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Peacock's 'Wolf Like Me' creator explains why he makes you wait so long for the big reveal
The anticipation is so high for the reveal that audiences almost don’t want to see it — and that's the point.
Everyone brings baggage to new relationships. Some, such as Gary (Josh Gad) from the new Peacock original series Wolf Like Me, is a single father navigating life after losing his wife. Others are a bit more complicated. Take Gary's new acquaintance Mary (Isla Fisher). The pair's undeniable connection seems destined, but new relationships are never easy — especially when one of you turns into a violent monster on the full moon. And just like the other characters, it takes some time for the audience to get a look at Mary's werewolf-y alter ego.
**SPOILER ALERT: Spoilers ahead for all six episodes of Peacock's Wolf Like Me.**
Series creator Abe Forsythe (Little Monsters), who's experienced single fatherhood much like Gary, found himself inspired when he was spending time with a new person and realized there was a full moon. He couldn't help but wonder: "What would I do if this person were a werewolf?"
"A lot of this came from me being a single parent and how difficult it is, sort of navigating the dating world when you're a single parent," Forsythe told SYFY ahead of the series premiere on Jan. 13. "Because effectively you're looking for someone for yourself, if not more also for your child as well, because you don't want to bring someone into your life that is not going to be a positive addition to your family views."
The werewolf storyline became as much a metaphor for the difficulties of accepting someone new into a family dynamic as much as it was "a fun way... to explore these issues with it being something so high stakes, but also at the same time so ridiculous."
For the first couple of episodes, audiences are left to wonder at what, exactly, Mary's secret is. She's likable, funny, intelligent, and she and Gary click from the first moment they meet when they get into a car accident. Gary's daughter, Emma (Ariel Joy Donoghue), has a panic attack, and Mary manages to calm her down almost immediately. It's not until halfway through the season that Gary learns the reason for Mary's odd behavior — why she races home to beat the setting sun once a month and shies away from new (or any) relationships. We witness Mary's transformation through Gary's point of view, and only see her wolf form in the final episode. By then, Gary and Mary are so part of each other's lives that Mary is pregnant with their child and acting as a mother figure for Emma.
Mary's monstrous form, a four-legged, sharp-toothed, red-furred wolf, is revealed after she's protected Gary and Emma — her pack — from two bad guys. She kills them in appropriately gruesome (and darkly comedic) fashion, and Emma witnesses the wolf for the first time. As Forsythe explains, the anticipation is so high for the reveal that audiences almost don't want to see it.
"It's tricky. I wanted to tease it. But at the same time, I was so aware that then if we were going to tease it in that way... when we see her at the end, we have to really execute it really, really well in order to make it satisfying," Forsythe says. "At that point I wanted the audience to be going, 'Oh f***, that's right, it's a werewolf show. And now I don't want to see the werewolf.' I wanted them to be just as f***ing scared as Gary and Emma in that situation.
"But then also the fun was with that sequence, even delaying when we see her within that sequence for as long as possible as well, too," he continues. "Which is why we can have a lot of fun with that guy being thrown around and thrown through the window of the car."
Forsythe worked with Oscar and BAFTA-winning effects company Odd Studio (Mad Max: Fury Road, The Invisible Man, Aquaman, and much more) to design the wolf, which is part animatronic "puppet" for close-up work, and digital for wider shots. While Forsythe had worked with the studio before on his feature Little Monsters, he was still blown away by what they delivered. His only two notes going in were that the werewolf had to be on four legs and it had to be "a feminine werewolf." He wanted no doubts that when Gary and Emma looked into her eyes that it was Mary staring back at them, and the studio delivered. Forsythe says the final design took his and his team's breath away, much like Emma when she sees the wolf.
"I wanted this to constantly be unpredictable for the audience where it was going to go — right up at the very end, and then have people realize that it was hopefully something meaningful for them," Forsythe says. "I felt for an audience, the metaphor can be whatever you bring to a relationship, whatever baggage you have, whatever thing you are scared of actually revealing. It allows the audience to follow this in whichever way they want to follow it. They can just follow it and have fun and treat it as a genre piece. But that's actually not how I intended it. I intended it for people [to] have fun, but actually be surprised at what [they] could potentially reflect back onto it."
Wolf Like Me is now available to stream on Peacock.