On Season 5 of the popular MTV series Teen Wolf, Scott (Tyler Posey) and his friends are dealing with senior year and find themselves facing the possibility of a future without each other, as they think about what direction life might take them. Of course, it wouldn’t be Beacon Hills, if outside forces weren’t also plotting to break the Pack apart, and this season’s new villains are using a combination of science and the supernatural for a malevolent and mysterious purpose that will eventually pit this tight group of friends against their greatest enemy yet.
During this recent exclusive phone interview with Collider, showrunner Jeff Davis talked about how formidable the Dread Doctors will be this season, why they’re like no villain we’ve seen on the show before, how much senior year will affect them, telling a 20-episode story with a big mid-point episode, whether viewers might ever see a Teen Wolf prom, that Scott and Stiles (Dylan O’Brien) will be pushed to their worst breaking point yet, and the cool new dynamic that Theo (Cody Christian) adds. He also talked about adapting Let the Right One In as a TV series for A&E, and how he’s also looking to the original book, in doing so. Be aware that there are some spoilers.
You have some new villains this season, which we only get a glimpse of, in the premiere. What can you say about who they are and how they’ve ended up looking the way they do?
JEFF DAVIS: We call our new villains the Dread Doctors, and they come with their own mythology. The design and ideas of them are based a little bit on the Plague Doctors that were around during the bubonic plague. It’s very much a steampunk aesthetic with influences from Hellboy and the German gas masks of WWI and WWII that were so creepy looking. We’ve drawn on a lot of different references. As far as their mythology goes, it’s all about this idea of scientists who worshipped the supernatural. They have a definite agenda within the town of Beacon Hills, and they’re going to cause a lot of problems for Scott and his friends.
With so much talk about how the villains are so different this season, and that they’re like nothing we’ve ever seen before, was that something you also wanted to reflect with having such a different look to it?
DAVIS: Yes, absolutely! We always try to do something different and new with each season. We treat our seasons like sequels to a movie. They’re big, broad stories with epic parts to it that lend themselves to coming up with big, new ideas. We don’t want to do the same thing, every year. So, it’s new villains, new characters, and new situations for our heroes. It’s interesting that we’re able to do this in a show called Teen Wolf that should have been all about werewolves. We’re big fans of horror and comic books, so we try to branch out. I think that scope has lent itself very well to our longevity. It makes things interesting.
Is that the only villain they have to deal with, this season, or are there dangers coming from other places, as well?
DAVIS: They’re going to have dangers from all different places, and Scott is going to find that it’s very difficult to keep his group of friends together. One of our big themes this season is, how do high school friends stay together, after graduation? And are the friends you make, as a teenager, the friends you keep for the rest of your life, or do you find other people? For characters like Scott and Stiles, that’s a tragedy. They want to keep their friends and their Pack together. That’s why our tagline this season is, “Watch your Pack,” and I think it’s brilliant. Our marketing team did a fantastic job with that. I told them that, if that’s not my favorite, it’s my second favorite tagline that they’ve come up with. And that perfectly encapsulates the season.
These teens have never really gotten to be teens because they’re dealing with such heightened life-or-death situations. Did you intentionally want to explore senior year and what that means for these characters, or is that just where you ended up with the story?
DAVIS: There were a variety of factors. It’s a little bit of where we ended up, but it’s also that the show is getting older now. It’s our fifth season, and we want to grow along with our characters. We also felt that maybe this was a good season and a good time to refocus the show back on the teenagers, and back on people like Scott, Stiles and Liam, who’s still a sophomore in high school. We have scenes like Malia in Driver’s Ed, learning how to drive, and Kira and Lydia are trying to help her. It’s that bonding over simple things that we enjoy, at the start of the season. But of course, our bad guys and the evil of Beacon Hills always creeps back in.
Because you’ve gotten to play around with the storytelling a bit, you’ve had shorter seasons and you’ve had longer seasons that are split in half with separate arcs. This season, you’re telling a bigger season-long story. Do you prefer the tighter structure of fewer episodes, or do you like having some breathing room with a longer season?
