NYCC 2016: The “Justice League Dark” Roundtables: Jason O’Mara, James Tucker, Jay Oliva, Phil Bourassa, and Matt Ryan
At New York Comic Con 2016, Toonzone News was able to participate in press roundtable sessions with the cast and crew of the upcoming Justice League Dark animated feature film. Participants included actors Jason O’Mara (Batman) and Mark Ryan (John Constantine); director Jay Oliva; producer James Tucker; and character designer Phil Bourassa.
Questions asked by Toonzone News at the roundtables are marked.
QUESTION: Can I ask you how you feel your Batman is different from other Batman interpretations?
JASON O’MARA: Yeah, as far as I can see, the inspiration for this Batman was the new 52 series, but the animated movie series I’m involved in is sort of going into uncharted territories now with this storyline. The way I see it is that this Batman has very specific emotional family baggage. He’s a dad, he has this history with Talia, both he and his son were trained by Ra’s al-Ghul, and now in this world. His Robin has grown up and has become Nightwing, and Nightwing’s handing his Robin mantle down to Damian. This is the same Batman who had brought the Justice League together for the first time in Justice League War, and now he’s bringing this group of dark supernatural folks together for this movie. He’s also sent Damian off to the Teen Titans almost like a boarding school. That’s the storyline of this Batman, and I think anything outside of that is a different Batman that exists in another universe. So as long as it’s got to do with this Batman’s storyline, I’ll be the voice of it. But I think as soon as it goes outside of it, I think it’s either Kevin Conroy territory or it’s a whole other thing.
TOONZONE NEWS: What was your reaction to the script for Justice League Dark in regard to Batman’s role and how it’s dealing with the supernatural, because the Justice League and the Teen Titans have dealt a lot with that, too.
JASON O’MARA: I don’t think Batman quite makes that connection between the magical elements in Teen Titans and this kind of supernatural that’s going on in Gotham. Someone in this movie says, “This is Hell,” and he goes, “I’ve been to Hell and this is nothing like it.” Batman’s been around the block is what I’m saying. But at the same time, I think he’s still very skeptical of the magic. Batman is based in science. He’s a detective. He’s the greatest detective who ever lived, and if it doesn’t make logical sense to Batman, it doesn’t exist. So he has a really hard time getting his head around it and what that lends itself to is something really interesting where Batman can be quite glib and raises an eyebrow at all of this. He effectively becomes the Everyman, the eyes and ears of the audience saying, “I don’t understand any of this. And actually I think it’s just a lot of nonsense.” So he has to be disproved, he has to see it for himself, and he gets involved in quite a lot of the fights along the way. I think it was a really interesting idea to involve Batman. I would, because it gives me a job, but I think involving Batman, who’s already the personification of darkness, in a movie called Justice League Dark, seems to me to be the link between the DCU we know and love and this expanding DCU into the realm of the supernatural.
JASON O’MARA: There’s a suggestion that he and Zatanna go back, which in the comic books there’s a whole backstory between them. There’s a suggestion that they already know each other. But no, Batman gets in touch with Constantine through Deadman. Deadman is introduced for the first time, and I don’t want to give any of that away, but that’s pretty cool. We’re seeing Swamp Thing for the first time, or at least in this universe. So there’s a lot of firsts in this movie and it’s the first time we see this really disparate group work together and Batman, as always, is trying to get people to work together as a team. Not always successfully.
QUESTION: A live-action version of Justice League Dark has been in development for a while now. Do you think once the release of this comes out, we can hopefully get that off the ground?
JASON O’MARA: I have no idea. You’d have to ask someone from DC that. I don’t speak on behalf of DC or Warner Bros when I say this, but I think you have to establish the Justice League for the first time coming together. My own opinion, I think Suicide Squad should come after that, not before, and THEN you expand into Justice League Dark once we understand Batman, Superman, and the other Justice League characters. Then you can kind of subvert it. That’s my take on it, but what do I know? I’m a voice actor right now.
QUESTION: Do you have a live-action character you’d like to play?
JASON O’MARA: A DC live-action character? Yeah, I’d like to play Batman, obviously (laughter). I don’t know, I was thinking about this earlier today. Certainly in the comic book world, there are all these different universes. There are all these concurrent storylines, different artists, different writers, different versions of the Batman story, different versions of Batman, and who surrounds him or who doesn’t surround him. We’re kind of getting that way with the animated series, and animated movies. TV shows, LEGO Batman, all these kind of parallel realities. I think ultimately we’ll head that way with the movies. I think there will be a Ben Affleck Batman who lives in that world with the Justice League, and there’s plenty of room for another Batman that lives alongside him. Maybe it’s an Adam West kind of funny sort of spoof-y Batman. I mean, why not?
