Developed by Jeff Davis, the hit MTV drama series Teen Wolf is back for a super-sized, 24-episode third season. Season 3 finds teen werewolf Scott McCall (Tyler Posey) and his friends Stiles (Dylan O’Brien), Lydia (Holland Roden) and Allison (Crystal Reed) in their junior year of high school, while having to deal with a new threat has arrived in Beacon Hills – a deadly pack of Alpha werewolves intent on bringing Derek (Tyler Hoechlin) into their fold, and who are clearly willing to stop at nothing to meet their goals.
During this exclusive phone interview with Collider, showrunner Jeff Davis talked about how the characters are different this season, who has grown and changed the most, the overall themes of the first half of Season 3, what made this season the right time to delve into Derek’s family history, just what Peter (Ian Bohen) is up to, developing the twin transformation, which actors like to ask the most questions about their character, the challenges of maintaining the show’s quality on their budget, thinking of the 24-episode season as two separate but interconnecting stories, and that they’re already planting seeds for a possible Season 4. Check out what he had to say after the jump, and be aware that there are some spoilers.
JEFF DAVIS: I think they’ve all grown. They’re juniors now. They’re all a little bit older and a little bit wiser. They’ve all dealt with tragedy, in a way. They’ve seen people die. They’ve seen people resurrected. I think it’s left them reeling a little. It’s left them hoping to get back to normal life, which unfortunately doesn’t last very long, in our world. Relationships have been broken and new relationships are about to start. It’s very much like teenage life, in general. It’s emotion-filled.
Who would you say has grown or changed the most?
DAVIS: I think Scott will have the biggest change. In the first season, it was a struggle to maintain the beast inside. He was struggling with the darker part of himself. He couldn’t always play the good guy. I like to say that the real hero of Season 1 was Stiles (Dylan O’Brien). In Season 2, he was really trying to be the hero, but stumbling along the way and trying to find his path. Now, in Season 3, I think he’s rising to the part of a leader. Almost in preparation of that, he decided to work on himself. He decided to be a better son, a better student, and a better everything. It’s a new self-improvement streak for him, and it’s all in preparation of him becoming a leader. So, it’s fun to be able to see his character really grow from a naive, sometimes vein, sometimes selfish teenage boy to a man and a leader.
What can you say about the overall story arc that you’re focusing on this season? Are there any specific themes that you’re exploring?
DAVIS: Well, the arc has to do with the temptation of power. This pack of Alphas have all gained their power through not so benevolent moves, and they’re gonna test a lot of people. We like to think about it in the writers’ room as a season about how you rise to power. A great quote from Winston Churchill is, “The price of greatness is responsibility.” It’s another way to say that great Stan Lee quite, which is, “With great power comes great responsibility.” The leader of the Alpha pack wants to turn Scott and Derek against each other.
Was there a storyline that you’d been thinking about, that you’re finally getting to do in Season 3?
DAVIS: With this show, we really get to do what we want. It’s not just about werewolves anymore. It’s about all types of supernatural creatures, and all types of themes. We really do tell the stories we want to tell. I always find that you do best, as a writer, if you satisfy the first audience member, which is yourself. One thing I wanted to do this season was have another big mystery. I wanted to tell a detective story. And Stiles and Lydia, especially, become the detectives of this season and of our group. I started referring to them as the David and Maddie of Teen Wolf. It’s fun to be able to do that. It’s fun to see Stiles following in the footsteps of his father. It’s also fun to see him working side by side with Lydia, and to see the two of them becoming actual friends and partners-in-crime.
Was it fun to be able to really open up Lydia this season, include her more, and not have to keep coming up with ways to keep her clueless about what was happening?
DAVIS: Absolutely! It’s a relief to be able to do that ‘cause Holland is such a good actress, as well, and we can now give her so much more material to play. I think she did a brilliant job, last season. We sometimes refer to her as the MVP of last season because she was so good and she was tortured so often. This season is very much a season of her finding her power and her discovering her place among her group of friends. She becomes a hero, which I love about her character.
You have the Scott and Stiles friendship, and then you have this trio of Derek, Isaac and Peter. How will that continue to cross paths?
DAVIS: You’ll see different team-ups happen throughout this season, which is really fun to play because you’re mixing different personalities and different conflicts also show up. You’ll see Isaac and Scott together. You’ll see Stiles and Peter, which is great. You’ll see Stiles and Derek, of course, and Derek and Scott. We always try to find those really good combinations of characters to see how the actors play off each other, in different ways.
Derek and Stiles have had some really funny, snarky moments with each other. Is that something you noticed, early on?
DAVIS: Oh, yeah! We knew about that, from the first season. We saw them together and we realized, “Wow, they’re really good together.” They’re funny. One’s the straight man and one’s the goof, and they can have this funny, abusive, hating relationship, where underneath you know that they don’t really hate each other. It’s fun to play that. There’s constant tension when they’re together.
DAVIS: I think it was partly the desire to round out his character. With someone this dark and brooding, you always ask questions. You want to know, “Why is he like this?” And the Hale family of werewolves is fascinating to me, especially the mother and the uncle, Peter. We don’t know anything about these characters. They’re just shadows in the past. So, it was nice to be able to put faces to their names.
