Listen to the creator of Teen Wolf Jeff Davis talk and you hear him mention Spider-Man, Buffy and The Lost Boys when it comes to his inspiration for MTV's new werewolf series, which premieres this Sunday. He even embraces the show's namesake, Michael J. Fox's 1985 comedy Teen Wolf—although he's quick to point out the differences.
"I take my cue from the Spider-Man comics I loved as a kid," said Davis in an exclusive interview. "He was a teenager, first and foremost, falling asleep in class because he was out busy getting pictures of his alter ego, Spider-Man, to sell to the newspaper in order to live and afford his life. I mean, it's great when normal life always kind of interferes with the supernatural one, with the life of the hero. It's a challenge to constantly ground things in reality, but I think it makes the show better. I always loved Buffy for that reason as well. They did such a good job with the fact that she was a high school student. And every now and then they were able to remind us when Willow said, 'Hey, I have a final. I can't go out and kill vampires."
Davis pitched rebooting Teen Wolf to MTV because he felt vampires had been done to death. No one was interested in doing a straight comedy about werewolves, so Davis recommended mixing in a bit of The Lost Boys, the Kiefer Sutherland 1987 vampire flick, which had a darker tone laced with comedy.
If all this talk of vampires is concerning, not to worry. Davis promises vampires are one thing the young werewolf bitten hero, Scott McCall, won't have to deal with. "First off, there are no vampires and there will be no vampires. That is a rule I have made. And ask me that again after five seasons. Second is that for me it's a real Romeo and Juliet story," he said.
The Romeo and Juliet of it all involves Scott's instant attraction to the new girl in town Allison Argent, played by Crystal Reed. Once Scott gets bitten and his wolfy powers begin to take hold of him, he starts to get faster, stronger and have enhanced senses. That makes him a sudden star on the his high school lacrosse team, much to the dismay of the previous star, Jackson (Colton Haynes), and much to the interest of Allison. The problem is that Allison's dad, Mr. Argent (Stargate SG-1's JR Bourne), is a werewolf hunter, and that's a huge problem for a teen who suddenly realizes that he's become a werewolf. The other major players in the series are the werewolf who bites Scott, Derek Hale (Tyler Hoechlin), Scott's best friend Stiles (Dylan O'Brien) and popular girl with a secret Lydia (Holland Roden).
According to Davis, Scott has to ask himself, "'How am I ever going to be with the girl I'm completely in love with while her father is trying to hunt me down and kill me?'" he said. "It gives us a lot of room to play with teenage themes within genre and that is the greatest thing about genre. Sci-fi itself always does best when it is a future story commenting on present problems. Those are the things we're going to do."
It adds up to a brand new world for Davis, who also created the CBS hit, Criminal Minds. When it comes to that episodic series, "it was fun to do a show where I could use all my fascination for psychology in it. I could talk about Criminal Minds, but this is the more interesting one. It's werewolves and it's teenagers and it's a thriller. It was also a chance to do a serialized show. People ... tell me it feels like chapters in a book, and I get to do cliffhangers at the end of every episode that make you breathless for the next episode," he said.
"Telling a full story in 12 episodes and keeping all these plotlines in the air and then tying them together by the end so you felt like it was a complete story, that has been a challenge. I have a great writing staff to help out with that, which is very nice. But it also has been a challenge to marry teenage stories with a genre story, because partly as a writer you need to remember that these are still teenagers, they still go to school and as a teenager every day is the end of the world. Emotions are heightened and as a genre writer I just want to get to those fast-paced action scenes. But nobody's going to care about the fast-paced action scenes until they care about the characters. So we have spent time on that. It's a balance of telling real teenage stories with the great genre elements that I love, [as well as the] action scenes with werewolf fighting and having blood and guts and gore," he said.
Davis also promises that there's a "really good mystery" at the center of it all. "There's twists and turns and allegiances won and people betraying other people. So it's a real character drama, but a mystery as well. And it's a big thriller too," said Davis.
The other thing you can expect are some surprises when it comes to the werewolves themselves. There will be more than one type of werewolf, especially noticeable when it comes to Scott's new werewolf and Derek's older werewolf. "And then we have some other surprises in store too for other kinds of werewolves."
So far MTV has been happy enough with what they've seen that they've actually pumped more money into the production, which seldom happens in TV land. "They're giving us a lot of confidence, which is great."
Davis has big plans for the series which, if he has his way, will last several seasons. "I have an idea for three seasons and I think as a writer you don't want to overwhelm yourself by looking too far, but three seasons, definitely. I already know what the theme of the second season is going to be."
What it adds up to is a project that Davis is thrilled about and one he hopes you'll check out. "People should tune in because they'll be surprised by what they find. They may have one notion of what Teen Wolf, the movie, is, but I think Teen Wolf, the TV series, will surprise them. So they should tune in to see what we've done," he said.
Teen Wolf's two-part premiere begins on MTV on Sunday after the 2011 MTV Movie Awards at 11 p.m., and then finishes up in its regular timeslot on Monday at 10 p.m.
Here's the first seven and a half minutes of Teen Wolf's premiere:
Are you ready for a Teen Wolf reboot?