QUESTION: The CW doesn’t have a Batman yet, so you have the opportunity there.
QUESTION: Plus, you’re in the Marvel universe, too. How do you reconcile being Marvel and DC at the same time?
JASON O’MARA: I don’t have to, honestly (laughter). Everyone else seems to think I do, but to me, it’s just that comic book inspired content is occupying so much of the pop culture space it’s almost hard to avoid it one way or another.
JASON O’MARA: My first comic was 2000 AD. Judge Dredd and Rogue Trooper. Loved Rogue Trooper. Strontium Dog. Loved it. And of course I had some of those earlier issues, issue #2 and issue #3.
QUESTION: Had or still have?
JASON O’MARA: Had. Had. I realized when I turned 13 or something, “Where have those things gone?” They’re gone. They’re just forever gone.
QUESTION: Who are your favorite artists and writers?
JASON O’MARA: Oh, God, I can’t remember their names. There was a couple on Judge Dredd. Brian Bolland. He became kind of it for me. Like I remember reading a Brian Bolland Judge Dredd story, and I was just like, “How do they do this?” It just blew my mind.
QUESTION: There’s a Judge Dredd opening, too. Nobody’s playing him right now.
QUESTION: Unless Karl Urban comes back to play him.
JASON O’MARA: Karl Urban was great. He was great. I still feel like they haven’t quite nailed Judge Dredd. I think Karl Urban is the right guy, but I don’t think they’ve nailed a Judge Dredd movie yet. They should just keep doing it until it’s a smash hit. “Let’s go around again!”
QUESTION: You were talking earlier about this different types of Batman that are out there. Do you have a preference of a type Batman to play?
JASON O’MARA: Well, obviously, I’ve grown quite close to this version, where I feel like I can be dark but also be a dad, and I like that balance. It’s fun to play as an actor. I also feel like, “Why bother re-treading old territory when you can explore new stuff?” So I find that creatively quite rewarding. And also I really like the idea that Batman can be funny, you know? It doesn’t have to be lampoon, wacky, underpants-on-the-outside of my tights funny, but I like that he’s got a sense of humor. I think that part of the DCU lives and thrives when it’s tongue in cheek. Particularly about Justice League Dark that there’s a sense of humor that Batman has running throughout. So more of that, please (laughs).
QUESTION: Tell us about the challenge or where you wanted to bring this movie vs. the others so far.
JAY OLIVA: I think what was great with this movie was that we were dealing with a different kind of team. Also I wanted to do a horror film more than just the usual superhero film. It’s still an action film, but I wanted to have horror elements and really play up the supernatural aspect. The other thing was that if you’ve seen my films, I usually have highly choreographed fight sequences, and now I was thinking, “What do I do with that now with the magic aspect?” I love Final Fantasy and video games and anime, so I looked at all of my references and thought, “This is what they did, now how do I bring that to the DC Universe to do something really different that’s pushed? That maybe DC fans have never seen before, at least not in this context, and bring that to these characters? Because of magic, anything goes, which is very freeing to me. I don’t have to worry about, “Can Superman breathe in space?” So now it’s just a matter of demons and mystical magical stuff. Just having fun with it. It’s kind of a freeing aspect of it.
QUESTION: Were there specific members of the team that you wanted to use?
JAY OLIVA: Oh, yeah. All of them. When they first gave me the script, all it said was “Justice League Dark.” The first question was “Is Swamp Thing in it?” And they’re like “Yes,” and I was like, “Awesome!” And the second question was, “Is Constantine in it?” And they’re like, “Yes.” The third question I asked was “Can I get Matt Ryan to do Constantine?” I love Constantine and I never thought we’d be able to put Constantine into our animated stuff, and this was a perfect vehicle to get him in there. When you finally see the film, he steals the show. He just fits so easily into this DC Universe, and I’m hoping we can do feature films with Constantine and Batman, or Constantine and Batwoman. Have more team-ups. I think that would be kind of a fun thing.
QUESTION: How does the film deal with Zatanna? Is there a touch on any of the history between her and Batman?
