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Executive producer David Goyer revealed the casting news during the show’s panel at Sunday’s summer Television Critics Association press tour.
“She’s someone who can go toe-to-toe with John [Constantine], and that’s ultimately something we felt like we needed,” said executive producer Daniel Cerone of the new DC Comics character to be introduced early in the season. “We wanted a more dynamic relationship, as opposed to someone who is a teacher/mentor and a student. It just didn’t feel as fertile and rich of an area as just a strong a man and a strong woman who are both very different.”
Earlier Sunday, NBC Entertainment president Jennifer Salke emphasized that the network was specifically looking for an “authentic Latina actress” for the new female lead, Zed, a character from the Constantine books “with a very dark past.” Zed is seen as a foil for the show’s title character, who becomes his right-hand woman and will be the first of several DC characters to appear on Constantine.
Griffiths played the non-DC character Liv, an offbeat woman who finds herself teamed with Constantine after she is marked for death by a powerful demon. (Her exit will be explained in the second episode, which begins filming Tuesday.) In further explaining the producers’ sudden decision to change gears creatively after establishing Liv and John’s relationship and backstory in the pilot, the writers “felt a bit hamstrung” by Liv, Cerone admitted, as they looked ahead.
“Liv is a great character. She’s very wide-eyed, she’s very reactive, she doesn’t have powers, and when we started to look at the story, we thought this is a character who is always going to be reactive,” Cerone said. Thus began the conversation of seeking out other Constantine characters who they felt better fit within the confines of the universe. Cerone revealed that the writers had originally toyed with bringing Zed in the pilot. It was when they “started writing ourselves into the corner” without Zed that they decided to go for it. “We hope it energizes the fan base.”
With such significant changes, the Constantine team felt they didn’t need to scrap the original pilot and film a new one. (There will be “one little scene” that will be reshot from the pilot.) “One of the hallmarks of John is his friends drop like flies,” Goyer explained, making a point to praise Griffiths’ job in the pilot. “They almost all die around him. It’s the price of doing business. He is this classic noir character who often ends up alone, and we thought it was consistent with the character.”
Goyer also had ambitions of using Constantine to potentially launch a franchise similar in vein to NBC expanding the Chicago Fire universe with Chicago P.D., though the TV and film producer-writer had no timeline.
As for the tone of the series, Goyer and Cerone maintained that Constantine is a “horror show,” but will keep in line with the comic books by using a balance of comedic (in part due to John’s “smart-ass” humor) and fun elements.
Constantine centers on master of the occult John Constantine (Matt Ryan), who struggles with his faith as he is haunted by the sins of his past and is suddenly thrust into the role of defending humanity from the gathering forces of darkness.
In the comics, Constantine is a heavy smoker — something Goyer said the show touches on, though it won’t be a heavy focus. “He is a smoker in the show. We’re not shying away from it, but we’re not glorifying it,” he maintained. Another question was raised about Constantine’s bisexual nature — a strong recurring theme in the comics. Producers said there are “no immediate plans” to venture into that territory.
Celaya, a telenovela star, is repped by Innovative and DePaz Management. Her English-language TV credits include Dallas and Burn Notice.
Constantine premieres Oct. 24 at 10 p.m. on NBC.
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