MTV’s TEEN WOLF has proved itself to be much more than what one might expect of a TV series about a teenaged werewolf. The show is not only sharp and full of adolescent comedy and angst, but also suspenseful, atmospheric and sometimes genuinely scary. These qualities are largely due to the efforts of writer/executive producer Jeff Davis and his fellow executive producer, director Russell Mulcahy.
Mulcahy, an Australian native who got his start in directing on music videos before having a massive feature film hit with the original 1986 HIGHLANDER, helmed half of this season’s TEEN WOLF episodes. At a party thrown by MTV for the Television Critics Association, Mulcahy talks about what goes into making TEEN WOLF and hints at what we can expect in Season Two. He notes that balancing the show’s tone has been a concern for both him and Davis.
RUSSELL MULCAHY: That was a real endeavor at the beginning, to make it generally scary, to have real characters and smart dialogue with humor in it.
AX: It has a lot of big-screen horror film stylistic elements, like the fog and the wide shots …
MULCAHY: Yes. And the matte paintings, and you’ll see in the [last few Season One] episodes, the scale gets bigger and bigger. Jeff Davis and myself really are huge fans of the cinema in general, and so we really tried to give the show a cinematic feel.
AX: Did you and Jeff Davis have to come up with additional werewolf mythology, or additional ways to shoot the mythology as it went on?
MULCAHY: Well, the mythology is so spread out over various times and continents, all the way from Europe across Asia to North America, so Jeff had lots of areas to choose from and pick bits of urban myth and mythology from, so yeah. A lot of the symbols are in the mythology, and then we use those in our visuals, combine those into the visuals.
AX: Do you have a favorite aspect or a least favorite aspect of filming werewolves?
MULCAHY: No. The only thing is the time factor with the make-up on our schedule. You’ve really got to sort of work around the fact that Tyler [Posey, who plays the title character Scott] and [Tyler Hoechlin, who plays fellow werewolf] Derek – especially Tyler [Posey], he’s in nearly every scene – so you’re got to be really clever with the scheduling, because when he’s in wolf makeup, it’s four hours in makeup, three-and-a-half hours, he has to get there [to the set after being] in the [makeup] chair, so it’s tough scheduling.
AX: How long does it take you to deal with the big Alpha werewolf?
MULCAHY: The Alpha is a combination of prosthetics and CGI animation, and obviously, CGI animation is much quicker to shoot – it’s more expensive on the screen, because it gives you the speed [of movement], something a human cannot do. The guy in the costume really works for the close-ups, big close-ups. Because the Alpha is not a human shape, it’s a creature.
AX: A lot of the TEEN WOLF actors are in fact just out of their teens. Had you worked with such a large group of young actors before this?
MULCAHY: Well, I did the pilot for QUEER AS FOLK, which had a young cast, [but] this is probably the youngest cast. But you know what? These are such wonderful actors. They believe in their craft and it’s become a real family and you tend to sort of surrogate [parent] – you care for these kids, because they’re doing such hard work, they love the job and they’re just doing wonderful work.
AX: When did you find out that TEEN WOLF had been picked up for a second season?
MULCAHY: We got the announcement [the week of July 18]. We are so happy. We start shooting in November, back in Atlanta, and the cast will be back.
AX: Do you know how many you’ll be directing?
MULCAHY: I co-exec produce all of them, and Jeff’s the exec producer and I work with him. I’ll probably direct six of them, maybe the first three and the last three – I haven’t decided yet.
AX: Is the story mythology and/or the show’s geography going to expand next year?
MULCAHY: Yes. There are lots of ideas. Jeff is being a very good friend and he’ll take me aside and say, “How about this?” There’s going to be a lot of surprises and twists and new characters and an expanded mythology. It’s going to be a thrill ride.
AX: Are you working on any other projects right now?
MULCAHY: I’m actually going to the twenty-fifth anniversary of HIGHLANDER on the 13th of August at the Egyptian Theatre [in Hollywood]. The American Cinematheque are doing a seventy-millimeter screening of HIGHLANDER for the twenty-fifth anniversary and I’m going to go and chat with the audience. You know what? I haven’t seen it for about twenty years. I don’t think I’ve ever seen it in seventy mil. I think it’s the director’s cut, which was never released in America, so I’m excited. The shark film that I wrote, BAIT, is still in post-production, so I think that’s released next year. Jeff and I, probably after the next season of TEEN WOLF, we’re going to do a horror film together, but there won’t be time to do that in between [first and second season] – we’re still finishing post[-produciton] on Season One. We’re actually two days ahead of it going to air. There are still CGI shots being inserted into the show as we speak. Because there’s so much passion and so much love and attention to detail in the show, it’s right down to the line.
AX: Anything else you’d like to say about TEEN WOLF right now?
MULCAHY: Well, I’d also like to say that MTV’s [thirtieth] birthday is coming up in August. I did the first video for MTV, “Video Killed the Radio Star.” And I’m so happy to come back to MTV to do this show, TEEN WOLF – it’s like coming home. And to work on a show with Jeff Davis and MTV on a genre project, on a horror show, which I think has got real heart, just excites me so much. It’s a dream come true.
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Click on link: for AX’s Exclusive Interview with TEEN WOLF star Tyler Posey
Click on link: for AX’s Exclusive Interview with TEEN WOLF star Dylan O’Brien
Click on link: for AX’s review of the series 1 premiere of TEEN WOLF – “Wolf Moon”
Click on link: for AX’s review of TEEN WOLF – “Second Chance At First Line”
Click on link: for AX’s review of TEEN WOLF – “Pack Mentality”
Click on link: for AX’s review of TEEN WOLF – “Magic Bullet”
Click on link: for AX’s review of TEEN WOLF – “The Tell”
Click on link: for AX’s review of TEEN WOLF – “Heart Monitor”
Click on link: for AX’s review of TEEN WOLF – “Night School”
Click on link: for AX’s review of TEEN WOLF – “Lunatic”
Click on link: for AX’s review of TEEN WOLF – “Wolf’s Bane”
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Article: Exclusive Interview with MTV’s TEEN WOLF director/executive producer Russell Mulcahy