JAY OLIVA: Yeah, of course. For example, the way the movie starts off is that there are these supernatural events that happen around the world, and the Justice League are kind of confounded, like, “This doesn’t look like an alien attack, and it doesn’t seem like some kind of mind control from some supervillain. We can’t figure out what it is.” Batman is like, “I have an idea, but let me check my sources.” But what happens is that he’s a little skeptical of what it is, and then he gets out of the shower one day, and Constantine’s name is written all over the walls. So he’s like, “Who’s Constantine? I only know one person who knows supernatural stuff, Zatanna.” So he goes to see Zatanna and asks, “Do you know who this Constantine is?” And Zatanna’s like, “Oh, yeah. I know him. We’ve got history.”
So Zatanna then brings him into this supernatural world where, of course, Batman is a skeptic. I tried to play Batman as kind an X-Files Mulder/Scully kind of thing, where Batman is a skeptic and Constantine is a believer. A lot of times, Constantine is like, “Look, there’s demons! There’s hell!” And Batman is like, “I think I can explain this scientifically. There’s a reason…” But I like the fact that this movie really validates why need to have a team of heroes who handle things that the Justice League can’t handle. One of the things I wanted to try to do, at least in terms of the action and what’s at stake was if the regular Justice League were to try to tackle the kind of problems that this team is handling, they would have failed. It’s only the fact that this team that gets brought together will save the day. I always thought that East and West Coast Avengers was kind of redundant. “Why do you need a West Coast when we’ve got EVERYBODY on the East Coast? Hulk is there and Captain America is there, do we REALLY need Hawkeye on that West Coast?” (Laughter) But for this, you realize that there’s two different things. Alien threats?Darkseid shows up? Justice League. But when anything supernatural shows up that’s going to take everybody’s soul? You go the route of Constantine and those guys.
QUESTION: Can you talk about the color palette and the visualization? Jason said there was a good link between the live-action and the animation in keeping it consistent. Is that something that’s very important to you?
JAY OLIVA: Oh, yeah. The thing is we still tried to keep it grounded in the universe that we started with in Justice League War and Son of Batman and all that stuff, but because we’re dealing with a more fantastical kind of thing, we can push it more. I know we had Trigon and we had Hell in Justice League vs. Teen Titans, but in this one, I wanted to try and really push it even more so it was different than what you saw in that previous film. It would be what you saw with Trigon but pushed to the nth degree. I wanted to really push the magic side and the idea behind how magic works in the DC Universe. Hopefully color palette and also visually how it is, and also we do some really crazy things. We want to do a horror film, where you go into someone’s mind. What does that look like? Stuff that really is so over-the-top crazy that you’re just like, “I am so glad I do not live in this universe because it is just the worst place ever to live in.”
The other great thing is that for the music, our composer was the same composer who did the Angel TV series, and so what I told him was, “Can I get some cellos?” I loved the Angel theme and I told him “I want this really dark, kind of very serious tone to it from the music end.” Because I wanted to feel like you’re in that same kind of world.
QUESTION: Any good visual opportunities with Deadman inhabiting other people’s bodies?
JAY OLIVA: Oh, yeah, of course, yeah. You see that all through the movie. It happens a lot, so you’ll see that. For all the characters, we tried to utilize as much as we could all the classic stuff, as well as some new things that you haven’t even before. But yeah, you’ll see that.
TOONZONE NEWS: Earlier, you were talking about the challenge of staging the sorcery and the combat scenes. Were there things that you found especially useful for inspiration for all that?
JAY OLIVA: Like I said, it’s a lot of the video game stuff. I love Fullmetal Alchemist, and a lot of anime that I watched. I do a lot of references, you know? I watched Harry Potter and tried to see what they did. I watched a ton of movies, live-action and animated stuff, and tried to take bits and pieces that I liked, as well as add my own kind of spin to it to make it my own and make it fit into the universe. That always happens on all of my films. I try to do as much reference as I can, and try to bring something new, because if I don’t bring anything new, then why am I doing this? I have to always try to push it. Even what I’ve done in the past, it’s “how do I push this further?”
QUESTION: Is it easier and more affordable now to do the animation style very similar to a live-action feel?
JAY OLIVA: I don’t know if you guys know this, but I do the live-action films too, so the staging that I do for the animated films and the live-action stuff is exactly the same. I do the Flash TV show, I did Batman v. Superman and Man of Steel. It’s exactly the same except it’s more money and more time, but the nice thing though is that with both mediums, I get to really kind of push it. I get the freedom to really kind of make it my own. For example, with The Flashpoint Paradox, my mandate when I started that was if they ever did a live-action film with Barry Allen, I wanted them to look at this as reference, and that’s why I really pushed Barry’s powers and how we shot it. A little bit more like live-action visually. And it was great because then they pitched that to CW and that’s how the CW show got picked up. I even talked to Geoff Johns, and he said, “Yeah, in the animation division, what we do is R&D. They do it as a testing ground.”
