Pictured Above: Teen Wolf – Lydia Martin (Hollan Roden), Jackson (Colton Haynes), Stiles (Dylan Obrien), Allison Argent (Crystal Reed), Scott McCall (Tyler Posey) and Derek Hale (Tyler Hoechlin) © 2011 Metro Goldwyn Mayer
Jeff Davis created and produced CBS’s long-running drama Criminal Minds.
His new series for MTV, Teen Wolf, is loosely based on the 1985 Michael J Fox comedy of the same name. In it an average and unnoticed high school student, Scott McCall (Lucas Posey), turns into a werewolf and suddenly becomes an exceptional lacrosse star, which attracts all the female students to him.
Jeff Davis spoke with us about his new drama, and how totally different it is to the movie we all remember.
What powers does this werewolf have that wasn’t in the movie ?
The werewolf story is a great metaphor for adolescence, and it’s also a way to tell a great story about an outsider.
We wanted to do a story about a teenager who wasn’t necessarily a geek, but who is kind of the kid who you remember in class. But if they got hit by a bus someday, it would be like, ‘I think he sat behind me in class.’ He’s that kind of guy.
So it’s a moment of taking the ordinary person and making him extraordinary. Naturally, one of those abilities should be attracting women.
The movie is so different, why call it Teen Wolf?
Personally, that was my exact question when I first met with MTV and they said, ‘We have Teen Wolf. We are thinking of remaking it.’
I said to them, ‘I’m a huge fan of the original movie. I was a kid. I saw Back to the Future, and I saw Teen Wolf immediately thereafter and just loved it.
But the question really was: a) It’s a basketball movie, and b) it’s a comedy.
I said to them, ‘It’s that the kind of series you want to make?’ And they said, ‘No. we want to reinvent it for modern audiences, but we want to use the same themes of a teenager exploring new-found powers and take the metaphor of the werewolf a little bit further, a little edgier, a little sexier.’
I think what we’ve done is we’ve paid homage to the original movie and, to be quite honest, I consider myself a creative person, but I’m also a businessman and you can’t dismiss the power of a branding.
But people who know the brand aren’t going to want to watch this because it’s different, and it’s a brand your audience on MTV has no idea about because it’s such an old, dated movie. So why bother?
Well, you can easily ask the same question of Battlestar Galactica, which became one of my favorite TV shows.
I loved the original version, and I love the new version. And there are similarities.
We are doing a TV show about a teenager who becomes a werewolf.
You mentioned that the movie was a basketball movie. Could you talk about why it has become lacrosse?
When sitting down to write a teenage show, as writers often do, we go into our own past.
I went to a Jesuit Catholic prep school, and I always remember the lacrosse players walking around with the sticks in their bags and looking very cool. It is a cool sport.
In the movie everyone sees the wolf and loves him. Presumably, you are not going down that path in this?
I had the entire cast screen the original movie. just to make sure they’d all seen it, and then after we watched the movie we watched this great Summer of Tears parody of it. If you type in Summer of Tears, Teen Wolf on YouTube.com you’ll see it.
It’s hilarious because essentially it starts with Scott Howard (Michael J Fox’s character) becoming a teen wolf, and you have all of these kids in the bleachers going, ‘Oh my God. He’s a werewolf. Somebody call the cops.’ They are terrified.
So, obviously, we have to work around that a little bit. That takes it much more into the realm of camp, and we want to go for something a little more realistic, a little scarier.
Our paradigm has always been to take it off the tone of The Lost Boys, funny when it wants to be, scary when it needs to be, and romantic as well.
Is it easier these days with the success of Twilight [Saga] and The Vampire Diaries to get something with paranormal elements produced?
Yes, on cable. Network, not exactly. And that is one of the reasons I really think that we are so excited. We feel extremely lucky to be able to do a show like this because it’s MTV.
If it was a network, we’d be told, ‘Focus far more on the relationships. Don’t do too much of the werewolf stuff. Yes, he’s a werewolf, but we don’t want to do too much of that.’
There are network sci-fi shows that are constantly being told, ‘Less sci-fi, more soap opera.’ But here they have been telling us, ‘Edgier. Go for it. We want to see action.
We want to see twists. We want to see surprises,’ which is one of the most exciting things, to me, about working in cable.
The movie this is based on came out in 1985, and it was popular, and then it went away. There weren’t 7 billion vampire/ werewolf movies that followed it. When do you think this vampire/ werewolf craze will end?
When I first started working on Criminal Minds, we got the question, ‘How many more procedurals are they going to put on television?’
In my mind, that’s a very good question, but whenever I walk into Barnes & Noble, I never expect them to remove the mystery section or to get rid of the horror section.
These kinds of stories, these genres are just one way to tell an exciting story.