“Constantine” star Angelica Celaya always wanted to play a DC Comics action hero, but as a teenager she had her sights set on a slightly more well-known figure.
“As a normal little girl growing up in the States, all you think about is Wonder Woman,” Celaya said during a recent roundtable interview with reporters. “I told my mom, ‘Mom, I want to be Wonder Woman.’ And she was like, ‘Mija, you haven’t even been an actress.’ I don’t know, I just know that I [needed] to work with DC Comics.”
When she read the part of Zed in NBC’s adaptation of DC’s “Hellblazer” comics, though, she saw a key difference between the character and her childhood heroine – unlike Wonder Woman, Zed is by no means a hero, let alone a superhero. She’s just a person, or as Celaya says, a survivor.
“She’s not a hero, not to herself,” Celaya said. “She wants to help, she wants to survive and believes that everybody else should have the opportunity to change their own destiny.”
It was Zed’s personality that Celaya identified most strongly with, seeing some of herself in the sarcastic, oddball psychic.
“I didn’t know there were other female badasses out there, and then I read Zed and I see her sarcasm and the way she is in-tuned to the arts and very expressive and really creative,” she said. “That is me. She’s very punk, very alternative, that’s very me. I see myself 10 times more [in] Zed than if I were ever Wonder Woman.”
Zed, a character who has appeared intermittently in the comics, is a sketch artist in the show who can feel and see emotions and memories by touching people and objects. She sees Matt Ryan’s John Constantine, an exorcist and dabbler in the dark arts, in her visions, drawing him and his demons over and over again in her apartment before bumping into him mid-adventure. She quickly leads to a breakthrough in his case, saves his life and establishes herself as a worthy partner to the troubled British demonologist.
The opportunity to play a strong, female, Latina protagonist on the show — especially one whose feelings and emotions are her singular strength rather than being portrayed as a weakness — is a point of pride for Celaya.
“It’s not stereotyped, she just happens to be Latina,” she said. “[Latinos] are embracing it because I think they finally get to see someone who is represented in the DC universe, a Latina — that is so badass. She’s not the victim, she’s not all, ‘Protect me, save me.’ No, she’s badass.”
Celaya’s character was not originally in the pilot of the supernatural drama, but producers decided to change direction following the series order from NBC, and instead wrote Lucy Griffiths’ Liv Aberdine, initially planned as the female lead, out of the show, teasing Zed at the end of the series’ first episode and then introducing her in full in the second, airing Oct. 31.
She didn’t audition for the role until after the pilot had been produced, but Celaya quickly became invested in the character and the world of the show. Without spoiling what the series may or may not include, Celaya said she was on board and excited for the bizarre and dark turns that her character takes in the comics – including one plot that sees Zed nearly becoming the mother of the second coming of Christ. She was so enthusiastic about one aspect of the character that she took even the producers by surprise.
“I asked … when am I going to be able to shave my head?” Celaya said. “[The producers said], ‘Do you know you’re the only actress I know who’s excited about shaving her head?’ Honestly, I think with the way it happens in ‘Hellblazer,’ it makes it much more dramatic when her head is shaved. They told me … hold out for season four.”
“Constantine” airs Fridays at 10 p.m. on NBC.