QUESTION: A proof of concept.
JAY OLIVA: Yeah. So I’m very excited about with this film. Hopefully I’ll get to work on the Doug Liman Justice League Dark, but it’s nice to kind of experiment and try something new and not have to be like, “Oh, you have to follow this or follow that, you know?” For me, it’s like, when I’m the director, I look at what’s been done in the past, I see what Bruce Timm and James Tucker and all those guys have done in past movies and past TV series, and then I’m like, “OK, what do I bring to the table? What can I do different?”
JAY OLIVA: Oh, yeah, of course. The fact that Assault on Arkham was so well received, I’m pretty sure, was a pretty good reason for them to say, “We should try Suicide Squad.” I’m pretty sure that’s what they were doing. Hopefully we can do a sequel to that, because I had an idea to do Assault on Arkham part 2, but I don’t know. We’ll see.
QUESTION: Tone-wise, is this movie darker than Assault on Arkham?
JAY OLIVA: No, Assault on Arkham was pretty dark because we had to base it on the video game universe, so it has a very different tone. This is like what we’ve done in the past, but there’s a horror aspect. It’s not for children. We made it very adult because I wanted to be true to the genre of horror films, but I like it because it’s a mystery, as opposed to the other ones where it’s like, “Here’s a threat, we have to figure out how to stop it.” Now it’s a mystery. What is happening exactly and how do we solve it? That’s how we introduced all the different characters. And actually, all the characters have different arcs, from Zatanna to Jason Blood. They all have different arcs that all kind of tie together at the end.
QUESTION: Any specific artists that you looked to in terms of your designs for the film?
PHIL BOURASSA: Not really, because it’s a continuation from our previous films so the style is already established. I always look at the source material and the iterations that have come before, what artists and writers have worked on them in the past. If it’s possible to do a one-to-one adaptation, if there’s a look from the comic books that works perfectly with our story and that can also be translated to animation, then we’ll do that if possible. More often than not, we have to adapt it or streamline it somewhat, and create more of an original version that suits the continuity.
TOONZONE NEWS: I remember how a year ago, I think it was James Tucker who said that something they were presenting you with for Batman: Bad Blood was making C-list Batman villains seem cool. Was there a similar interesting task for you his time?
PHIL BOURASSA: There wasn’t anything particularly like that this time. These characters are all pretty cool, you know what I mean? Like Constantine, Swamp Thing, the Demon…the cool is already baked into them but what was great is that I’ve never drawn any of them before, except for Zatanna, and there’s so many things you can do with her, too. It was just fun because I’ve never drawn them before, to finally do a take.
PHIL BOURASSA: When I think of the Demon, I think of Kirby and I think of Bruce Timm. Those are the two that come to mind. And I don’t really draw like either of those guys, but there’s just certain things that you have to have to make it work. This is definitely a different take, but it’s still in that same vein. He’s a big, hulking, monster-y character, but he’s got a noble spirit and that’s a lot of fun to play with, but I definitely did like the dark eyelids and stuff…the red eyes. He’s got a big tattered cape. I didn’t go with the patterning because when Bruce did Justice League and all that stuff, they just did a one-to-one pretty much from what was in the comics, and our stuff is a little bit more bespoke in terms of creating a unique or distinct look that isn’t necessary straight off the page. Partly because Bruce and those guys already did it, you know what I mean? If that was the mandate and that’s what people and my collaborators asked me to do, I would do that. I would do just a one-to-one as often as possible, but that’s not really what I’m asked to do more often than not. So there is some interpretation but he’s very recognizable.
TOONZONE NEWS: Following along those lines, how would you describe this interpretation of Zatanna, compared to what you’ve done with her before?
PHIL BOURASSA: Well, the stuff I worked on with her was Young Justice, so she’s a kid in that. That’s very different. She’s so cute in that show. She’s a more grown-up in season 2, but we barely saw her in the second season. She’s super cool, she’s super hot, you know what I mean? (Laughter) She’s a lot of fun. And yeah, with characters like that which I don’t get to draw very often, you’re just scraping the surface of all the different possibilities you can do with it. A lot of the times, these are big ensemble casts, and maybe you don’t get to explore one character as much as you’d like to, because you have to do a whole universe, so to speak.
