Shelley Hennig Talks TEEN WOLF, Joining the Series, the Show’s Fandom, Strong Female Characters, and More

     June 23, 2014


The hit MTV drama series Teen Wolf is back for its fourth season, as Scott (Tyler Posey), Stiles (Dylan O’Brien), Lydia (Holland Roden) and Kira (Arden Cho) are still healing from tragic loss while also trying to help their new friend Malia (Shelley Hennig) integrate back into society after spending 10 years as a coyote.  With Kate Argent (Jill Wagner) back, a mysterious enemy known as The Benefactor, and the drama of high school, there’s no telling which threat might be the most dangerous.

During this exclusive phone interview with Collider, actress Shelley Hennig talked about how she became a part of the show, deciding to make the role a permanent thing, how cool it is to be a part of the main title sequence, the show’s very supportive fandom, how welcoming the cast was for her first day on set, what she enjoys about playing Malia, that coyotes mate for life, wanting to make her mate and her Alpha proud, the strong female characters, and how much she loves doing the action and fight scenes.  Check out what she had to say after the jump, and be aware that there are some spoilers.

teen-wolf-season-4-castHow did you come to be a part of Teen Wolf?

SHELLEY HENNIG:  I did Zach Stone is Gonna Be Famous, another MTV show, and it was the same casting director, she called me about this character and said that it would be the only coyote on Teen Wolf.  It sounded really intriguing, so I gave it a shot and loved it.  And then, we all decided to make it a permanent thing.

Had you been familiar with the show?

HENNIG:  No, I hadn’t. 

Did you do a lot of catching up, once you were cast?

HENNIG:  I did as much as I could.  Before I signed on, I tuned in to check it out and I fell in love with it.  I already knew that it was a show to be proud of.  And then, I would watch random episodes, and I got really hooked.  But, there’s only so much time in the day and there was a lot of catching up to do. 

When you signed on, was it for a specific amount of episodes that then got extended, or did you always know that you’d be sticking around?

HENNIG:  Originally, it was just for a few episodes.  I was available and I’d heard great things about the show, and I tuned in and loved it, so I thought it would be fun.  And then, Jeff [Davis] asked if I would do more, and it was a pretty easy, “Yes.” 

How awesome was it to also get added to the main title sequence?

HENNIG:  That was pretty cool.  I have been a series regular on other shows, but the opening title credits were always of birds or an hourglass, and nothing human.  This is really cool, to be a part of a show that’s been, and that people love and are loyal to.  I was shocked, to be honest, when they decided to add me in it.  

You experienced a bit of fandom with The Secret Circle, but Teen Wolf fans are on a whole other level.  How have you found the Teen Wolf fans?  Have they been very welcoming of you coming onto the show?

HENNIG:  From what I’ve seen, yes.  I did learn that, if I want to meet a lot of my fans at one time, then I can go to the mall on a Friday afternoon.  They’ve been really cool.  And a lot of them have followed me from The Secret Circle, and even the soap opera and a lot of other random gigs that I’ve done.  They’re really loyal, and I couldn’t ask for more.  I just hope that I keep entertaining them.

teen-wolf-shelley-hennigWhat was the first day on set like?  Were you nervous about walking into an already established family of actors, or were they very accepting?

HENNIG:  It was the easiest transition into a show that I’ve ever had.  It just felt right.  I know it sounds cliche, but it’s really true.  This cast and crew are the most welcoming, entertaining and hard-working people that I’ve ever worked with.  People ask me, “How’s Teen Wolf?,” and I tell them it’s literally the best job I’ve ever had.  It’s hard.  Everybody wants to be a series regular.  It’s something that a lot of actors would kill to have.  That being said, it’s very demanding of you, in so many different ways.  So, to be a part of a show that makes that not feel demanding and makes it feel natural and makes you want to go to work, every day, and be excited about it, from what I hear, that’s pretty rare.  I’ve had some pretty great experiences, but this was just seamless.  This cast and crew is just remarkable.  And Tyler [Posey] and Dylan [O’Brien] are the sweetest, coolest guys.  I’ve never laughed so much.  For them to be leads of the show and to have so much success, they’re still extremely grounded people who are young and fun and really awesome to work with.  They set the tone for the show, and they’re really great to be around.  