DAVIS: It’s about whatever story we’re exploring that season. The difference in the episode number orders comes from the network wanting more and more, and the audience wanting more and more. Part of it is that the writers and producers and directors of the show need to have a break, every now and then. What 10 and 10 has allowed us to do is create a big epic story. I think 10 may be too small for the kind of ambitious stories we want to tell, but 20 is quite sizable itself. So, what we decided was that we wanted to tell a 20-episode story and make Episode 10 feel like a big, huge mid-point with surprises. It has some of our biggest cliffhangers ever, in that episode. A lot of shocking things happen that will leave audiences wondering what will happen next. We like that structure. I’m actually really excited about this season, and having the breathing room of 20 episodes.
You mentioned that Malia is learning how to drive, and she’s struggling to find her place with homework, as well. Will you do anything as mundane as a Teen Wolf prom episode, with it being senior year?
DAVIS: We battle with that sometimes. One of the things our show does is stay away from those tropes of teenage life. But, who knows? If it feels right for the story, or we can come up with a good idea, we might do it. If we’re going to do something like a prom episode, the location where the prom takes place has to be under siege by monsters. It will be a very Buffy-esque episode, where graduation was life-or-death.
Where are things at between Scott and Stiles, this season? Will their friendship continue to be tested all season, or will they be closer than ever?
DAVIS: I will tease the audience by saying that we could see them at the worst point ever in their friendship. They’re definitely going to be pushed to a breaking point and tested. It’s going to get rocky and rough.
What can we expect from the relationships between Scott and Kira, and Stiles and Malia?
DAVIS: They’re all going to experience quite a bit of drama, and that comes from outside influences and factions that are created. There’s a new characters coming in, named Theo and played by Cody Christian, who is going to affect them in different ways. I think the audience is really going to like him, too. He brings a really cool new dynamic to the group, and the actors all just love him. It’s been really nice to see Cody welcomed into this strange family we have.
When we first meet Theo, he seems genuine in what he’s saying. Should we be suspicious of his motives, or is he who he’s portraying himself to be?
DAVIS: I think you should always be suspicious of new characters. I will say that Cody brings a lot of heart to the role, and you’re going to feel for his character.
Unlike most shows centered on teenagers, this show has kept a really great focus on those teenagers and their parents, and the importance of friendships, whether it’s the bromance of Scott and Stiles, or the girls who have really bonded together. Has it been really important to you to focus on that, as well?
DAVIS: Absolutely! One of the things we brought up in the writers room was, how do we test this relationships, and how do we make them more powerful and more dramatic? Those are my favorite scenes in the show. We put a lot into creating suspenseful thriller teases and cliffhangers, and as much action and horror as we can, but my favorite scenes are always the quiet scenes between the characters. I was looking, the other day, at the scene in Season 1 where Stiles gets his dad drunk to ply him for information, and then takes it a little too far and it turns into a very quiet, very emotional scene between father and son, and that’s one of my favorites in the show. Those are always what we’re striving for. And I love the relationship between Melissa and Scott. It’s the kind of relationship you don’t see between a mother and son on TV, very often.
You’re also working on the Let the Right One In TV series. After breathing new life into the werewolf genre with your fresh approach to Teen Wolf, are you looking to do the same thing with vampires now?
DAVIS: The thing I love about Let the Right One In is that it’s kind of a story told from the perspective of Renfield. It is the caretaker of the vampire. And it’s also a very young love story. What Let the Right One In is going to be is a very different type of show from Teen Wolf. It’s going to be much more adult, and probably quite a bit scarier and darker. One of the differences between the two projects is that Teen Wolf was a classic movie, but it’s not exactly considered artistic and beautiful, and the kind of film that would win awards. Let the Right One In, the film, is. There is a lot to live up to when adapting that. It’s quite a challenge to adapt a film that’s so respected, but one of the things we’re also doing is taking a lot from the book, which goes very much in-depth. It wasn’t actually until I read the book that I thought to myself, “Okay, I think this can be a TV show.”
Teen Wolf airs on Monday nights on MTV, with a two-episode Season 5 premiere on June 29th and 30th.