QUESTION: So we’re getting Justice League Dark, and we finally got an adaptation of The Killing Joke. Is there one of your favorite stories out there that hasn’t been adapted yet?
PHIL BOURASSA: I always say that I would like to do something with Kirby’s Fourth World stuff. I mean, they have Cosmic Odyssey, that would be cool…but I actually would like to do more of an original take on that stuff. As far as like adaptations, they’re cool but it’s not my favorite thing to do at work because you can’t win with an adaptation and I’d rather do original material that’s made for animation. I don’t think that’s our best work when we have to do the comic book on screen. Everybody asks for it, and then when we do it, they’re like, “You guys SUCK!!!!!” (Laughter) And maybe we do (laughs), I don’t know.
PHIL BOURASSA: Well, in the case of Constantine, they got it so right with the interpretation in the live-action that I definitely had some pictures of Matt Ryan as Constantine while I was working. My buddies would come in and tease me, like, “Oh, you got pictures of your boyfriend!” He’s my inspiration, you know? And I’ve had to adapt stuff strictly like for the CW Flash stuff, so I’ll have pictures of the actors. In this case, that interpretation and that look was so perfect, it was spot-on. But it’s exactly the character off the page, too, so I had the comic book art and I had pictures of Matt as Constantine and it..when you see the model sheet or you see the movie it’s exactly that. That’s the type of design and look. Can we adapt a sort of handsome, disheveled rogue wearing a trench coat and a tie to animation? Yeah. Sure. It’s super-easy, so with that, you know exactly what to do.
QUESTION: What about Swamp Thing? What was your take going in when you got to tackle that character?
PHIL BOURASSA: Most of the time, I’ll do 2 or 3 concept sketches and then we’ll settle on one. With Swamp Thing, I did like 10 or 12. I didn’t pitch them all. I only pitched one, and that was the one that we went with. I might have shown James Tucker a few of the other silhouettes, but I only took one of the concepts further in terms of painting it up and stuff. He lends himself to different interpretations, because his silhouette can be varied depending on the group dynamic, but I pretty much knew what I wanted him to look like The landmarks from the comics are all there, that weird hood that goes over his mouth and his nose thing, the way his brow looks…all that stuff. Then it was trying to figure out how do we suggest the detail? He’s so organic, you know? There’s a lot of things that you can play with. He’s a character I feel like is an artist’s playground. It lends itself to a lot of valid interpretations and it’s a very organic character by its very nature, so you can play around a lot with him.
QUESTION: It’s not like doing Batman and taking away the cowl. You can really mess around.
PHIL BOURASSA: Yeah. And that’s the thing about these characters, the monster-y characters, much like when we draw the villains. There’s a bigger strike zone. There’s a smaller strike zone on Wonder Woman and Superman. They gotta be just so, you can’t deviate from the traditions so much. There’s different costumes and whatever, but they’ve got to be perfect, you know? The villains and the monsters and the freaks, there are so many valid takes on them. My first take on Deadman was almost like Marilyn Manson, very androgynous, ethereal and long and elegant, but because we played him for comedy, we didn’t go in that direction, so I jettisoned that design and we went with something that feels a little closer to the Neal Adams stuff, more of a standard silhouette, a standard physique. I didn’t initially know that we were going for comedy with that character, so the first one didn’t work for that. But there are different interpretations at work.
JAMES TUCKER: I tried to bring in characters that we hadn’t seen before, and tried to give it a spin where it wasn’t the usual rhythm of a normal superhero movie, so the pacing’s a little different. It’s action-packed, but it’s a little quirkier than a regular Justice League movie.
QUESTION: Did this movie happen because of the live-action project or was this concept was before that?
JAMES TUCKER: There was buzz about the live-action movie happening, but it was more of a rumor when we started. I think Guillermo Del Toro was attached to it for a while, but we hadn’t heard anything on it and home video expressed an interest. I knew there was a movie we could do, and I knew it could be something that wouldn’t be stepping on the toes of any live-action thing because there’s so many different ways you can go with that title. So we knew of the potential for that movie, but it wasn’t a reality when we started.
QUESTION: Was there a character that you wanted to see the first time that you were most excited about?
JAMES TUCKER: Mainly Swamp Thing, because he hasn’t been in animation for a long, long time. We always wanted him in first the original Justice League show that I worked on, and then we wanted him in Batman: The Brave and the Bold. But his rights were always tied up until recently, so when they became available, we jumped on it. He’s the main one. I like the Spectre too, but we’ve done some things with him.