How cool was it to come into this show as a coyote, which is something that has never been on the show before?  How did you approach playing a girl who has all of that going on inside of her?

HENNIG:  What I really got from it wasn’t even necessarily the coyote piece.  It was the fact, for 10 years, she was not human, she was an animal.  Regardless of the type of animal, which has been researched and incorporated into Malia, I just thought it was cool to play someone who is new to the world.  And I thought it was great for creating some comedy, which is what Jeff and I talked about.  I’ve been getting more into comedy, and that’s where my new passion lies, which is not an easy thing.  But I’ve been doing it a lot more, and doing a lot of improv, so I asked Jeff if we could add a lot of comedy to the character.  He said, “Absolutely!,” and he’s kept that promise.  I’m given very humorous lines that are so easy to play, not because I’m this amazing actress, but because this character is so clear, or at least she’s clear in my mind.  She’ll say some harsh things, which I’m sure will make the fans [cringe], every now and then, but she really doesn’t know any other way.  She’s been an animal for 10 years, so she’s got a lot of learning to do, and that’s what you’ll see a lot of, this season. 

teen-wolf-shelley-hennig-dylan-obrien-1What can you say about the journey that Malia will go on this season, now that she’s having to reintegrate into society?

HENNIG:  Season 3B was about her not wanting to be human, and about her wanting to be a coyote again.  That’s where I actually thought the next season was going to pick up, but it does not pick up that way.  That’s why I’m not a writer.  Malia knows that Scott is her leader.  Coyotes are very loyal and faithful animals.  And by the way, I did learn that they choose one mate and they mate for life, and I think Stiles is that guy for her.  She’s very loyal to Stiles, so whatever he asks of her or teaches her, because Stiles teaches Malia a lot of human things, when she says something that comes across as harsh to the pack, Stiles will have her back and just remind them that she’s learning.  And Malia is trying to learn and do her best.  She’s decided that she’s going to go forth with being human because she found her guy, Stiles, and she wants to make him proud, and she also wants to make her Alpha proud.

One of the great things about Teen Wolf is that there are some very strong female characters.  What can you say about the friendship between Malia, Kira and Lydia, and how that will develop?

HENNIG:  I absolutely love that.  Jeff talked about how important that was to him, at the beginning of the season, and I was happy to hear that.  Kira is more afraid to say things out loud, whereas Malia has no filter.  So, when Kira is afraid to say something to scare the pack or stir things up, Malia will be the first one to say exactly what she’s thinking.  They’re a really good pair.  They’re both physically strong.  They both have powers in them that are inhuman.  And then, Lydia is very smart, and Malia needs help in school.  Lydia has been very helpful with Malia, in trying to get Malia to understand math, especially.  Coyotes are very loyal and faithful, and Malia has accepted all of these people because of Stiles, so it’s important for her to show the rest of the pack that she’s trying.  She’s not going to lose herself and who she is.  I think she’ll always be a wild animal.  But, she’s definitely making an effort to get the rest of the pack to accept her, and to make them proud. 

teen-wolf-shelley-hennig-2This show expects a certain level of physicality from its actors.  Do you enjoy getting to do action sequences and fights scenes, and how much fun is it to get to kick random guys’ asses?

HENNIG:  I do enjoy it, mainly because I get paid to work out.  I’ll be honest, it’s as simple as that.  More than anything, I’m happy to be playing a tomboy character.  It takes less than an hour to get hair and make-up done, which is not normal for females in television.  I’m personally more of a low-maintenance type of person.  I want things to be easy and quick, especially when it comes to getting dressed.  And it’s fun to have messy hair and not a lot of make-up on, and to kick guys’ asses.  But that first berserker I saw, those guys are 6’5″ and massive, and he was chasing us in the school.  I was just freaked out, and I didn’t have to act very much.  I asked for more stunts and physical work because I think it’s cool and I’m pretty athletic in real life. 

Where are the biggest threats and dangers coming from, this season?

HENNIG:  This new group of berserkers are certainly causing a lot of issues for the pack.  In the beginning, you’ll wonder who is leading these people.  And then, we find out and we try our best to defeat them. 

Teen Wolf airs on Monday nights on MTV.

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