The “Justice League Dark” LA Premiere Red Carpet: Phil Bourassa, Ray Chase, Matt Ryan, and Nicholas Turturro
At the Justice League Dark premiere at Los Angeles’ Paley Center for Media, Toonzone News was able to catch up with character designer Phil Bourassa, and actors Ray Chase (Jason Blood/Etrigan) Matt Ryan (John Constantine), and Nicholas Turturro (Deadman).
TOONZONE NEWS: You’ve worked on these movies and Young Justice for a while, who haven’t you designed yet?
PHIL BOURASSA: I’ve never designed Supergirl. There’s probably a lot. I’ve worked on a lot of different areas of the DCU, so it’s getting harder and harder to find characters that I haven’t done.
TOONZONE NEWS: How do you challenge yourself?
PHIL BOURASSA: I’m always trying to do it better. If you’re an artist you’re never really satisfied with your work, so the challenge is to improve on your formula. See what is working or what’s not working, every project, and you try to learn from your mistakes. Try to improve every time. That, for me, is the hard part. Each project presents you with a brand new failure. I think that’s the challenge of being a creative person and living that life… doing art for a living, for lack of a better explanation. That’s always in my mind, trying to get the results that I really want to get in the time frame that we have.
TOONZONE NEWS: This movie takes characters who were created in different eras. How do you make the look consistent? You don’t want anyone to stick out.
PHIL BOURASSA: The drawing style is instinctive. It’s just how I draw. It’s not that it’s not a challenge, it’s like muscle memory. Any kind of creative thing that you do is consistent because it’s like a language. It’s always just like my natural speaking voice, so keeping it consistent is not really an issue. It’s just about trying to find what’s right for each character. Coming up with something that’s really unique but taps into the tradition and is respectful of the tradition, but is also trying to accommodate the parameters of whatever the story we’re trying to tell is. When you’re adapting something for live-action or when you’re adapting something for animation, you can’t just take what’s on the page from the comics. You have to streamline it and make it work in a new medium within a new context so that all those components play off each other and are complimentary and create a sense of harmony within the structure. It’s just about trying to take something classic and put it into a new context that makes sense without losing what is unique and original about it.
PHIL BOURASSA: Exactly. That’s the best way to put it. You want it to be recognizable but not steal from some other version. To make it make sense for the world we have.
TOONZONE NEWS: Which character would you say is the biggest departure from what fans would be more familiar with?
PHIL BOURASSA: The way Etrigan looks is recognizable, but we did a few different things with him. He’s got armor on in certain areas. It’s not the straight Kirby design, which is what Bruce Timm did when he brought him to animation. So it’s a little different, a little bit more medieval, a little bit more fantasy. He’s a slight departure, but for the most part, they look like their comic book counterparts. We didn’t see a reason to depart from what’s established in the comics for these particular characters. Constantine is a disheveled rogue in a trenchcoat. It would be weird to not do that. I think that might be his first animated appearance.
TOONZONE NEWS: He just appeared in Justice League Action, and that was about a month ago.
PHIL BOURASSA: Oh yeah, they got him in. I guess we did it around the same time.
RAY CHASE: I can’t say too much about the history of him in the animated world. I don’t know too much about how he was utilized, but it seems like DC is definitely making Justice League Dark a thing. There’s a movie, the Constantine TV show, all this sort of stuff, so this movie is sort of the first time that you’re seeing him for a long time in this new incarnation. I’m excited to be that first incarnation that a lot of people see for the first time. It is really exciting.
TOONZONE NEWS: I feel like maybe he is a more mature character, being a demon and all.
RAY CHASE: A demon, also he rhymes. I know that as a writer it’s kind of hard to keep that going for a very long time without it getting annoying.
TOONZONE NEWS: Was it difficult to get into the rhyme scheme?
RAY CHASE: No, they wrote it very very well and it was easy because it always made sense for what was going on. They knew, “OK, a rhyme is coming up,” and a lot of times you’ll see in this film they kind of play with the idea of these rhymes. He can get cut off in interesting ways.
TOONZONE NEWS: Who was more difficult to get into the character of, Jason Blood or Etrigan?
RAY CHASE: Both are two of my favorite types of characters to do. The suave, debonair Englishman is really really fun, but also to play a demon is you’re able to really let loose and have a lot of fun with something totally different from what you do in normal life.
TOONZONE NEWS: Without spoiling too much, do you have a favorite part of the movie?
