TEEN WOLF ran for six seasons, 2011-2017, on MTV. Created by Jeff Davis, TEEN WOLF told the story of Scott McCall (Tyler Posey), a lacrosse-playing high school student in Beacon Hills, Oregon, whose life is upended when he is bitten by werewolf Derek Hale (Tyler Hoechlin, now one of the title characters in SUPERMAN & LOIS). Scott eventually becomes an alpha wolf with a pack of his own, who he must protect from both supernatural evil and overzealous werewolf hunters.
Scott is supported unconditionally by his single mother, nurse Melissa McCall, played by Melissa Ponzio.
By the time TEEN WOLF ended, Scott was college-bound. But there’s no keeping a good lycanthrope down, so TEEN WOLF: THE MOVIE premieres on Paramount+ Thursday, January 26. Written by Davis and directed by TEEN WOLF pilot and frequent episode helmer/exec producer Russell Mulcahy, TEEN WOLF: THE MOVIE picks up six years after the story ended in the series. Scott is now in his twenties, but he’s still in touch with his mom, who continues to work at the Beacon Hills Hospital.
Ponzio, originally from New York City, has feature film credits that include LIFE AS WE KNOW IT and the HBO telefilms WARM SPRINGS and MARY AND MARTHA. She was a regular for several seasons on THE WALKING DEAD. Ponzio currently has a recurring role as Donna Robbins, wife of fire chief Boden, on CHICAGO FIRE, and plays a detective involved with the supernatural on the podcast BRIDGEWATER.
Speaking by phone, Ponzio tells us how it feels to be back amidst the fast and the furriest in TEEN WOLF: THE MOVIE.
ASSIGNMENT X: When TEEN WOLF ended as a series in 2017, did you think that that was the end of your involvement with it, or did you think, “This is going to come back”?
MELISSA PONZIO: Well, I think we all had high hopes, and all of our wishes came true when we got the call that Paramount was willing to do a TEEN WOLF movie with us. There had always been rumblings of possible spinoffs and ideas and wonderful, fantastical thinking that maybe there would be something that would carry it on, even into a seventh or eighth season, but when it came to pass that we found out that the sixth season was going to be our last, I think we all leaned into it, and loved it as much as we could, and soaked it up as much as we could, because we didn’t know [that it would return]. And so, it was a real gift to get the call, and just something made of dreams, that we’re able to continue with these characters, with their lives, and see what’s next for them.
AX: Had you seen any of your TEEN WOLF cast mates in the interim, maybe at conventions?
PONZIO: Yes. We’re very lucky that we have a very dedicated fan base, and we’re able to attend conventions, not only in the States, but worldwide, and we’re able to see each other and catch up on each other. There’s a thread that pulls us all together, even in between working. And it was really great, not only to work together on the movie, but then we had a week of reshoots in Atlanta. Everybody is so happy to be together again that even the late nights, even the difficulties of everything that you go through in order to really jam-pack a week of shooting, everything that you need to get through and the stress of it, we just had a wonderful time, from the top down. From Jeff Davis and all the producers, all the way down to even the beloved crew that are behind the scenes, everybody was really, really happy to be together.
AX: So, it wasn’t like you had last seen Tyler Posey six years ago, and saw him now and said, “Aggh, you’re an adult!”
PONZIO: Right. We had seen each other at conventions. Obviously, COVID kind of put the kibosh on everything. We had a TEEN WOLF reunion for MTV in 2020. There were eighteen of us that were on that Zoom call, and that was a lot of fun, to catch up and see everybody, even if it was virtually, and it’s really great to see everybody and how they’re shining and progressing and growing in other projects. I think we’re all rooting for each other. We just one big happy family.
[Hoechlin, who reprises his role as Derek in TEEN WOLF: THE MOVIE] has risen to Superman status in more ways than one. We’re all very proud of him. Every time that I see him, he’s just joyous where he is in his career.
AX: IMDB shows that Crystal Reed is also back as Allison Argent for TEEN WOLF: THE MOVIE, even though the character died tragically in TEEN WOLF Season 3 …
PONZIO: Yes. We were thrilled. Crystal was so wonderful to work with, and she’s so committed to her role, she’s so committed to her stunts. I know that there was kind of a split in the fandom as to when she left, how she left, why she left, and I think that it’s a beautiful thing that, in the totality of our world here, at Beacon Hills, that they found a way to bring back characters for us all to enjoy.
AX: And Russell Mulcahy directed TEEN WOLF: THE MOVIE …
PONZIO: Yes! He’s such a sweetheart. He knew exactly what he wanted for this movie. On set, he was whipping around like a Tasmanian devil. He knew what shot he wanted, where he wanted it, how he wanted it to look, and he moved on. Shooting a movie is tough, but our days moved very, very fast, like a well-oiled machine. And that is a wonderful thing, where everybody can come back together and drop right down into the working bits of it, and for it to be successful, and for us to have a common goal every day, and make sure that we get every shot, and we’re able to tell a story at the end with everything that we capture.
AX: You shot a lot of TEEN WOLF: THE MOVIE in Georgia …
PONZIO: We did one week or ten days in Los Angeles at the old stages. There are still some sets that are there that they were able to utilize. And then they came to Atlanta. That was the end of March through mid-May. And then we came back [in August] for a week of reshoots in Atlanta. And that was a lot of fun.
We started in Atlanta. The first two seasons were actually shot here before TEEN WOLF received the tax credit out in Los Angeles, and we were able to move the company back out to Los Angeles and finish strong with Seasons 3 through 6 out there.
AX: Shooting in the summer in Georgia for what is meant to be Portland, Oregon – how is pretending that you’re not as overheated as you are?
PONZIO: Well, they barely let Mama McCall out of that hospital, so I was always inside, and protected from the elements outside.
