Death has been an omnipresent force on Teen Wolf since the series launched on MTV in 2011, but despite the myriad life-threatening situations confronted by Scott McCall (Tyler Posey), Allison Argent (Crystal Reed), Stiles Stilinski (Dylan O’Brien), Lydia Martin (Holland Roden), and Derek Hale (Tyler Hoechlin), the Grim Reaper had never claimed a main character.
Then, everything changed in the March 17 episode, the penultimate installment of Season 3, when Allison — the show’s romantic lead — was stabbed during an epic fight and bled to death in the arms of a powerless Scott, her first love.
While Allison’s death was an excellent catalyst for the plot of Teen Wolf, the character’s murder actually came to pass because Reed asked to be written off the show. Then, in an unrelated turn of events, three other actors followed Reed out the door: Daniel Sharman — who played Isaac Lahey — also asked to be written off the show, while twins Charlie and Max Carver, who played Ethan and Aiden, booked jobs on HBO’s The Leftovers.
But that behind-the-scenes bloodbath actually turned out to be unexpectedly fortuitous, executive producer Jeff Davis told BuzzFeed, as he sat surrounded by Teen Wolf memorabilia in his Los Angeles office. Davis and his writers used the loss of these four major characters to bring in a new Teen Wolf class, with Dylan Sprayberry, Khylin Rambo, and Mason Dye joining the cast as Beacon Hills freshmen Liam, Mason, and Garrett, respectively.
Additionally, Arden Cho and Shelley Hennig — who joined the show in Season 3 as Kitsune Kira Yukimura and werecoyote Malia Tate, respectively — were upped to series regulars, becoming permanent members of Scott’s pack.
That means, in many ways, Season 4, quite literally, looks like an entirely new show. And, as Jeff Davis explained to BuzzFeed, that’s a good thing.
With the loss of so many characters at the end of Season 3, the opening act of the Season 4 premiere feels, in many ways, like a reintroduction to this world. Was that something you wanted to do or had to do because of the cast changes?
Jeff Davis: We needed a fresh start. We also wanted to get back into the fun of our show. We inject a great deal more humor into this season. So much of Season 3 was like a horror movie. So after all that darkness, we wanted to get a little adventurous. I wanted to get back to the struggle for these teenagers, a real human struggle. We wanted to do an Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark opening. It’s fun to see all these characters transplanted and in an entirely different environment, fighting to save Derek, someone they love. It’s a rescue mission, which I love.
There’s a great moment in the first episode with Malia and Kira that instantly captured the sense of female friendship fans loved with Allison and Lydia. Was it intentional that you put that right in the beginning of the season, to assure fans the show would still have that dynamic?
JD: It was intentional to introduce two of the newest characters in a fun way and give them a fun scene together. Friendships change, new people come into your life, and old people leave. Shelley and Arden get along really well, so from the first day on, it felt like there was a fresh breath of air breathed back into the show and we could get back to the fun because Shelley’s character, Malia, is a teenage girl, but she’s got a skewed view of the world; she’s got the perspective of a wild animal. Which is, fight or flight, survival of the fittest.
The finale also revealed Kate (Jill Wagner) was still alive and back in Beacon Hills. Did that stem from loving Jill and wanting her back or having a big story that you needed Kate to tell?
JD: Both. From the first season, I wanted to find a way for her to come back. That’s why we had that line about being turned by a scratch. I’m glad the timing worked out when it did because there’s been plenty of space and we love Jill. She just gets better looking every day, and she’s a really fun bad guy. It also brings this new mythology of the Nagual, which brings in South American flair. We like delving into different mythologies. Peter (Ian Bohen) and Kate have an interesting dynamic, and it makes things hard on Arden too.
What do you see as the overarching theme for Season 4?
JD: The overarching theme is: Not all monsters do monstrous things. One of Scott’s greatest fears is worrying he will turn into the monster that Peter was: a huge, monstrous, uncontrollable beast. You’ll see those fears played out. I think it’s a different season, though. It’s got a real sense of humor, while still being action packed. It’s also one of our bloodiest seasons.
The trailer (below) teased a list and this idea that a lot of assassins are coming to Beacon Hills. What can you say about that?
JD: We call it The Dead Pool. It’s a list of names, a list of all the various kinds of supernatural creatures in Beacon Hills — it’s essentially a hit list — and all of their names are on it. The mystery is, Who is this person paying out for the supernatural creatures in Beacon Hills to be murdered? Who is The Benefactor?
We’ll also see all of our main characters struggling with their own financial problems: Stiles is dealing with bills from Eichen House and the MRI they can’t quite pay for; Scott and his mother live in a house that was given to her by her parents that has all the problems of a big house. These are Spielbergian kids struggling to make ends meet and it’s sort of a Treasure of The Sierra Madre–type season where they’re all going to be tempted by money. Tempted by the idea of, What if I took out this person on the list? How much money could I get? That’s the big idea of Season 4.
You bring in three new male characters: Liam, Mason, and Garrett. All we really know about them at this point is Mason is openly gay. What else can you tell us?
JD:There’s a certain amount of turnover that happens in teenage shows; it’s a way of moving things forward and bringing in a freshman class. Liam and Mason and Garrett are going to be a big part of the show. We also wanted to bring in these new characters to give Scott a new dynamic to play as well. At the end of Episode 3, we reveal that Liam is Scott’s first Beta. So, that’s going to be quite a challenge for him.
