NYCC’16: Sitting Down With Matt Ryan and the Team Behind Justice League: Dark

This January, DC Animation is spotlighting the occult heroes of the DC universe in Justice League: Dark. Like the team in the comics, this team deals with cases in the magical realm, cases that the main Justice League team isn’t adept at handling. Executive Producer James Tucker, Director Jay Oliva, Batman voice actor Jason O’Mara, Constantine voice actor Matt Ryan and character designer Phil Bourassa held a panel on Saturday on NYCC’s Main Stage and also sat down with The Beat beforehand to talk about the upcoming animated movie.

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If there is anything about Justice League: Dark that people are talking about, it’s that Constantine TV series star Matt Ryan was cast to play Constantine in Justice League: Dark. When asked if it was difficult to play Constantine as a voice actor as opposed to live action, Matt Ryan replied, “Ultimately the DNA of the character is the same. I love the character so much. There is so much more to explore with him. With a character like that, I just feel lucky that I had the opportunity to play him. I thought about taking a trenchcoat with me to wear in the booth. I feel blessed to play him again.”

If Matt Ryan could play any other DC character? “Wonder Woman.” That’s right. Wonder Woman. You heard it here first.

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Director Jay Oliva felt very lucky to get Matt Ryan cast as Constantine. He elaborated, “I never know what I’m going to be working on until they drop a script on my desk. They said you’re going to do Dark, and I asked if Swamp Thing was in it, and they said yes, and I asked is Constantine in it, and they said yes, and I asked if I could get Matt Ryan, and they said yes.”

Speaking of Swamp Thing, Jay confided that “We were trying to do a Swamp Thing direct to video for years and it never came to be,” so he was very happy to be able to include Swamp Thing in this movie. Designer Phil Bourassa did about a dozen concept drawings when coming up with the look of Swamp Thing for the movie. “I was just having so much fun with it. Finally, I had one I really liked and that’s the one I pitched to James Tucker and DC, and that’s the one they went with,” Phil said. Would he change the look for a Swamp Thing solo movie?  “If we were to do a solo film with Swamp Thing, we might take a different approach. With these characters, they’re the freaks and the monsters. They’re more off the wall and bizarre. There’s much more latitude, like when we’re introducing villains. but we turn it on its head because they’re the heroes,” he elaborated.

As for the designs of the characters, “With Dark, I wanted to show what I would like to see in a live action version of these characters.” In regards to the special effects designs in the movie, Jay Oliva said, “I’m a huge Final Fantasy fan, so for the look of the magic, I looked at my old video games and took what I liked from them.”

Batman is the Justice League main team member who is also on the Dark team. Batman voice actor Jason O’Mara has played Batman in seven animated movies now. When asked what separates his portrayal of Batman from others who have donned the mantle of the caped crusader, O’Mara responded, “It’s the only one where he’s a father. In the Justice League, Batman can give out orders knowing that they’re adults, but sending your own son into danger, that’s a different thing.”

Who is Jason O’Mara’s favorite portrayal of Batman on-screen? Michael Keaton. O’Mara elaborated, “I always felt that Michael Keaton had a great balance. He was dark, but had a wry, mercurial sense of humor. I felt the other actors either went too much one way or the other. In Justice League: Dark, there’s a lot of opportunity for Batman to throw out some glib comments. I like my Batman. It’s in its own little corner. We’re in uncharted territory right now, in regards to his relationship with Damian. I’m interested to see where we’re going to go next with that.”

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Executive Producer James Tucker with the promo poster for Justice League: Dark.

James Tucker said that his goal when taking the reigns of the animated DC universe from Bruce Timm “was to bring in more characters into TV. The best way to do it was to introduce them in existing titles. That’s the goal of using the main headliners to jumpstart the other franchises.” Will we see other mystical DC heroes like Lucifer brought into the animated universe anytime soon? James Tucker said, “Lucifer? Buy this one. We’ll get a sequel, and then yeah, sure. Yay, devil.”