QUESTION: Is the Spectre in it?
JAMES TUCKER: He’s not in it, no.
QUESTION: I was wondering if there was any inspiration from the Spectre short you guys did a couple of years ago?
JAMES TUCKER: Well, just that that was pretty much a straight horror tone, and I wanted to keep that tone wth this, and they don’t necessarily have to be in the same continuity, but they could be. Hopefully, this sells well and we get to do another one and I’ll get to use the Spectre. So that’s my goal.
QUESTION: Do you have a specific tone you like to work with specifically, like comedy or drama?
JAMES TUCKER: You know, I get bored fast, so I like all kinds of tones. I don’t like to make the same movie, so I want the tone to be different. For the tone in Justice League vs Teen Titans, there were occult elements, but it wasn’t horror, whereas this is straight-up horror. I want each of them and the one that will follow will have a different tone, to keep it fresh and to keep me from getting bored, basically.
JAMES TUCKER: For our line, Phil Bourassa is the designer. He and I work together to tweak if it’s going to be horror, then his usual more streamlined, technical look may not work, so I just kind of nudge him towards maybe things he wouldn’t necessarily draw, and he really takes to that as an artist. We changed the color palette for different tone movies, so this palette is a little darker. Definitely more geared towards horror so the palette is a little more desaturated, the blood is very vivid, more of a Hammer movie kind of take. Form follows function, so if we want it to be a certain kind of movie, that dictates those decisions. I did this movie at around the same time as I did Return of the Caped Crusaders, and that’s a whole other thing. Being able to juggle that takes some concentration.
QUESTION: As an old comic book reader, did you look up at those good runs of the DC horror stuff?
JAMES TUCKER: Old? (Laughter) Yeah, as a reader of OLD COMICS….well, no, you know, I grew up on the original Swamp Thing and House of Secrets and all that, and horror movies. We didn’t really read so much of the actual Justice League Dark book, because tonally that book was very interesting but it was very internal. It was more about concepts and not really concrete visual things that you could show in a linear kind of visual fashion, even though it was a comic book. In this one, I think tonally I went in thinking this should feel more like a Dario Argento movie. That very queasy, “I don’t know why this is weird but it’s weird” kind of thing. Even with the music palette.
QUESTION: You were talking about just trying new things, you mentioned Swamp Thing. What would you like to see done with Justice League that hasn’t been done before?
JAMES TUCKER: Oh, gosh. The trap to me with Justice League is that it becomes just plot, whereas with the Titans, it’s more about character. Like the plot is good, but it’s really about teen angst and it’s about something other than just superheroes and powers. A lot of the writers tend to freeze up and make it all about their powers and about the plot, who’s the villain, and you don’t get a lot of that interpersonal stuff. It took us a while even on the series to get to that. And it wasn’t really until Justice League Unlimited that we were able to find the little nuances of character that really made that show really good, eventually. It didn’t start out that way, though. So, to take the Justice League in those directions, I’d really need a Netflix kind of situation where you have a lot of episodes to tell a sprawling character-driven story. A story like Young Justice achieved that because it was very arc-ed out. I think you need that much real estate to do that kind of story. I think Justice League is prime fodder for that. It’d be great to do something like that. With the movies, I’d like to do more of an anthology thing with them, where you break each character’s story down, kind of like they did with the Emerald Knights DVD, where it was short stories under an umbrella of a Green Lantern Corps story. We’ve done several Justice Leagues, but Wonder Woman hasn’t gotten a lot of love, and I’d love to deal more with this version of her and see what makes her tick. Just finding the time and the film real estate to tell certain stories.
TOONZONE NEWS: There’s evidently a rumor about this film getting a R-rating from the MPAA. Do you have a comment about that?
JAMES TUCKER: No (laughs).
TOONZONE NEWS: Regardless of the subject, do you really think it matters for these films?
JAMES TUCKER: You know, I never go in thinking, “Oh, this movie will get this rating, and this movie will get this rating.” I’ve stumbled into R by accident, because I was just making the movie I thought was naturally fitting with what the script was. We don’t go out to be sensational or try to get certain things. We just tell a good story, and a lot of things are in the comics that we read all the time that we don’t think of as being that harsh because we’re just used to it being in comics. Then lo and behold, it could be too much for a DVD. So, I have no comment on that rumor.
QUESTION: Jay mentioned the emphasis of the difference between having the Justice League and why they need the Justice League Dark. Was that always a big point to establish the differences between the two?