Ian Bohen has said that Peter has a master plan. Should everybody be worried about what that plan is, and just what Peter is willing to do?
DAVIS: Peter is very much the Iago of Derek’s Shakespearian tragedy. I don’t think anybody should trust him, all that much. But, he’s one of those fun characters who’s a trickster. He can be both an ally and an enemy.
How did you go about putting this Alpha pack together? Did you know exactly the types of characters you wanted, or did you cast actors and then develop the character personalities around them?
DAVIS: Well, we did know all the characters we wanted. I knew that for Kali, we wanted a villain that was elegant and beautiful, and that could use the claws on her toes as weapons, in a very Bond villain type of way. I knew that we wanted a sophisticated, elegant, but also very brutal and strong and powerful leader in Deucalion. And then, we waned the twins and this other brute force in Ennis. All that was pretty planned, and we couldn’t be happier with the casting. The people we got to play those characters are incredibly nice people who are all so talented. Gideon Emery is phenomenal.
When and how did you develop the twin transformation?
DAVIS: That came out of two things. I’m an identical twin myself, and it came out of ideas I had about that. But also, doing them as one twin was a thought I had, in terms of just cutting down time in the make-up chair. We didn’t have to put either Charlie or Max [Carver] in the make-up. We could put it on a stunt double, who is a bigger guy, and have him sit around in make-up while they’re just wearing eyes and teeth. So, it was partly out of necessity, but it was also very cool. We could have this big, brute force of a monster, lurking around.
DAVIS: It was challenging, but we also did see it as an opportunity. We really benefit from bringing in new characters. I don’t begrudge Colton for wanting to move on and try something different. I think he was ready to do it, and we wished him all the best. It allowed us to bring in some new romance and some new fun and new faces.
Are there any actors in the cast who ask the most questions about their character and where their character is headed, and are there any actors in the cast who never want to know anything, at all?
DAVIS: There are some who like to be surprised. Tyler Posey doesn’t mind being surprised. Dylan [O’Brien] wants to know more, but I usually only give him hints. Crystal [Reed] loves to know more. She’s the kind of actor who likes to do her prep. But, I’m so secretive that they know I’ll only give out a few hints and pieces, here and there. Tyler Hoechlin, especially, wants to know everything. He would like to know what happens in Season 6, and I don’t even know what happens in Season 4.
In regard to trying to maintain the show’s quality with the budget that you have, does that get any easier with each season, or does it become more of a challenge?
DAVIS: I think it becomes more of a challenge, the more ambitious we get. Doing a mostly green screen motorcycle chase with location shooting at Paramount studios, in the first five minutes of this season, maybe wasn’t the easiest way to start off. It’s tough, on this show, because nobody says no to me. I’m always telling my producers, “Tell me no. Tell me that we don’t have the money for that.” And they’re like, “Well, we can figure out how to do it.” One of the nice things about this show is that I’ve managed to surround myself with people who are just as ambitious and crazy as I am, so we all just try to go for it. And it is quite hard. There are a lot of late nights, and there are a lot of sleepless nights. I, myself, do a lot of the writing on my own, on this show. I typically write over half the drafts. I wrote eight out of 12 of the episodes in 3A. That amount of writing for the showrunner is hard to do, as well. But, this is one of those shows that’s very close to my voice, so for some reason, I do that.
Has there been pressure, with the longer season, as far as mapping out the story for 24 episodes instead of 12, so that you don’t run out of story to tell?
DAVIS: Not at all, actually. We plotted the season the same way we’ve always done it, with 12 episodes. Season 3 is really 24 episodes, but to me, it’s 3A and 3B. Each half has a complete story arc. It’s connected, but they’ll have their separate stories. We had a plan for 3B already, but now we’re getting to the detailed work. The only real issue with doubling the season order is that my fear is maintaining the quality with the quantity. Out of money, time and quality, you can have only two of the three things. We’ve never had much money, so we’re going for time and quality.
Whenever you hear about a showrunner leaving their show, you wonder how they can walk away from something that they helped establish and develop, but at the same time, you can understand how someone would get so burned out. Can you relate to why someone feels the need to step away from their own show and let someone else take over?
DAVIS: Oh, absolutely! I’ve always said that when I run out of stories to tell, I will absolutely hand over the reins. For now, at the moment, I still have stories to tell within this world, and I don’t feel as though I’m being repetitive. Once I start feeling repetitive, I know that then I’ll have to let someone else guide the show. But, I have a great writing staff and great producers around me. And then, there’s also the desire to try new things. You can do certain things at an HBO show that you can’t do with an MTV show. But then, of course, at an MTV show, I get a lot of autonomy that I wouldn’t have at a broadcast network. I get to do what I want, and I can make a serialized show that’s a little edgier and a little darker. So, there are many reasons. Sometimes the showrunner gets pushed out, which is an uncomfortable situation. Sometimes it’s just a matter of, “Do I have any more stories to tell in this world, or is it time to start something new?” I’m not sure if I’ve reached that yet, but we’ll see.
Are you already starting to plant seeds for Season 4?
DAVIS: Yes, we are. We actually know a few things that will very likely happen at the end of Season 3B. We do plan ahead, especially on this show that hinges so much on mystery.
Teen Wolf airs on Monday nights on MTV.