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Teen Wolf Creator Jeff Davis Tells All—Including Why He Thought the Show Was F--ked

In honor of Teen Wolf's 10th anniversary in June, the MTV hit's creator Jeff Davis exclusively tells E! News about finding its stars and all of the potential spinoffs that almost happened.

By Tierney Bricker Jul 26, 2021 2:00 AMTags
Watch: "Teen Wolf" Star Arden Cho Talks Asian Representation: Ones to Watch

When Teen Wolf debuted on June 5, 2011, series creator Jeff Davis thought the show was "f--ked." 

With a cast of mostly unknown actors—including Tyler Posey, Crystal Reed, Dylan O'Brien, Tyler Hoechlin, Colton Haynes and Holland Roden—and an attachment to the cheesy '80s movie of the same name starring Michael J. Fox, the pressure was on for the show to deliver MTV its first scripted hit. And then there was the part where the network decided to pit the premiere against an episode of Pretty Little Liars, one of the biggest teen dramas of the decade. 

"I was like, 'You guys, if live ratings are that important to you, why are you putting us up against the exact demo you want? Do you really think they are going to watch?'" Davis recalled to E! News in June. "And they didn't. Our ratings sucked the first year. And the second!"

While the show had developed a small but mighty following online, it wasn't until Teen Wolf's first two seasons hit Netflix in 2013 that the show's pack of viewers grew immensely. 

"Suddenly, our reach grew and we had actually good numbers for our season three premiere without the MTV Movie Awards as a lead-in," he recalled, adding that MTV quickly ordered 24 episodes for the season to quell the new fanbase's hunger. "They just said they wanted more and more."

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Teen Wolf Then and Now

Teen Wolf went on to hit 100 episodes before its series finale in 2017, turning cast members like O'Brien and Posey into major Hollywood stars. Along the way, it said goodbye to series regulars, while adding fresh faces to its roster. See: Shelley Hennig, Arden Cho, Dylan Sprayberry, Daniel Sharman and Max and Charlie Carver, to name a few.

For Davis, who also created the CBS procedural Criminal Minds, the series' true legacy is the bond the young cast formed during the show's six-year run. 

Watch: Tyler Posey & Colton Haynes Reenact Iconic "Teen Wolf" Scene

"What was really unusual to me was that the cast loved each other," he said. "There were little fights and disagreements and people grew out of touch, but they still all hang out together. Daniel and Max just did a road trip on a bike together. Colton and Holland are still the best of friends. It's nice to see that everybody really had such a good time making it."

In honor of news that Teen Wolf movie will be heading to Paramount+, we're looking back on Davis' interview with E!, in which he opened up about assembling the cast (including which American Horror Story fan favorite auditioned for Stiles!) and all of the spinoffs that were being considered.

Surprising Inspiration

After being approached by MTV with the idea of rebooting Teen Wolf, series creator Jeff Davis said he watched the original 1985 movie starring Michael J. Fox. Knowing the network was hoping to enter the scripted market with a big series, he wondered what tone they were hoping to strike. Did they really want a TV show about basketball inspired by the "dated" film?

Davis found inspiration in The Lost Boys and Buffy the Vampire Slayer, hoping to be "sexy, suspenseful, scary and funny," he detailed. "I mostly was only interested in doing it if it could also have a sense of humor and jokes, or, at least, have a sense of irony. And not be so utterly serious like all the other teen shows that were coming out at that point."

Before writing the pilot, Davis also read the first two Twilight books. While he understood why teenage girls—MTV's desired demographic—was into it, he found the story "melodramatic." For Teen Wolf, he wanted the audience to "be laughing one minute and then scared s--tless the next." 

Still, MTV had one major note when they read the pilot script: "'There needs to be more sexiness. Every single scene must be oozing with sex,'" he recalled. "I'm sitting there thinking to myself, 'Do you want the scene with Scott and his mom to be oozing with sex?!' Every single scene?!' But they were like, 'This is how we draw an audience.'"

As he recalled, "I remember seeing the first trailer and thinking to myself, 'OK so, they're selling it just like Twilight. We're f--ked.'"

Thankfully, he was wrong.

