A Conversation with Constantine’s Charles Halford

It’s finally here! Constantine premieres tonight, and we are so excited to share this interview with Charles Halford, who plays Chas Chandler, John Constantine’s best friend. Give it a read, and then watch the series premiere tonight at 10/9c on NBC, or 10pm ET/PT on Global TV in Canada.

Although many people familiar with Hellblazer will be tuning into Constantine, there are a lot of people that don’t know anything about John Constantine, or Chas Chandler. What do you think viewers should know going into this TV series?

You’ve got to start with John Constantine. Chas is John’s best friend, and John is Chas’ best friend, but John is the worst best friend that anyone could ever wish to have, and not because he’s not likeable — well, that’s debatable as well — but he’s just a very dangerous person to be around due to his dabblings in the dark arts. To give a briefing on John Constantine, I would say he’s a street wizard of sorts, an occultist. He came up in a rough childhood, and from the very beginning, he’s felt that his soul has been condemned. When you get really deep into the comics, you find out that he had a twin in the womb that he supposedly strangled for fear that he wouldn’t be the golden child. His mother died during childbirth as well, and he grew up with a father that always called him “killer” and it was really hard on him. Then, he found his way into punk rock music and eventually into occultism. Through some reckless experimentation, he summoned a few demons and damned a few people to hell. He’s sort of addicted to magic as well, so he can’t help himself but get involved when the boogeyman starts knocking. You can imagine that being the best friend to someone like that is quite trying at times and rarely rewarding; however, in the wake of all this chaos that John causes, he’s led to believe that the common good is improving, but sometimes you’ve got to sacrifice to save lives and prevent something worse from happening.   

Chas is a family man in the comics, and he works on some of that in the show as well. You can imagine, if your husband had a friend like John, that could be pretty stressful when he came into town. But you also have this obligation to John that goes back in their history in the comics. We’re sort of creating a new Constantine world based solely on the Hellblazer comics. They’re changing a few things to make it more accessible to television viewers and people who aren’t familiar with the comics. It’s my hope that by the end of the first season, there will be a lot more Hellblazer fans, and the Hellblazer fans will become Constantine’s television fans.

I like the way the episodes are unrolling, and I think they’re doing a really good job of introducing this version of Constantine. We’re starting the series essentially when we meet Constantine in the Hellblazer title — he was introduced in Swamp Thing — but we’re starting it off at the same point when he got his own title. They spend a couple of episodes introducing everybody and this world, then we really start getting into some actual storylines from the comics. That’s exciting to me as a Hellblazer fan. As I’m reading the scripts that are coming in, I’m just like, “Awesome.” It’s pretty cool to watch those stories come to life.

I’ve recently seen Chas referred to as a “sidekick” but after seeing the pilot, I’d say he’s a lot more than that. Chas often keeps Constantine motivated and accountable, and in a way, keeps him in touch with his humanity. Do you see that as well, and is that something that will continue in Season 1?

One difference with the comics and the show, in the comics, Constantine keeps Chas at an arm’s distance. Outside of an occasional ride to the airport or being in really dire straits and needing a place to crash, he doesn’t involve Chas too much. Chas is a friend that Constantine doesn’t want to lose, and that he’s not willing to put at risk. In the show, Chas is much more involved, but I think a lot of that same element carries over. There is a humanizing aspect to that relationship. There’s something in that friendship that goes beyond the pawn mentality that Constantine has with a lot of people who cross his path. He’s quick to find fault in them. With some of his friends, he’ll make excuses as to why it’s OK to put that person’s life at risk or put an end to it via his magic; but with Chas, I don’t think that thought ever crossed Constantine’s mind. It’s quite the contrary. John would do anything he could to save Chas’ life and to keep that friendship alive. I’d say it’s more than a sidekick. Sidekick may be a trivial way of putting it, because every hero needs a sidekick, but I think John has a lot of allies of different expertise that he utilizes in his journey, but Chas is just always there. John’s motivated, but he’s addicted to magic, and he’s a reluctant kind of hero. He’s a drunk. In the comics, he’s a chain smoker, and he doesn’t like to get involved unless he has to get involved. Chas makes sure that John is fed, that he keeps going, and he’s also a pretty good sounding board in terms of some consciousness there.

In the pilot, we learn that Chas has some unique qualities, some might call them supernatural.

I think supernatural might be accurate.

How much are we going to dig into this aspect of Chas this season, and learn about what makes him tick?

I think all of those questions will be answered in the first season as to why he’s able to skirt death, or experience death and then come back. There will be answers for it. He’s not just a “Kenny” as I’ve heard him referenced (Referring to the South Park character). There’s a little bit more to it than that. I don’t think we’ll be keeping people in the dark that long.

What are you able to tease about the relationship with Chas and Zed in this first season?

Anyone who’s read the comic books understands that Zed has been dreaming about Constantine. She’s a sensitive, and has psychic abilities to a degree where she can she can see things, and has premonitions. In this rising darkness theme that’s introduced in the pilot, she starts seeing John. They’re similar. She’s a very headstrong woman who’s on her own in this world, whether by choice or otherwise, and there’s something that draws her to Constantine. Then, she’s equally stubborn. She won’t leave because she’s trying to figure out her own thing. If she’s in John’s life, she’s in Chas’ life, so there’s quite a bit of interaction between the two of us. I can say that I’m really excited because Zed opens up a lot of really cool storylines. She’s very involved in a lot of the comic books, so it really does open up a lot of great avenues to explore. She’d have to show up because she’s one of those important Hellblazer characters, and getting her in there early is an exciting thing. We’ve also added Papa Midnite, who is another big character in the comics that I couldn’t be happier to see in person. It really is coming together in a pretty sweet way.

Despite how dark the world of Constantine is, there are moments of humour and lightness, and we see some of that in the pilot. Does that tone continue throughout, and is there any challenge to balancing the two in your performance?

My favourite horror movies always had the trappings of humour. I think that it helps sell the scares sometimes. In terms of posing challenges, the writers do a lot of that work, and then there’s the relationship between myself and Matt (Ryan). There’s a certain degree of comedy that’s inherent in Hellblazer. In reading those books, sometimes I’ll moan over the gravity of a situation and the gruesomeness in it, and there are other moments that I’m laughing out loud because of Constantine’s snark, or the jib jab between Constantine and Chas. That’s all inherent in the source material, and it will be present in the show, but we want to keep it dark and pretty scary overall.

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