EXCLUSIVE: Constantine's Harold Perrineau: 'It doesn't feel like the end'

Harold Perrineau has faith in Constantine. For an actor whose credits include multiple hit shows and films, and who is currently playing the angel Manny on the show, that belief counts for something -- because Constantine isn’t necessarily damned, but it isn’t out of Purgatory either.

Airing Fridays at 8 p.m. on NBC, the series based on the long-running DC Comics Hellblazer title caps its 13-episode season tonight, with an uncertain future ahead.

Though its ratings have been growing, its Live Plus streaming and DVR numbers have been solid and it has consistently trended on social media -- and there is a general consensus that it just keeps getting better -- the show has not been renewed.

But I would not bet my soul or a fiddle made of gold against the show just yet. Considering a TV and film landscape populated by comic book properties, superheroes and connected universes, it is a safe bet that neither NBCUniversal nor production company Warner Bros. Television wants to give up on a potential contender. And there has been chatter that a move to Syfy, also owned by NBCUniversal, is possible. However, until there is intervention, divine or corporate, tonight’s episode serves as both a season and series finale. 

And it is coming in on, not one, but both wings and a prayer.

In a season highlight, the show is at its darkest (and creepiest) with an episode that stands alone but also provides the truth behind the season-long Rising Darkness threat. Expect virgin brides, voodoo zombies and satanists. Also, “Waiting for the Man” brings John Constantine and Zed together with Jim Corrigan, Papa Midnite and, of course, the angel Manny.

An actor whose previous work includes Oz, Lost and Sons of Anarchy (and Marvel’s underrated Blade animated series) -- as well as films such as Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo + Juliet, the second two Matrix movies, 28 Weeks Later and Zero Dark Thirty -- Perrineau joined me to discuss his current angelic role. 

Along with what it takes to be a cryptic character who has faced down fallen angels and become stuck in human form, Perrineau teases the big revelations from tonight’s installment and how Manny might be changed by its end. Additionally, the actor jokes about his own messiah complex, and whether this show can look for a savior in Syfy.

How would you compare the Manny we met in the pilot to who we see in this 13th episode?

That is an interesting thing to answer. We know Manny now; we have an expectation when he shows up. In the pilot, it was just like, “What? I don’t understand what’s happening.” I had a little more information than anyone else did, but now everyone has more. We’re more comfortable now. But he was so new. Even if you were a fan of the comics, he was new. 

I’ve read that you grew up in a Baptist upbringing, so what was your awareness of angelic figures, and how did that impact your approach to Manny?

[Laughs] This is going to be one of those things where I don’t want people to think I’m crazy, or think more of myself than I actually do! But because of my religious background, I had a full belief -- when I was young -- that I might actually be the reincarnation of Christ! I was so in it. I was like, “I have all these feelings; I could be a Christ-like character.” I had all these ideas of angels, Christ, God and things I really believed. I also had these things I was confused by about being human. There were stories told about how good people are, how bad people can be and how all those things live in you. I can bring that to bear with Manny. He is the embodiment of all that stuff. They do this amazing job for this great deity. They do amazing things, but those are sometimes horrible things. They can take people to heaven or destroy entire cities. Those things that inherently live in me? Those questions I’ve had my whole life? They are helpful in playing the dark and light of playing Manny the angel.

Well, and many times our parents tell us how special and unique we are that it isn’t a big leap to think, “I have these special qualities, so why couldn’t I be something this important?”

Exactly! I kept fully expecting the skies to open and a voice to say, “Let me tell you who you really are!” [laughs] I was just walking around waiting for it. “It’s gonna happen!”

Harold Perrineau, not the chosen one. So far.

As far as I know, not yet! It could still happen!

In last week’s episode, “Angels and Ministers of Grace,” your character gets stuck in a human body in a very Manny-heavy episode. Talk about the satisfaction of playing that.

I really liked that. The difficult thing about playing Manny so far has been how to communicate with humans even though he isn’t. How does he connect to emotions, how we respond to things, when angels aren’t human? They have a different perspective of humanity. So, to put this being in human form was great for me. We were trying to connect to the audience. Everyone knows the first time they experience something. The first time they go to school, first time they have sex, the first time you do anything. We get to watch Manny stumble through this first time of feeling hurt, smelling death -- and I thought it was a great way to connect the audience to him more. We understood a bit more, but were still confused about where he is coming from. But this final doesn’t clarify it anymore. I don’t think it’s clear at all, but there is definitely more information.

Was it fun to play those beats where he has human experiences for the first time?

Yeah! The only tricky part was I thought it was really funny. The directors had to direct me not to play comedy. I was just having fun. They were like, “OK, we get it, but come on.” I had to pull it back a bit because a lot of it was really funny.

How does this episode change Manny?

I don’t think it changes Manny at all. I think he has been in this position ... I have had more information about this character than the audience from the beginning. I don’t think it changes him, but we find out what the hell is going on. Or what the heaven is going on!

We learn some big things about Manny tonight, about what he knows and what he can actually do. He is an agent of God and incredibly powerful. He can be more involved, should he choose. So the way he interacts with John makes me wonder if he's training him or toughening him up. Are they putting him through the wringer to face something even worse than the Brujeria down the road?

That’s why I think this show is really great. If you look at people in the Bible, like Lot or Noah, that’s the same question you might ask. What’s God doing? What’s happening? Those questions do apply, but I don’t know what the ultimate goal is. But you do have those questions when you consider bigger deities, and people with everyday lives -- and who moves forward or backward, and who does what in their life. I don’t know what is actually going on, but I do like that we ask those questions. Is that what’s happening? Are there higher forms informing what’s happening to Constantine? Is it a singular purpose? Is it one deity’s purpose? I like those questions, and that we ask those questions when watching the show. That makes it fascinating to me.

Will you speak about the recent talk about the show continuing on elsewhere, such as on Syfy?

Where it’s going to go, Syfy or wherever, that’s not up to me. That is an NBC thing, and they’re going to decide how it goes. That being said, it doesn’t feel like the end. There are a lot of things you feel when the end is coming, and this doesn’t feel like that. That is just Harold Perrineau’s personal feeling. I have no information. But wherever it goes, I’m in.

You have been involved in a lot of memorable projects, so what makes Constantine exciting or different in this TV landscape?

I find it really exciting. It is a great time for this show, in particular, for this type of show. It is literally like having a comic play in your living room. When I was a kid, you’d break into a comic book and it took a month to come out, and I’d go in my room and close the door. Now I turn on the TV, or stream it, and there it is in living color. You have these great actors and writers and a production team that comes together. This is a ridiculously great experience, and this show has been getting better and better as we go. Everyone found out how to make this work. That’s why it is really exciting this time in television. Unlike movies, television can keep going. Another episode is coming up, like you can get another comic book. And you can save it, watch it later on your computer. I think it is an exciting time. 

I don’t know if this is the final episode or not, but it's a great one. You guys really hit a stride and push it further tonight.

Thanks, Aaron. I think it is well earned. Everybody has been working really hard. If we get to continue, I think we’ll work even harder. It is exciting, and we could really talk about some cool sh-t if we just keep going!

What are you hoping happens in tonight's Constantine? And for more from the Constantine cast, check out our exclusive interviews with star Matt Ryan and Charles Halford.

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