The Leader of the Pack

Though Davis had looked up all of the actors in serious consideration before their auditions and was impressed specifically by Tyler Posey's work on the ABC Family drama Lincoln Heights—"It was a sort of charming, sort of romance scene and I was like, 'OK, I think this could be him"—the creator revealed other producers weren't initially sold on him as their teen wolf. 

"His auditions were really subtle and everyone sort of shrugged their shoulders," Davis recalled. "And I said, 'No, get closer.' So I made them record him in close up and that's where he worked best. You could see the range and the charm in him in close-up. So I made them push up the camera several feet."

It even "became a rule on set," Davis continued. "I said to directors, 'Tyler's better in close-up. Always remember that.' He has such expressive eyes and that strange lopsided face that's uneven but utterly beautiful."

The first actor cast, however, was actually Crystal Reed: "She was the first person to come in for an audition and I knew she was Allison from the moment she left."

No Resume, No Problem

"I believe they submitted him for both Scott and Stiles," Davis said of Dylan O'Brien, who was eventually cast as Stiles, the sarcastic sidekick. "He came in and I remember very clearly seeing his headshot, flipping it around and most resumes have this long list of who they were trained by, what films they've been in and guest star roles, what their special skills are. His was two YouTube links and that was it. I thought, 'OK.'"

But once Davis watched O'Brien's video, he was blown away, recalling, "He had this quality about him. He just seemed elastic. He reminded me of a young Jim Carrey."

While the creative team knew he would be "a great comic foil," they weren't anticipating how skilled of dramatic actor he would be. "He could play everything," Davis said. "It was stunning to see."

Also stunning? The fan response to O'Brien, who became the show's breakout star, though the network didn't realize it when the show premiered, relegating Stiles to the back of the first season's poster. 

"He eventually moved to the very front," Davis said. "In season three, it was Tyler Posey in the back, which I was a little worried about because I was like, 'Guys, that's the star of our show!'"

A New Wolf In Town

In season four, viewers were introduced to Liam, a talented young lacrosse player who ends up becoming a member of Scott's pack. And when looking to cast the character, Davis explained they were needed an actor who could potentially lead the series if Posey ever chose to leave. Enter: Dylan Sprayberry, who was 15 years old at the time. 

"He auditioned for young Derek," Davis recalled. "He was so good, but I knew he was a little too young. This other kid just seemed more like Derek to us. But I knew I was going to call him back in for something and said to him, 'You're really good, you'll be hearing from me again.' And when we came up with the character of Liam, he was my first and only choice."

Casting What-Ifs

Talk about a sliding doors moment: American Horror Story star Evan Peters read for the role of Stiles, while YouTube star Cameron Dallas also auditioned. And before joining the cast of The Fosters, Davis revealed that Noah Centineo came in four times hoping to get a spot o Teen Wolf

Davis also spilled that a fan-favorite was nearly cast a different character.  "J.R. Bourne came in and we almost hired him as Deaton, he auditioned for that," he said. "But then I thought to myself, there's something about him and he just felt right as Allison's dad."

Pressure to Kill

One decision Davis regrets? Killing Allison in the season three finale after Reed expressed her desire to leave the show. 

"I don't know if I would've done it now, but back then, it was the time of Game of Thrones' big death and it was all about which character could you kill off to shock the audience?" Davis reflected. "There was a lot of pressure to kill a main character. I remember the network saying you have to kill someone off. And me being like, 'I don't want to kill anyone, they're like my children!'"

Reed wasn't the only cast member to leave the show, with Colton Haynes shocking fans with his exit in season two and Daniel Sharman choosing not to return for the fourth season. Tyler Hoechlin ultimately decided to step back from the show in season five, because, as Davis joked, "He decided he had enough of standing in the woods brooding and staring, which I don't blame him!"

But, Davis admitted it was "hard" to adapt the storylines in the wake of the respective exits, going on to explain how the writers ultimately handled the coming and going of actors. 

"You try to first go with what's the best story we can tell," he detailed. "And then the second is you realize and remember who the main characters of the show are. I remember saying, 'Look guys, the show's called Teen Wolf. The one we really have to worry about leaving is Tyler Posey."

Davis also had to find a creative way to write Stiles out of episodes in season three after O'Brien booked the lead role in The Maze Runner. 