AX: Were the actors who did have to work outside coming back in covered with mosquito bites?
PONZIO: Yes, there is a certain element here that you don’t have out in Los Angeles. But everybody was up for it. We were there with a purpose, and we wanted to make the best film possible, and so we just did everything that was need it to be done.
AX: Did it feel like, “We’re completely back in TEEN WOLF,” or because this is a movie and a slightly new storyline, did this feel like, “Okay, this is TEEN WOLF in one way, but in another way, it’s something else”?
PONZIO: I guess it felt like something else, because the writers and Jeff decided to do a bit of a time jump, and so you’re meeting people in different places. We’re the same characters, but we find each other at different points in our lives, just like in real life. Five, ten, fifteen years in the future, if you run across somebody, or if you go back home after not being there for a while, maybe somebody has a different job, maybe relationships have changed, maybe someone has passed away. And so, there was definitely a feeling of progression through a feeling of being home, if that makes sense.
AX: If this isn’t too spoilery, can you talk about the relationship between Melissa and Scott, now that Scott is an adult?
PONZIO: Yeah. It hearkens back to when I first auditioned for the show. I believe the example was, “We want that GILMORE GIRLS feel. We want young mom and son.” What’s really interesting now, and it’s something that I’ve experienced in real life – my partner actually had his daughter, my stepdaughter, very young – when you’re young and you have a child, you have more [time with] them as an adult, more experience as an adult, and you have more of a deeper friendship, as well as a parental influence. Because at some point, as I have said before, you put all these ingredients into this cake, and stir it up, and you put it in the oven, and you pull it out, and your child is this fully baked cake. And you’re hoping that all the ingredients that you put in were the right ones, and that’s what I feel a little bit with this relationship between Scott and Mama McCall. It’s like we saw all of these kids grow up, and then there’s a bit of a time jump in the movie, and now they’re adults, and now you get to see who they are, who they’ve become, the choices that they’re making in their lives.
AX: Is Melissa McCall still friendly with Sheriff Stilinski, played by Linden Ashby?
PONZIO: That would be a spoiler I can’t comment on, but it is interesting how Jeff Davis and the writers took six seasons of experiences and relationships and put them in this movie. And it’s interesting to see who they’ve paired up, and why.
AX: Can you say if Melissa McCall is still a nurse?
PONZIO: No spoilers – I can confirm that she’s still at Beacon Hills Hospital, but just like the rest of the characters, I believe there’s been some personal growth, and so you may see her in a new role at the hospital.
AX: Did you have to learn anything in order to play Melissa, either on the series or for the movie? Did you have to go through any kind of training in order to handle new props, or say the medical jargon?
PONZIO: We have on-site consultants that help us, even through CHICAGO FIRE, and also on TEEN WOLF, that specifically, when there are any type of procedures that need to be done, and the way that they need to be done. So, yeah. Every time, whether I was trying to withdraw fluids from a lung, or if there was a particular procedure that Mama McCall was doing on the side with nobody’s permission, there was always a coordinator there to tell me exactly how to do it.
The one thing that I never really learned to do successfully was put on [medical] gloves. because, at least for me, when I’m on set, and I’m in the middle of working, I can get pretty heated, and my hands get hot, and a little sweaty, and so, it’s really hard to get those gloves on. You have to figure out how to put them on so you don’t look like, I don’t know, some strange glove monster. And I always joke, I have to write it in my contract that I will not do a scene where I have to put on gloves. It’s really traumatizing [laughs]. I have to pre-put them on my fingers, so then I can just pull it down my palm and look like I’ve actually done something, because it got so tragic that I couldn’t fit my sweaty fingers in the glove. I had to fake it. But we fake a lot of things. That’s part of the smoke and mirrors of what we do.
AX: What is the profession of your CHICAGO FIRE character, Donna Robbins?
PONZIO: She’s a teacher. And as the seasons have progressed, she’s actually been at several different grade levels, and I think that that balances out the relationship with the chief very well. She can handle all things very calmly, because I think if you can work a second-grader through a temper tantrum, you can pretty much do anything.
AX: And you’re still recurring on CHICAGO FIRE?
PONZIO: Yes, Donna is alive and well, and the family is growing and doing fine.
AX: You’ve spoken elsewhere about listening to Anderson Cooper’s podcast on grief. Is that purely for you as a person, or are you able to use any of that in your work, even if it’s just coming to some new realizations, and then being able to put those realizations into your characters?
PONZIO: If I have a very emotional scene, or a scene that has to do with pain or loss, or something super-deep that you have to really dig for, I find that I can’t pull from my own [real] pain or loss, because I’ve already processed my pain and my loss, and so it’s a different emotion on the inside of my body. But if I think of a friend’s pain or loss, if I can imagine a friend who was just diagnosed with breast cancer, or has just lost a child, for whatever reason, I’m able to use that in order to harness an emotion to be able to be in a scene. I know that that sounds crazy, because you think that you would want to use your own pain, but for me, it’s a much more empathic way of getting in touch with something on the inside.
AX: And do you have any other projects coming up that we should know about?
PONZIO: I’ve completed a couple of days with Kevin Hart on a new project called DIE HARTER, and that was a lot of fun. It’s always great to be part of a comedy, and all the fun that ensues, and all the funny that ensues between takes on a film like that. Season 2 of BRIDGEWATER, the podcast, is out, and we’re all very excited about where that story is taking us. And I also did a couple of days on a new film called THE FRIENDSHIP FORMULA.
So, it’s been a busy year, and I’m very grateful for it. And I’m very grateful and thankful that everyone’s going to be able to tune in to watch TEEN WOLF. It was worth the wait.
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Article: Exclusive Interview: TEEN WOLF: THE MOVIE star Melissa Ponzio gives the scoop on the return of the iconic series