When it comes to creating compelling, engaging television dramas, writer and producer Jeff Davis is a force to be reckoned with. After all, he created the highly successful “Criminal Minds” series back in 2005, and now he’s back at work on the upcoming television adaptation of the 1985 comedy classic Teen Wolf for MTV Networks.
Davis’ “Teen Wolf” is set to premiere following the MTV Movie Awards on June 5th and then will head to its regular time slot on Monday, June 6th. Recently Dread Central had the opportunity to chat with Davis (pictured right) during the press day for “Teen Wolf” (Episode 1 review here) to find out how the new series differs from the original flick, what parts of the werewolf mythology were incorporated into the new series and just how far he was able to push the horror bar while he was writing the scripts for the entire first season.
With the original Teen Wolf being much more of a comedy than a horror film, Davis (who wrote all 12 episodes of the first season) discussed the tone for this new “Teen Wolf” and how it differs greatly from the source material. “The tone for ‘Teen Wolf’ was set right off the bat from my first meeting with MTV,” explained Davis. “It was their idea for the tone to be darker than the original. I asked MTV at the first meeting we had ‘how do you see adapting this into a television series because the original is very much a comedy’ because to me, it’s very much a feel-good basketball movie that ends with Michael J. Fox not even as a werewolf. So they said they wanted to do the series a little differently- a little darker, even a little sexier, so I suggested that we approach this kind of like the original Lost Boys, which was an 80s movie that I still love to this day. The Lost Boys is just one of those movies that has always stuck around in my head because it is scary, it is sexy and it’s still funny. So Lost Boys was really the paradigm we chose in picking our tone, with a bit of ‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer’ thrown in there too because that was another series that really nailed the high school experience.”
“I know a lot of people have thrown around the terms ‘remake’ or ‘reboot’ for our ‘Teen Wolf’ series, but considering its MTV, I like to say it’s a remix- we’ve taken a classic film and given it a new beat for an entirely new generation of fans,” added Davis.
For fans of the original, you undoubtedly remember how Michael J. Fox’s Scott Howard openly celebrated his wolfiness amongst his peers; however, in this “Teen Wolf,” Scott (McCall, played by Tyler Posey) now struggles with his new identity and keeping it a secret from those he cares about since his knowledge of what he is becoming could lead to some very dangerous consequences for those in the know. Davis discussed how Scott must struggle with the power he’s been given (much like Peter Parker does) and how he gets some training from the werewolf who is responsible for the teen’s transformation.
Davis said, “A lot of the conflict of the first season is Scott having to control and hide his abilities now that he’s a werewolf. One of the reasons we actually chose lacrosse as the sport is that he gets to wear a helmet and it’s a much more violent sport than basketball. So we get to hide his features under a mask, which can help, but he still has to struggle to control his powers because it’s possible for him as a werewolf to get so worked up on the field that he could almost kill someone.”
“Since Scott isn’t sure how to handle becoming a werewolf, we incorporated a master/apprentice relationship that develops between him and the person (or creature) that attacked Scott and gave him his powers. I remember as a kid watching the old kung fu movies on Saturday morning and I always loved when the new fighter is being trained by the Shaolin monk so there will be some of that in the series as well,” Davis added.
And while it seems like the horror genre is a hot commodity on television these days, Davis discussed how he keeps abreast of what’s happening on the small screen across the board and how you won’t be seeing a parade of other supernatural creatures in “Teen Wolf” either.
“I take watching the other genre shows very seriously and kept all of them in mind when I was writing the scripts for ‘Teen Wolf’ because I wanted to make sure we weren’t doing something that other shows were already doing,” explained Davis. “I see it as part of my job to watch as much as I can so I can keep on top of what audiences are looking for and how other shows are treating their genre material as well. I’m actually friends with Kevin Williamson who does ‘The Vampire Diaries’ and for fans of that show who watch episode two of ‘Teen Wolf,’ all I can say is that there is a little Easter Egg for those fans during the lacrosse game.”
“But getting the werewolf make-up right was already so difficult so I’m very hesitant to bring in other supernatural creatures like vampires or witches or the like because that would be too much to deal with. So I think we’re going to just stay with werewolves in this series because there are so many stories to tell with this mythology from so many different cultures that we’ve got some ripe mythology to work from already,” added Davis.
So just which parts of the popular werewolf mythology will make its way into the “Teen Wolf” series? Davis said, “We certainly keep the full moon aspect of the werewolf mythology because who can resist that one? After all, it’s where we get the word ‘lunatic’ from. But what I can say is that silver is a little different in our version, and wolfsbane has a Kryptonite-like quality in our series too where different types have different effects on them. We did a ton of research into werewolf mythology, and we do pick bits and pieces from that, but we also take liberties as well with a few new ideas.”
“Most of our new ideas are purely to create conflict within the show. But there’s so much in the traditional werewolf folklore that I think would surprise a lot of fans- for example, one surprising thing we learned was that mistletoe was said to be used to fend off werewolves centuries ago so as you can see, we have plenty of mythologies to play with. I think we’re really going to keep fans guessing with some of the directions the mythology goes in too,” added Davis.
The “Teen Wolf” writer and executive producer went on to discuss what inspired the look of ‘Werewolf Scott’ and just how far they were able to push the horror factor with the series having a far darker tone than fans of the original may be expecting. “One of the inspirations for the look of Scott when he becomes a werewolf was the creature work in Guillermo del Toro’s Pan’s Labyrinth. I always say that del Toro has a remarkable way of bringing beauty to his creatures where they’re both scary but kind of sexy at the same time so we tried to do that. We do have a progression of werewolves though since some of them have been werewolves for longer; they do look more monstrous than Scott.”
“We were pretty lucky because MTV didn’t really give us a horror line that we couldn’t cross with this series. Quite surprisingly, they kept telling us to go even edgier than we originally had planned to. I’m not someone who is a huge fan of gore, but we do have some great shock moments in the series that do use some gore for the fans. Personally, I prefer suspense over gore- not to say I don’t love the movies that really go for gore, but I don’t really feel like we need to take it that far to tell our story for the series though. But there are some great horror moments in the first season for sure,” added Davis.
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