"We had to do the old trick of knocking him out, so he's in a coma," he said with a laugh. "It's the old put the character in a coma trick!"

Navigating Social Media

After its premiere in 2011, Teen Wolf became one of the most dominant shows on social media, often bringing in more than one million tweets per live episode. And Davis admitted that he and the writers "looked at a lot of it" in the beginning. (Yes, including all of the love for "Sterek.")

"So one of the first mistakes we made was looking at social media and seeing something critical and thinking that's what everyone thinks and that's not true at all," Davis said. "Because some of the most vocal on Twitter and social media are actually a small subset of your overall audience. It was a learning curve for us."

But there was one social media-influenced storyline that definitely worked.

"I could say that Stiles and Lydia could be influenced by the demand online. It was hard not to see that," Davis revealed. "But they also just were great together! They looked great onscreen and they were funny together and they just made a great pair."

Bromance Over Romance

While Teen Wolf emerged as a part of the pack of early aughts teen dramas, along with Pretty Little Liars and The Vampire Diaries, unlike those shows, Davis had an aversion to one genre trope. 

"I said to MTV, 'I don't want to do love triangles,'" he explained. "That is the norm and it's usually one girl caught between two guys. I said, 'I'm not going to do that.' They said they want it to be an epic romance. I had this idea that Scott and Allison don't even kiss until the final episode of the first season and they were never going to allow me to do that."

Davis said he saw the connection between Scott and Stiles as the series' central relationship. It's OTP, if you speak Internet.

"It was a story about friends, two best friends going out into the woods to find a dead body," he explained. "It was very Stephen King, very Stand By Me. I loved the two Coreys [Haim and Feldman] in The Lost Boys, that was a big inspiration."

Saying Goodbye

While Teen Wolf ran for six seasons, Davis was surprised when MTV ordered a final season, admitting, "I thought season five was it. And I remember when MTV said, 'We want a season six, we want another 20 episodes.' I remember thinking to myself, 'There's no way I can do another 20 episodes.' And I just was completely burnt out by that point."

Though he was exhausted, Davis said it was "exhilarating" to reach 100 episodes. And when it came to the series finale, he wasn't looking to wrap things up with a nice, tidy bow.

"I always knew the way it ended for me was not to do the flashforward, where everyone has kids and they're all happily married and stuff," he said. "I didn't want to do the Harry Potter thing. I wanted to do something slightly less satisfying actually and more of a cliffhanger."

Davis' only regret when it comes to the final episode was not being able to bring back several characters, including Kira, Deaton and Braedan (Meagan Tandy), but he explained scheduling and budgetary issues prevented their returns. 

Spinoffs That Could've Been

Throughout Teen Wolf's six-year run, Davis came up with several spinoff ideas, though none ultimately came to fruition because "we were so laser-focused on getting more episodes of Teen Wolf out that we never really had time."

One potential project would've starred Arden Cho as Kira, who joined the show in season three. At the time, Davis saw the kitsune storyline as a jumping off point for another series. Another possibility was a series focused on Derek Hale's upbringing, with Ian Nelson being cast with that idea in mind. 

But Davis also revealed that he really wanted to do a spinoff called Echo House that centered on Eichen House, Beacon Hill's mental health treatment facility and would've starred Seth Gilliam

"It would've been Dieten as a sort of a Professor X that brings in supernatural teens into Eichen House and helps them deal with their abilities," he detailed. "So you'd have werewolves, wendigos...and they wouldn't know it at first but they would eventually find out. It would've been fun."

Netflix, you up? 

So, Where's That Reboot?

Weeks before the series finale aired on July 2017, MTV announced that a reboot was already in the works, that would turn Teen Wolf into an anthology series with a new cast and some returning faces. But fans never got to see that revival, with Davis explaining it came down to a dispute between the network and MGM, the studio that owns the rights.

"MTV, at that point, wanted to own its stuff outright and MGM wanted to make Teen Wolf and capitalize on it," he said, "and that was going to be situation where we could call it Teen Wolf but it would have to have no connection whatsoever to the universe that we created for MTV. We had been talking about it with MGM, but now...that's a dead thing."

Originally published on Saturday, June 5, 2021 at 3 a.m. PT.