JAMES TUCKER: Sort of. It’s not like the main plot of the movie, because the Justice League doesn’t know that they’re in over their heads.
QUESTION: How much do they appear, other than Batman?
JAMES TUCKER: They appear I’d say 10% (laughs). I’m not great at math, so that might be a little more or less than what it is. Now we give you a legitimate Justice League before we turn the table over on them, so they have appearances, but the main story is with the other characters.
QUESTION: How do you feel you had to adapt the character you created for live-action to the animated version?
MATT RYAN: I think the DNA of the character is very much the same. I think the most challenging thing about doing this kind of acting is you have to make it all up in your head. But what’s freeing about it in a way is you get to cast it in your head and play all those people in your head, which is really cool. But you don’t get the benefit of actually working alongside someone and maybe getting something from that person which you wouldn’t get from yourself. But ultimately, I think the DNA of the character is the same and i wanted to bring what I knew of Constantine and the voice and all that sort of stuff and play out this story in this context, interacting with these characters.
QUESTION: Did you have a favorite part of the script in regard to what it called on you to do as an actor?
MATT RYAN: There’s two different things here I really liked. I really liked the interaction between him and Batman. John just cracks me up in some of the things he says, and in the comics as well. That’s what I love about the character so much. His interaction with Batman was really funny. That was really fun to play, but also his relationship with Zatanna, because there’s such an emotional history between those two, and that’s something that I hadn’t explored on the live-action TV show. It was really interesting to delve into what I knew already about that relationship from the comics that I read and then get to play that out.
QUESTION: Swamp Thing and John have this great history and stuff.
MATT RYAN: Yes, very precarious in their own ways, and just kind of exploring those. Ultimately it comes down to the script. What story do they want to tell, how do we tell that in the best way and be true to that story and then the characters’ DNAs and their relationships within that time? It was really good fun to explore those things.
QUESTION: What other characters does Constantine spend the most time with?
MATT RYAN: It’s Zatanna, Batman, Deadman, and Jason Blood. Ritchie Simpson [from the Constantine TV show] is in it as well, which is great, and Jeremy Davies who played Ritchie on the show did the voice. When I watched it, I knew he did it, but I watched it two days ago and I was like, oh, Jeremy, I love that guy. Hearing us doing banter, that was one person in my head that I already had a line of reference to. But yeah, he’s great.
QUESTION: There’s a consistent visual palette between the live-action visual palette and the animation. Do you think it visually represents what we see the character dealing with?
MATT RYAN: Well, you know, I have so many different visions of him in my head in terms of the way he looks or in terms of the way the worlds are. There are so many people who have drawn him and written him over the years. I got to read about 160 of the Hellblazer comics. There’s 300 of them, so I don’t really feel like I did my job. I had to stop reading them before I went to bed, because I’d be working all day in this world, and then I’d come home and I’d read it and I’d go to bed, and it was too much of that world. I needed to kind of detach at some point. So I stopped reading them before I went to bed, and then when we got suspended and not picked up for the back 9, I said, “I’m not going to read any more,” because if we don’t get picked up then I’ll be really disappointed. But there’s so many different people who have drawn him. I love this version and the way they’ve drawn him, and the world in which they’ve drawn him. I’ve watched a bunch of the animations that the DC guys have done and I love that.
QUESTION: Your character really seems like a key component of this story but he’s definitely known for burning bridges. Are we going to be seeing some of that? How does he manage to work with this ensemble team?
MATT RYAN: Well, that’s the interesting thing, isn’t it, that dynamic? I think John ultimately is someone who wants to do whatever it takes for the greater good, but he might just kill you or get you killed in the meantime. What’s interesting is that he has to explore or call upon people who he has done things to in the past. That’s the interesting dynamic then when he comes across these characters. He can also be quite cold, which I really liked actually in this version, because I don’t think we really saw a lot of that in the TV show. I think we were getting there, to see how cold he could be, but I think that there’s a few moments in this where you go, “Oh, wow, that guy…he’s a real bastard.” And I love that side of him, really, when you see that he actually can be a real bastard.
QUESTION: When you’re doing your voice by yourself and have to imagine the other side of the conversation, how much of the finished product matched what was in your head when you were talking to these various characters?