RAY CHASE: Yeah, there’s a very touching monologue that Jason Blood gives in the movie, and we did it all in one long take. It’s not a lot of times in animation you get a monologue, a juicy bit of dialogue where you get to feel something from start to finish, so I was really grateful for that opportunity, and that was my favorite part of the recording. It was quite touching.
TOONZONE NEWS: Did you have to do it a couple times before you felt you nailed it?
RAY CHASE: I think one or maybe two takes. It ended up flowing very very well right from the start. We were full of emotion, and maybe if we had worked on it a lot more, it would’ve been a little bit more empty because it would’ve been a little too overworked. I liked how raw and fresh it felt.
TOONZONE NEWS: When recording, did you do Jason Blood and then Etrigan or both at the same time?
RAY CHASE: We did Jason Blood all the way through, and then we went back and did Etrigan all the way through. So I never had to switch on a dime like that.
TOONZONE NEWS: I don’t imagine they interact with each other much.
RAY CHASE: They do from time to time, yes, especially when it’s the summoning. (Jason Blood voice) Gone, gone, the form of man (Etrigan voice) Arise the demon Etrigan! There’s that where they talk to each other in a certain way and sometimes when one transforms into the other, there’s a call and response sort of section.
RAY CHASE: Not as well as I should be, unfortunately not. I read it in the New 52, and that’s about it.
TOONZONE NEWS: Did they give you any material beforehand?
RAY CHASE: We got the script beforehand, which was really nice. You don’t always get that working on a video game. For animation, getting the entire script beforehand, being able to take as much time as you want to get to know these characters the whole way through was really, really nice. So I was able to study before I came in.
TOONZONE NEWS: Any other differences between doing work for video games and something like this?
RAY CHASE: For one thing it’s really interesting to see my performance being animated. Because in a video game, there’s not a whole lot of animation that goes on. In this it’s, “Wow, every single lip movement I make, some animator had to draw.” It’s really weird. It’s still a little surreal for me to see that sort of thing.
TOONZONE NEWS: Have you seen the finished movie yet?
RAY CHASE: No, I have not. I’m excited.
TOONZONE NEWS: Think you’ll be surprised about anything?
RAY CHASE: Definitely, yeah, because some things might’ve changed from when we recorded, things I wasn’t aware of. Like they didn’t say that Vader was Luke’s father on the set of the film.
TOONZONE NEWS: Do you see yourself returning to these characters at all?
RAY CHASE: I would love to, yeah, it’d be really, really fun. Who knows what’s next for these guys?
TOONZONE NEWS: John Constantine’s original design was based on Sting from the Police.
MATT RYAN: Yeah.
TOONZONE NEWS: Did you have that in your mind when you originally went in to audition?
RAY CHASE: What’s interesting is that he was based on Sting in the movie Quadrophenia, and I had a big beard and long hair because I was doing a Shakespeare play in London when I first auditioned for him, and I auditioned via tape. I did about 14 or 15 tapes because they couldn’t see it. They couldn’t see the look. David Goyer and Daniel Cerone really liked me and then they kept on pushing, and I had to wait for the play to finish in London before I could fly over, chop my hair off, shave my beard, and actually kind of resemble John. Although I wasn’t blond. So yeah, I wasn’t able to turn up as the character. I looked more like I had been living on the streets for about two years.
TOONZONE NEWS: What was the biggest challenge getting into character on the show?
MATT RYAN: I don’t know, what’s great is you have so much source material, there’s so many comics, so my research was reading comic books, which is really cool. Just sitting there reading comics. My friend would come in and say, “What are you doing?” and I’d say “I’m working.” That’s a really cool thing. So I just tried to glean as much as I could from the comics, let that work on me subliminally as well as making various choices regarding components of the character. It’s about staying true to the DNA of the original character in Swamp Thing all the way through to the New 52 and beyond. The DNA of the character is strong, so it’s being true to that and also try to bring a bit of myself to that as well, making it a little bit original.
TOONZONE NEWS: Did you ever imagine you’d get so much fan support of the show and you as the character?
MATT RYAN: It happened so fast, the live action TV show, it was kind of a whirlwind, and I don’t know really what I expected. I just got my head down, did as much work as I could. There was a lot of pressure with these kinds of roles because it’s such a huge fanbase and he’s such an iconic character and you want to do him justice, but at the same time, if you try to please everyone or try to second guess what they think, you’re not doing your work. So I wanted to be true to the DNA of the character and myself, so I just did as much work as I could as possible. It was unbelievable the reaction that we had from the fans, even though the show didn’t go past the 13 episodes that we did. It was great to be accepted by the fans for such an iconic character. The fact that they’re still jonesing for the character and now we’re doing the CW animated series…it’s great, it’s fantastic.
