The importance of family —the one you're born into and the one you make for yourself — has been a central theme on MTV's Teen Wolf since the show premiered in 2011.
Onscreen, Scott McCall (Tyler Posey) defends his mother (Melissa Ponzio) and his makeshift family — currently comprising Scott's mortal BFF Stiles Stilinski (Dylan O'Brien), banshee Lydia Martin (Holland Roden), werecoyote Malia Tate (Shelley Hennig), kitsune Kira Yukimura (Arden Cho), and newly turned werewolf Liam Dunbar (Dylan Sprayberry) — from a myriad of supernatural creatures trying to take control of his town, Beacon Hills.
But offscreen, a more sizable tribe has taken shape thanks to the show's long hours and late nights — and sitting atop that makeshift family tree are its patriarchs: Tyler Posey and Dylan O'Brien. "They are the epitome of what 'One' and 'Two' are supposed to be," Hennig told BuzzFeed News, referring to their place on the show's callsheet of actors. "They're so much fun, but they're professional and get the job done. They've been here for five seasons and they're still doing homework. They're not phoning it in. They keep everyone on their toes, and that's something I really appreciate."
The burden of establishing and maintaining an enjoyable atmosphere is one Posey happily bears, mostly because he is well acquainted with the alternative. "I worked on other shows before this where the lead actor hasn't been that cool," he told BuzzFeed News during a March visit to the Teen Wolf set in Van Nuys, California. "It stresses out the set and sets a bad tone. So I've just tried to alleviate all of that, and it makes me feel good." And since Teen Wolf is O'Brien's first job, it has a "really special" place in his heart. "I love my character and I love our family here," he said.
While both Posey and O'Brien spoke glowingly about the family of actors, writers, and crewmembers that work in tandem to bring Teen Wolf to life, it's undeniable that the 23-year-old actors share a unique bond. "Dylan and I have something special," Posey said. "There's this intense respect for one another — and silliness and professionalism. It's just incredible, man. It's really cool."
Over the last five years, Posey and O'Brien — who, quite literally, pour their blood, sweat, and tears into the show — have turned to one another for encouragement and leaned on one another for strength. The one-time strangers have gone from co-stars to roommates to friends and, eventually, to something much more significant.
"He is like my brother," Posey said of O'Brien in March, barely four months after his mother, Cyndi Terese Garcia-Posey, died. That impossibly tough time was made exponentially harder as her death came two months after Posey and his fiancé Seana Gorlick ended their longtime relationship. Posey credited O'Brien as being the person who helped him get through many of his darkest days. "I know Dylan's never gone through something like this, but that dude is phenomenal," he said. "Some people don't know what to say in that situation. They'll be like, 'Well, she's very proud of you and she misses you a lot.' But that doesn't help at all. I know those things. But Dylan, he just sits and listens, and when there's nothing to say, we just sit in silence and he's just there for me. He's a great guy. He's family."
(For the record, Posey said he feels "really fucking good" now.)
In many ways the relationship Scott and Stiles share on the show mirrors the one Posey and O'Brien share in real life. Posey is the larger-than-life, gregarious, room-charming alpha, while O'Brien is markedly quieter by comparison; he's sharp and witty, and — as he proved during Posey's difficult personal time — always the first one to show up for his loved ones. "We've developed a real actual family bond," O'Brien said. "And I think that's why Jeff [Davis, executive producer] is going that way with this season — it's like art imitating life."
If the first four seasons of Teen Wolf were about Scott's "family" coming together, the fifth season (premiering June 29) deals heavily with the threat of that family unit fracturing. But instead of evildoers tearing Scott from Stiles, it's just life that threatens to separate the boys.
"The kids are turning into adults," Davis told BuzzFeed News of the fifth season, which spans the entirety of their senior year of high school. "The first episode is a lot about the fear of what happens at graduation. There's this strange thing: For some reason when you graduate high school, you leave all your best friends — why do you do that? There's a moment in the first episode where Stiles asks that question aloud. He says, 'If we've met the best people in our lives, why aren't we trying to stay with them? Why do we try and go our separate ways?' That's the big fear of Season 5: Who's going to go away? And I think that's a valid fear."
If, as O'Brien said, art is imitating life onscreen, then the same could be said of the real-world questions swirling around the future of Teen Wolf. MTV has yet to order a sixth season of the series (Season 5 is separated into two chapters, so the network will likely make a decision once 5B begins to air), and high school graduation generally represents a watershed moment in most teen television shows as the producers must decide how to keep the characters together after life would realistically separate them.
"It's hard to imagine this show, ever, without Tyler Posey and Dylan O'Brien," Davis said. "But I'm still shocked this show doesn't have Allison anymore," he added, referring to the character played by Crystal Reed, who was killed off in Season 3. "But the show has changed from what it once was. I actually think it's more of a modern thing where shows can survive and create new stories without all the main characters. It used to be that if you switched that many main characters up, people would say, 'This is not the show I want anymore.' But Teen Wolf is more of a franchise show. What I mean by that is it's got an engine that's supernatural. It's not necessarily Cheers, where it's all about the characters getting together in this one bar."
And it's clear to viewers that Davis has set a plan in motion should Posey and O'Brien decide to leave — Sprayberry's Liam and Khylin Rhambo's Mason, both new additions in Season 4, have a Scott and Stiles circa-Season 1 vibe to them. For their parts, Posey and O'Brien have both begun preparing for careers post-Teen Wolf: Posey, who is now a credited producer on the show, recently hosted the 2014 Teen Choice Awards, and has launched a music-centric podcast he co-hosts with Tyler Schnabel, while O'Brien is the star of 20th Century Fox's very successful Maze Runner film franchise. But despite laying the tracks for post-MTV professional longevity, neither actor expects Season 5 to be his last.
"I'm just very aware of what this show means to me and I would never, by my own hand, say it's time for me to move on. I'm going to miss this show when it's over," O'Brien said. "Forever and ever this will be my first role, and that's so special. As long as the stories are still being told, I will have a hand in telling them."
Posey concurred. "Whenever we leave it'll definitely be sad, but I love being here. I can't imagine Teen Wolf without me — and I don't mean that in a cocky way. It's just that this is my home, my family. The support group I have on this set ... dammit, I just really love these people."
On July 9, MTV officially announced that Teen Wolf would return for a sixth season.