MATT RYAN: A lot of it, man! Yeah, it’s funny, and I think it’s down to Jay and the guys as well. When they’re trying to give you a bit of the world, they’ll say, “At this point, she’s going to be in this kind of place, emotionally.” Then you see it, and you’re like, “Oh, yeah!” It’s like we were all in the same room. I only met Jason today, and I’m like, “We work really well together, man!” (Laughter) He got here this morning, I think. He’s Irish and I’m Welsh, so we’re Celts so we get on. But yeah, it’s the first time we met. I think that’s down to the direction of the guys, honestly, and making sure that we’re all at the same pitch tonally in terms of what we’re doing and all that. It really is a great skill. And it’s such a fun medium, man. It really is a fun medium. I’d like to do more.
MATT RYAN: I mean, man, I feel like…when I got the role, it’s such an iconic character, and I had so much support from David Goyer and Daniel Cerone and everyone around me at Warner Bros and NBC. It was great, actually. And the director, Neil Marshall, who directed the pilot, just gave me that confidence to go, “No, you are this (censored) guy. Go for it.” But there’s still a lot of pressure. There’s still a lot of avid fans out there that you want to do right by them, but at the same time, you’ve got to try and be true to yourself, otherwise you can mess yourself up with that. So I just feel really lucky to have done the show in the first place, and for the fans to have been so accepting of me playing him. That’s been the best thing of the whole experience of getting involved with John Constantine, and I feel like we were only scratching the surface on the television show.
TOONZONE NEWS: Can you talk about your experience recording for the film, and did you have the opportunity to record in the booth with other actors?
MATT RYAN: No, it was just me. Although I did pass the lovely Rosario Dawson who plays Wonder Woman in the movie for a little bit. But it was just me in the booth by myself with the guys. It’s really good fun. Actually, they were telling me that there’s this one actor, when he’s working on stuff, he likes to get them to turn the lights off and he takes most of his clothes off. And I said, “I’m going to try that next time!” (Laughter) Or actually, I was thinking, “I should have brought a trench coat.”
QUESTION: And cigarettes…
QUESTION: Can you actually go walk the floor without people coming up to you?
MATT RYAN: Yeah, but I look pretty different than what I do on Constantine. We had a little walk through earlier on and there were a few people who recognized me. That’s always lovely as well. The fans have just been great about the show. The whole “Save Constantine” thing…it’s still going now! It’s crazy, but it’s awesome! It makes you feel really good. The show got cancelled after 13 episodes, for whatever reasons, but when you take on a role like that there’s a lot of pressure. If you are playing Constantine in Constantine and the show gets cancelled after 13 episodes, you’re like, “Aw, (censored), was it me?” For the fans to love what I did is a great thing, because you’re like ‘Thank God I did it some justice,” and it wasn’t cancelled because I was shit. Which was a possibility.
QUESTION: Were you surprised at the level of sophistication in animation now?
MATT RYAN: Yeah, yeah, definitely. It’s unbelievable. It’s dark. And I started to get into the whole comic book world a lot more since I’ve done Constantine.
MATT RYAN: I’d love to. And I’d love to do a lot of other voices as well. I trained for six years and then I spent three years with the Royal Shakespeare Company, so when we were recording, there were a few moments when I was like, “Oh, let me do the Demon! I can do the Demon as well!” I’d like to do all that stuff, because it’s really fun.
QUESTION: Well the next logical step is you appearing in a video game, because now you’ve hit every facet of media.
MATT RYAN: Tell them that!
QUESTION: Any chance of coming back to the Berlanti Universe?
MATT RYAN: Well, I’ve been busy and I’ve not heard anything from any of my agents or anything like that. But I’d be up for exploring the character in whatever medium because there’s so much to draw on. There’s so much meat to him, and I think that we only just scratched the surface with what we did for NBC, and it’s always a fun place to go back to. He’s the type of character where you can drop him in anywhere. Can you imagine him meeting the Joker and what would happen?
QUESTION: Pitch James the Joker idea. That’s a great idea, man.
MATT RYAN: Well, they asked me “Who would you most like to see him interact with?” And I said, “The Joker!” Because what’s interesting is that John is ultimately for the greater good, but he will ultimately sacrifice people and he is a bastard, so they have similarities. But how would John view the Joker? I think the Joker would like John. I think the Joker would like John, and say, “Come on, that little bit of you that’s good? (Censored) that! Get rid of that! Come with me!” Do you know what I mean? It’d be fun!
Toonzone would like to thank Jason O’Mara, Jay Oliva, James Tucker, Phil Bourassa, and Matt Ryan for taking the time to talk with us, as well as Super PR Guy Gary Miereanu for managing the roundtable sessions. Justice League Dark is scheduled for release in early 2017.