MATT RYAN: As I said, I think it’s the DNA of the character is very much the same. The magic that John uses in Justice League Dark is slightly different to what we were doing on the show. He’s more like the New 52 Constantine, but the DNA of the character is still there. That’s one thing that I would always want to stay true.
TOONZONE NEWS: What can you tell me about the CW Seed show?
MATT RYAN: I can tell you that we’re doing it, that I’m really excited about doing it, to see how we go about it, what storylines we’re going to cover. I look forward to getting into it and working with David Goyer again and Greg Berlanti and all the great team that’s behind this.
TOONZONE NEWS: What’s the best part of being John Constantine?
MATT RYAN: You get to be a bastard and get away with it. That’s the great thing.
TOONZONE NEWS: And people will love you for it.
MATT RYAN: Yeah, exactly. You get to be an absolute bastard and get away with it. I just think that’s the best thing.
TOONZONE NEWS: How did you approach your character Deadman?
NICHOLAS TURTURRO: I went in and read the line. I didn’t know much about the DC comics, I didn’t know much about Deadman. I just figured, “Hey, since they chose me, they want a guy who is kind of lively, a little bit outside of the box.” I tried to bring whatever that I got to it.
TOONZONE NEWS: You’ve done a lot of live-action, where there any characters you’ve played that made them want to cast you as Deadman?
NICHOLAS TURTURRO: I don’t know, I think I done something else to these guys, so I figured they wanted to bring me in for my comedy. Some people know me as a serious actor, but a lot of people know, “Oh yeah, you’re a really funny guy,” so I figured they wanted somebody that would be completely different in this thing. It’s an eclectic bunch of people there, which is good. I don’t feel like there’s that many people like me anyways, especially here, I’m definitely an outcast in this group. I’m always that way anyway. I always feel like I’m the fish out of water. I never feel that I’m…I don’t know what it is, maybe I was born that way or something. I just feel like, I don’t know, there’s the world, and then there’s me. So maybe that’s how Deadman is. That’s how I approached it.
TOONZONE NEWS That’s an interesting approach to acting.
NICHOLAS TURTURRO: That’s how I approach acting in a lot of ways. I always look at, okay there’s the world, and then there’s me. And then there’s my character. See how I feel about my guy. I was telling my kid the other day about acting, he’s trying to do an audition. He can learn the lines and all these things, but I’m like, “It’s not just learning the lines, it’s what you feel. How you say it.” It’s not from your head. He’s like, “What do you mean, what do you mean?” You’re always in your head, get in your heart. Come from the real place. Then it’s funny, and then it’s real. So that’s how I approached it, I’m not the most trained person. I learned a lot on the job, but I know how to use myself in a way that sometimes other people don’t. Some people that have been acting for years, I can tell, they still don’t know how to tap in. That’s why a lot of their acting is like one note. I look for ways to surprise people. You think you know me, but you don’t. You don’t really know me until you know me. It’s just like people. You don’t know them until you know them. You can go to bed with them, but you don’t know them. Until you live with them. You wake up with them and go, “Oh now the honeymoon is over. This is the real person.”
TOONZONE NEWS: What would you say is the best part of being Deadman?
NICHOLAS TURTURRO: I think the fact that he’s not alive. That he’s trying to become alive. That’s he more like an illusion, which I like.
TOONZONE NEWS: How do other characters react to someone like that?
NICHOLAS TURTURRO: I don’t know. I haven’t seen it yet. I’d be curious to see how they do react to him.
NICHOLAS TURTURRO: Who knows? Maybe he’ll become more of a fan favorite.
TOONZONE NEWS: He’s the wisecracker character.
NICHOLAS TURTURRO: Yeah I think so.
TOONZONE NEWS: Those characters do well.
NICHOLAS TURTURRO: I think you always need a wisecracker. You always need somebody that is the comic relief. You have to. Otherwise it’s just boring.
TOONZONE NEWS: And this is a dark movie. It has dark in the title. It’s a mature, serious film.
NICHOLAS TURTURRO: A mature, serious film. It’s still a comic book. It should be fun.
Toonzone News would like to thank Phil Bourassa, Ray Chase, Matt Ryan, and Nicholas Turturro for talking with us at the premiere. Justice League Dark is available on DVD, Blu-ray, and Digital HD now.