EXCL: Davis, Mulcahy Push the Envelope with Teen Wolf

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Which original star may return for the series?

Think of 1985’s Teen Wolf and you immediately conjure visions of a lyncanthropic Michael J. Fox slam-dunking at a high school basketball game. But MTV’s re-imagined television incarnation of the werewolf franchise, which debuts in early 2011, promises to go for real screams as often as howls of laughter.

Taking a cue from the popularity of horror stable/teen angst mash-ups like Twilight and The Vampire Diaries, the music network is venturing into scripted fare with a tweaked take on the Teen Wolf franchise (which previously spawned an animated 1986 Saturday morning series and a 1987 sequel starring Jason Bateman as Fox’s cousin).

Helmed by executive producer Jeff Davis (Criminal Minds), Renee Echevarria (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Castle) and Marty Adelstein (Prison Break) and visually executed by Russell Mulcahy, the director behind Highlander, Resident Evil: Extinction and dozens of classic music videos (including Duran Duran’s “Hungry Like the Wolf,” of course), the new series plans to deliver a more biting version of comedy as well as genuinely hair-raising moments of horror.

The basketball backdrop has been replaced by lacrosse, opposite-sex-attraction is now more of an inherent wolfen power than a welcome after effect of popularity, and there’ll be plenty of high-stakes high school melodrama amid the alpha-dogs.

“When you are talking high school, that’s a time of life when it’s sexual awakening, and it’s finding yourself, your identity,” said Davis. “And I think there’s no better time of life to explore those aspects of humanity. And being a werewolf is a way for us to tell a story where our desires are kind of heightened, our senses are heightened.”

Shock Till You Drop grabbed a quick moment with Davis and Mulcahy on a recent MTV red carpet, where they shined a little moonlight on a few behind-the-scenes secrets.

Shock Till You Drop: Teen Wolf is a property that’s been around for a while. What drew you guys to revive it, to tweak it and do an MTV version of it?

Jeff Davis: Well, I had a meeting with MTV and they told me that they had a project and they needed help updating it, and I said, ‘How do you guys want to do it because the original movie is really a comedy?’ And they said, ‘Well, we want to do it a little darker and scarier.’ I said, ‘That’s kind of up my alley.’ So I said, ‘What if we do it kind of like The Lost Boys where it’s funny and scary and sexy but can really grab you by the throat if it needs to?’ They said, ‘That’s exactly what we want.’ I came up with a couple of ideas, worked on it with the producers, Rene Echevarria and Michael Thorn and Marty Adelstein. We went back and they said, ‘This is what we want to do.’ So then the next step was hiring on a director after writing the pilot. Russell came in with phenomenal ideas – and he’s the winner of the first VMA [for “Video Killed the Radio Star,” the first video the network ever aired]!

Russell Mulcahy: And we just blended. It just became like a mind-meld, because were just so on the same page together about the tonality of the show. And it does have that smart humor, but does have huge scares. There will be gore. There will be blood. There will be bodies and there’ll be laughs and there will be romance.

Shock: How far does it push the envelope, as far as what people have been able to get away with on cable television?

Mulcahy: As far as we can go.

Davis: Not as far as, say, True Blood, but definitely further than network TV. We can take it pretty edgy. We can get there, which is really cool about MTV.

Mulcahy: We’re not going for the gore, but definitely for suspense and shocks and scares without the gore.

Shock: And we’re very familiar with your visual style, Russell – will the show be firmly in that realm?

Mulcahy: We’re pushing the envelope, absolutely.

Davis: It’s going to be very cinematic.

Mulcahy: As much as we can do.

Davis: On our budget, a cable budget, we’re going to push it as far as we can. That’s one of the reasons we added Russell.

Mulcahy: Yeah. Thank God I can operate a camera sometimes. [Laughs]

Shock: For the MTV audience, who do you see being the breakout stars, the actors on the show that viewers are going to get very excited about?

Davis: They’re all great, but Tyler Posey and Dylan O’Brien, the two leads who play Scott and Stiles, they have an unbelievable chemistry together.

Mulcahy: You can see it onscreen.

Davis: When they’re funny it’s like Jerry and George on Seinfeld, and when it’s supposed to scary it reminds me almost of the Two Coreys.

Shock: Any sly homages to the original franchise planned?

Davis: A lot, actually. We have two members of the cast that want to do the show, actually, and we’re working it out. We were going to have one of them in the pilot, but the schedules couldn’t fit up right. It was actually the original Stiles, Barry Levine, who wanted to be on the show when he’s not off directing TV himself. We’re probably going to get him in there. And we’ll probably get the original Boof [Susan Ursitti] in there.

Mulcahy: Some things have changed, like instead of basketball it’s lacrosse. So there’s a lot of updates or just changes to be revealed.

Shock: Any conversations with Michael J. Fox or Jason Bateman to lure them in, too?

Davis: That would be fantastic, if we could Michael J. Fox or Jason in! That would be great!

Shock: Is this the start of a run of real original programming for MTV?

Davis: Yes. This is there real push towards scripted. They started with The Hard Times of R.J. Berger and they’ve had scripted in the past. I used to watch Undressed myself, a fantastic half hour soap opera. But this is them really going for it now. They’re making a big push for scripted. A lot of people say that MTV, they don’t play music anymore, what kind of channel are they and I always say that AMC – American Movie Classics – has the two best TV shows on television. Why not MTV?

Mulcahy: And they’re very excited. They’re so behind this project that it’s great.

Shock: Anything you’re hoping to be able to do to hook the audience, lines you’re hoping to cross for television in terms of horror or sex appeal?

Davis: We’ve had conversations about standards and practices.

Mulcahy: Yeah. I promise you! The show is full of cliffhangers and suspense and twists and turns both story-wise and visually. We’re just trying to ramp the volume a little and keep it entertaining.

Davis: We’re certainly trying to go as far as other cable shows.

Shock: And will you save some of the edgier things you might not get away with for the DVD?

Davis: Yes, for sure!

Source: Scott Huver