, he impressed me with his deep knowledge of the Hellblazer comic books. We’re looking forward to seeing where the series, and Chas, goes this fall. Constantine premieres October 24 on NBC.
Nuke The Fridge: Is Chas immortal?
Charles Halford: You’ll have to tune in to find out the answer to that one.
NTF: He survived something pretty big in the pilot.
Charles Halford: He does survive something in the pilot that anyone would probably die afterwards, so he certainly does have some survival skills, but the root of those survival skills is yet to be determined in the coming episodes. He is Constantine’s longest surviving friend, in the comic books outside of this. So we’re staying true to that as well.
NTF: Right, even in the movie he dies and comes back as an angel. Neither that nor his ability to survive an electric power line through the heart are from the comic book.
Charles Halford: No, no. In the comics, John kind of made it a point to keep Chas out of the really dirty stuff. I think that’s because he, at the end of the day, who doesn’t want a friend? Early in their storyline, they had become endeared to one another and so I think that in the comics, Constantine made it a point to keep Chas away from the really dangerous stuff. One invention of the series is the fact that Chas is right in the middle of it and willing to go through hell essentially to protect and promote Constantine’s mission here on earth.
NTF: Has Chas been more important to Constantine in the comic books, and is the series going to get to that level of importance?
Charles Halford: Well, Chas in the comics is important to Constantine in that he always has a friend. An interesting storyline in the comics that I don’t know if we’ll get into in the series, I hope we do because I love it is that in the comics, Chas’s mother is a witch. She kind of keeps him with her powers. Like, she doesn’t let him leave the house. She murdered, more or less, his father and cause his brother to kill himself and is this really horrible witch. Constantine finds a way to rid Chas of his mother problem, his witch problem which in turn endears Chas to Constantine and sort of makes Constantine his entire family until he goes on to get married and have a daughter. I think that in the series, that friendship remains and that history remains. That familial thing between Chas and Constantine, that brotherly thing is there.
NTF: Is the witch mother going to be the subject of an upcoming episodes?
Charles Halford: You’d have to ask Daniel or David that because I’m not sure.
NTF: Did you discuss that as part of your backstory?
Charles Halford: We’re all very familiar with it. Issue 84 is one of my favorites, and it’s not just because it’s Chas’s backstory. It’s one of my favorite issues because it’s just so far out there. How Constantine goes about ridding Chas of his witch mother is by essentially drowning – this is why it probably won’t make it to network – he essentially drowns her monkey familiar, this evil demon chimpanzee that also torments Chas throughout his adult life. Constantine, because of his occult knowledge, knows that if he can take care of that evil chimp then the witch goes with it.
NTF: So there’s no monkey demon on the show.
Charles Halford: I can’t say if there is or isn’t. I can say that I would love there to be one but I don’t know if that will ever happen.
NTF: We know Constantine is going to change directions without Lucy Griffiths as Liv. How is Chas going to feel about her departure?
Charles Halford: Well, Chas again is a very human character. I think he’s a little bit more sensitive to the loss that John creates. So all of the friends that come and go in John’s life, Chas obviously knows. He kind of makes John answer for some of his decisions. He sort of serves as a moral compass of sorts and keeping him to task. In the pilot, we don’t know what to do without Liv shedding her blood to show us the way. While Constantine would maybe rather brush off and belly up to the bar and forget about the whole deal, Chas says no. She shed blood for this and I think you owe it to her and the legacy of her father. So yes, it does affect Chas in some way as I’m sure all of the goings on with Constantine’s life and the people that come and go and live and die in that world affect Chas a little bit more than John. They may affect John but he would never show that.
NTF: How does Chas feel about Ritchie?
Charles Halford: Well, they’re all old mates, per the comics. John sort of has a community of experts. Some of them are perhaps psychic. Some of them are perhaps his historians and occult historians. Ritchie is in that same category. They have a long history in the comic books. In the pilot, Ritchie wants nothing to do with John, as does anybody who’s ever shared any time with him. Why would you? The clock’s ticking. If you’re friends with John Constantine then your number’s already pulled essentially. So therefore, since Chas is Constantine’s staunch companion, anyone who doesn’t want anything to do with John, probably sacrifices any friendship with Chas in the same vein. Again, it’s up to Chas to put Constantine in his place sometimes.
NTF: Did Chas ever visit John in Ravenscar?
Charles Halford: It’s fair to assume that he did, I think. He is his best friend, and outside of perhaps a personal life, very much a brother to him so I don’t see him letting John go through all of that without bringing him cookies or something.
NTF: Manny is a new character. How does Chas feel about him?
Charles Halford: I don’t even think Chas really knows, outside of perhaps John bitching about this angel who’s pestering him. Manny only manifests to John so as it stands now, I don’t know that Manny and Chas will have much time to get to know each other.
NTF: You sound so well versed in the Constantine/Hellblazer comics. Were you a fan before this show even came along?
Charles Halford: I was a fan but I would say I was more familiar. Growing up I liked the caped crusaders. I really liked Batman and I tended towards darker comics, but I came from a pretty conservative family so I would have to have an older kid give me a Hellblazer comic. Someone would slip me a Hellblazer comic and I would kind of giggle and be scared, but I don’t think I understood the depth of the content. I just saw an occasional comic book sex scene and strong language. Again, when I was younger, I think I had a harder time with the language because he’s a Scouser and it’s written that way. But when all of this developed, the first thing I did when I knew that I had it was go and buy every Hellblazer title I could at the comic book store. I just fell in love all over again.
NTF: Did NBC pay for that?
Charles Halford: No, but I’ll be writing it off. [Laughs] I guess they could have. I just didn’t ask.
NTF: You should always ask for materials.
Charles Halford: That’s true. Matt gave me a hard time because he scored a whole bunch from DC. I was just like, “Well, it’s part of the fun.” I like going to the comic book store. I like buying these comics and they don’t know they’re selling them to Chas.
NTF: Did you get a really big Constantine education from David Goyer and Geoff Johns?
Charles Halford: I haven’t met Geoff yet. David is an encyclopedia of comic book, DC knowledge. He gave me a good overview when we first met as I was going through the testing process. But he’s a very, very busy man and our shooting schedule’s been very busy so we haven’t had a chance to really sit down and get to it, but he was full of very, very good information when we started and he certainly, with a lot of what he was saying, sparked my interest in rushing out to that comic book store and getting to the bottom of it.
NTF: Did Constantine come to you in a normal pilot season, you were just going out on auditions?
Charles Halford: Yeah, it came out of nowhere but it smacked me right upside the head. I mean, it was a perfect fit, what they were looking for physically, which is rare because I’m 6’6”. They wanted that, and the features they described both physically and emotionally suited me well. Then I was sort of familiar with the source material, and I wanted it. But it came so naturally that it wasn’t like I fought super hard for it. Just when I read the script, I felt that connection. There was a lot of tingles, out side of the thrills and spills and chills of just the environment of the story. I felt like it was a really good fit and I’m happy that everybody who made the decision felt the same way.
NTF: Was this the only show you went out for?
Charles Halford: This was the only series regular that I’d gone for in pilot season this year, so that was fortunate.
NTF: If they were looking for you physical type, they were consciously going in a different direction than the movie with Shia LaBeouf then?
Charles Halford: Well, yeah, but I think Shia was very removed from the original story anyway. In all honesty, I have not seen the movie from start to finish.
NTF: It’s not a bad movie.
Charles Halford: It’s not a bad movie. I was a fan of the comic books so I was kind of hesitant to see the movie and I feel like I share that with other fans of the comic book. And I haven’t gone and seen the movie since this all developed because I really didn’t want to influence my own performance.