Oh, wow. So Scott takes Liam under his wing?
JD: What we really wanted to do was give Stiles and Scott a little brother. They’re not the same kids they were in the pilot, so we give them a little brother who is a pain in the ass. He’s a little cocky kid, but he’s not really Jackson (Colton Haynes in Season 1 and 2). That got generalized in the breakdown. Dylan (Sprayberry) is great. I think he’s been such a great addition to the cast.
Does bringing in all these new characters make you think about a version of Teen Wolf that, one day, doesn’t star any of the original actors?
JD: Part of me says yes, but part of me sees the show starting and ending with Scott. Although I could see him moving into more of a Derek role. Tyler loves being on the show and we love having him. I think the franchise is the supernatural aspect of it. E.R. had a whole host of characters; Grey’s Anatomy goes on without Katherine Heigl. But, for now, we know that Tyler Posey is most definitely still our teen wolf.
Coming off Season 3, where Dylan O’Brien did such a phenomenal job of playing your bad guy, did you decide to follow that up with a dozen bad guys so there could really be no comparison?
JD: Not really. We see each 12 episodes as its own volume in a series of books, so it was about deciding what story we were going to tell this time. We wanted to really bring back the Scott and Stiles friendship from Season 1, but see how it has grown. We wanted to see Lydia and Stiles being a detective team again. We wanted to see Stiles being a romantic lead as well. We’ve never really seen him date. We wanted to see Derek struggle with his role in Beacon Hills now. The arc we’ve got for Derek is really cool. A lot of things happen to him this season and he changes in a big way. This is also very much a season of Lydia discovering a lot about herself. There’s a lot of fun stuff with Lydia. Meredith (Maya Eshet), her fellow Banshee, comes back into the fold to teach her things.
You talked about Stiles being a romantic lead this year, and given how things went in Season 3, I’m assuming you mean with Malia. How do you describe that relationship?
JD: They don’t even know. Stiles isn’t sure if they’re dating or not; they have a very strange relationship because Malia is part of Scott’s pack and what the entire pack is doing is trying to help her reassimilate into society. Part of her arc across the season is to figure out whether or not this teenage life is for her. She struggles with that — and with learning the truth about her father, Peter. They intentionally haven’t told her in an effort to protect her. Their struggle is knowing they have to tell her, but not knowing how because, if they tell her about Peter, she’s going to go to Peter and Peter gets into people’s heads, which they’re worried about. What they’re trying to do in the beginning is make sure she has all the self-control and power to resist him.
I have to ask: If Stiles has a heavy romance storyline this season, does that mean Dylan O’Brien broke his “no shirtlessness” rule?
JD: We almost did! I’ve always said that’s up to him. There was a scene where he’d have to be shirtless because it would have been a necessity if we did it, but…no.
One of the things Teen Wolf has always been great at is making sure every action has consequences. How much will Stiles still be carrying around what happened at the end of Season 3? How much will they all still be mourning Allison’s death?
JD: Scott doesn’t even know what his relationship with Kira is because she’s been giving him space even though they want to be together. They’re all still grieving the loss of Allison; they’re grieving, as well, the loss of their innocence. We’re seeing these kids turning into adults and taking on major responsibilities. There’s a certain point when Scott decides that no one else is going to die on the list and he will save everyone. A lot of this season has to do with the moment when teenagers stop being kids and start being adults. That’s one of the reasons we wanted to bring Liam and Mason into the show as well; they serve as a mirror to Scott and Stiles, where they think these kids are idiots, but it’s exactly what they were doing in the first season, so it shows their growth as well.
Now that you’ve written a whole season after losing so many characters, do you feel like their exits may have been blessings in disguise in terms of revitalizing the show?
JD: I think that when actors feel the need to move on or explore other opportunities, it’s probably good for both. It’s good for the actor because they can grow creatively and it’s good for the show because it forces us to come up with bigger and better ideas. We’re really hopeful that people like this season; it’s got a lot of adventure, a lot of humor, a lot of romance, and a lot of really weird villains too. I said at the beginning that I wanted this to be a season of bounty hunters and assassins. It’s going to be crazy. It does breathe new life into the show to bring in new people, but that doesn’t mean we don’t miss them. Did we have stories planned for those characters? Yeah.
JD: We had a story with Argent (J.R. Bourne) and Isaac that I loved. One of the last moments with Crystal and J.R. was going to be Allison saying to Argent, “If anything happens to me, don’t let Isaac be alone. He doesn’t have a family.” And then it was going to be Argent and Isaac as father and surrogate son. I really liked that idea and then Daniel told me he wanted to go out for pilot season and I said, “Bah. Fine.”
What are you most excited for the fans to experience in Season 4?
JD: One of the things we wanted to do this season was get back to a mystery. And what’s fun about a mystery like this, is everyone on the crew is guessing who The Benefactor is — and no one had any clue. So I can’t wait to see the fans guessing. I’m excited to see how they react to the new characters; to the growth of Kira’s character in particular. I love the relationship between Scott and Kira; it’s so different than Scott and Allison, which was passionate first love. This is a little bit more romantic comedy and they’re so fun together. You see Scott having very new relationships with his friends, and becoming a big brother to this kid who is thrust at him. Oh, and you’ll see some familiar faces come back that are very unexpected.