NBC’s ‘Constantine’ Boss Reveals Why Series Is Better Without Keanu Reeves and Lucy Griffiths

“Some people really enjoyed Keanu in the [film] role,” Daniel Cerone tells TheWrap, “but we felt more of an obligation to stay true to the character”

Keanu Reeves won’t reprise his film role on NBC’s “Constantine,” but showrunner and executive producer Daniel Cerone thinks the supernatural horror series may be better off without him.

“Some people really enjoyed Keanu in the role,” Cerone told TheWrap. “but we felt more of an obligation to stay true to the character. Movies are often driven by star talent and when you have someone like Keanu Reeves who wants to play the role, then you sort of morph the role around the actor.”

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It’s no slight against the marquee actor, whose 2005 “Hellblazer” adaptation made $230 million worldwide. Casting relative newcomer Matt Ryan as the titular demon-dueling anti-hero has been a blessing for showrunners, who want the character to remain truer to his DC Comic origins.

“In the ‘Constantine’ movie, I think the star was Keanu Reeves. In the ‘Constantine’ TV series the star is John Constantine,” Cerone explained. “That gave us an opportunity to go out and find someone audiences might not have been familiar with — to lighten his hair, and to let him disappear completely in this role.”

The veteran producer and former “Dexter” showrunner spent 16 months working with co-executive producer David S. Goyer (“Grimm,” “DaVinci’s Demons”) to turn the cherished comic property into the bone-chilling series set to debut Friday, but the show’s fate may ultimately be determined by the degree to which fans embrace Ryan as the lead.

Also read: ‘Constantine’ Review: Matt Ryan’s Antihero Charms Overcome Standard Genre Trappings

Before top-lining his very own network series, the 33-year-old Welsh actor was best known for a recurring role on “Criminal Minds” and voicing Edward Kenway in the video game “Assassin’s Creed IV.” But Cerone is optimistic Ryan will win audiences over.

Matt Ryan as John Constantine

NBC

“In many ways [Ryan] is the character,” he explained. “This is a guy who came in smoking three packs a day — he’s got that elocution, the rough edges, the scruff, and that really scrappy attitude. He and Constantine are just a perfect fit.”

But not every fit is perfect.

In March, TheWrap reported NBC had nabbed “Lost” actress Lucy Griffiths to play Liv in its “Constantine” pilot — the chain-smoking demon hunter’s novice sidekick.

See video: ‘Constantine’ Takes Charge in War Against Demonic Forces in Latest Trailer

The pairing was short-lived. Just four months later Griffiths was written out of the show.

“Look, here’s the deal — Liv felt like the right character to introduce this world,” Cerone said. “She was the classic window into the world. She was green, she was an average girl, she didn’t know these [demons] existed, and she didn’t know why these things existed. She was a great character.”

But when the showrunner was given a full series order, he saw the landscape suddenly change. “We started coming up with situations and realized this is a very reactive character,” he explained. “Liv isn’t his peer, she isn’t an equal, she isn’t someone who brings much to the game. Yes, she’s got this newfound ability, but she’ll just be tagging along, asking questions, and not really challenging John.”

“So, you know, we own that,” he added.

Also read: NBC Orders DC Comics-David Goyer’s ‘Constantine,’ Greg Berlanti Drama Pilots

Trimming Griffith from the series roster was a controversial move, but Cerone thinks it will better serve the story in the long run.

“After looking at it hard we thought, we need someone who can go toe-to-toe with [Constantine],” he said. “We need someone who can challenge him, provoke him, get under his skin, and detect his bullshit — and that’s what the Zed character does.”

Lucy Griffiths, Angelica Celaya

Lucy Griffiths, Angelica Celaya/Getty Images

Griffiths’ character remains a central focus of Friday’s premiere episode, but “Constantine’s” series-long leading lady will now be Zed — a sexy psychic played by telenovela star and “Dallas” actress Angelica Celaya.

Also read: NBC’s ‘Constantine’ Casts Mexican-American Star as Zed

“Zed is a seminal character in the ‘Hellblazer’ comic; she’s the first character we see Constantine hook up with and sleep with,” Cerone explained. “She’s teased at the end of the pilot and she comes in strong now in Episode 2.”

“[The casting refocusing] has just paid dividends. I can’t tell you how much fun it is writing for these two characters,” he continued. “It turned out to be the best of all possible worlds.”

“Constantine” debuts Friday at 10 p.m. ET on NBC.