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Who is Johanna Constantine? Jenna Coleman explains Sandman role

The former Doctor Who star tells RadioTimes.com about her latest genre role.

Jenna Coleman as Johanna Constantine in The Sandman
Liam Daniel/Netflix © 2022
Published: Monday, 8th August 2022 at 1:42 pm
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Fan favourite DC Comics hero Constantine has come to live-action for the third time in Netflix's adaptation of The Sandman.

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However, for the new series, Constantine has had something of a makeover.

John Constantine first appeared in the pages of DC Comics back in 1985, debuting in a Swamp Thing story penned by legendary comic book writer Alan Moore (Watchmen, V for Vendetta).

The character soon received his very own solo series, titled Hellblazer, in which he took on a wide variety of paranormal cases as an occult detective.

In this role, Constantine makes an appearance in an early issue of The Sandman, which has now been adapted as part of the first season of the new Netflix series, representing one of the show's few remaining links with the DC Extended Universe.

Author Neil Gaiman made the decision to adapt the character as a woman, bringing the present-day version closer in line with her noble ancestor Lady Johanna Constantine (more on her below).

Read on for your full guide to Jenna Coleman's character Constantine, including her exclusive comments in a conversation with RadioTimes.com, and a refresher on earlier adaptations of the character.

Who is Jenna Coleman playing in The Sandman?

Jenna Coleman and Tom Sturridge in The Sandman
Jenna Coleman and Tom Sturridge in The Sandman Netflix

Jenna Coleman plays Johanna Constantine in The Sandman on Netflix.

There are two iterations in the series, one is the eighteenth-century Lady Johanna Constantine and the other is the modern-day occult detective.

This is a gender-flipped version of popular DC superhero John Constantine, who is closely associated with the magical side of the fictional universe.

However, in an exclusive interview with RadioTimes.com, the former Doctor Who star revealed she actually didn't know exactly which role she was auditioning for when she was first given scripts.

"What was great for me is that I actually came to this not knowing. I was sent some scenes and some scripts and some material, and I knew it was The Sandman, but I think it was a very deliberate thing from Allan [Heinberg] and Neil [Gaiman, executive producers] to not tell me who.

"So my initial instinctive take on the character was completely not filtered by anything else, so it was great because it gave me a real running jump at what I felt, just purely from the writing and from Allan's voice. And it was so distinctive and clear and layered and complex, this pragmatic, disillusioned, witty, uber-smart... exorcist."

Coleman added: "I felt like I had such a handle on what to do and then I got to kind of work backwards. Obviously, the biggest source for me was coming from the comic book and coming from just reading online, in terms of history. And looking at Latin exorcisms, how to perform one, [on] Google. So it was a bit of backwards working but I'm really grateful for that."

Who is Lady Johanna Constantine in The Sandman?

Jenna Coleman as Lady Johanna Constantine
Jenna Coleman as Lady Johanna Constantine (centre) in The Sandman Courtesy of Netflix © 2022

Coleman actually takes a dual role in The Sandman as she also plays Johanna Constantine's 18th-century ancestor Lady Johanna, who also crosses paths with Dream during her lifetime.

Over the course of the Sandman comic books, Lady Johanna is actually more prominent than her present-day counterpart, although her role in the first season is relatively minor.

Coleman describes Lady Johanna's appearance in The Sandman season 1 as a "seed" of greater things to come, if the show is renewed for more episodes by Netflix.

Who else has played Constantine in film and TV?

Matt Ryan and Keanu Reeves have played John Constantine in live-action.
Matt Ryan (left) and Keanu Reeves have played John Constantine in live-action SEAC

Constantine is a hugely popular character in DC Comics and, as such, has been adapted into live-action on more than one previous occasion.

The Matrix and John Wick star Keanu Reeves was the first to play the occult hero, taking the title role in 2005's Constantine, which also starred Rachel Weisz, Tilda Swinton and Djimon Hounsou.

The film has become a cult favourite over the years, although even its most ardent supporters will acknowledge that Reeves's performance wasn't remarkably faithful to the comic books.

Fans were happier with Welsh actor Matt Ryan, who first played the character in the short-lived drama series Constantine, before reprising the role in Arrow, Legends of Tomorrow and several animated projects.

The Sandman is available to stream on Netflix from Friday 5th August 2022. Check out more of our Fantasy coverage or visit our TV Guide to see what's on tonight.

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