IN THE COMPANY OF WOLVES. Dylan O’Brien is one of the stars of the new MTV hit series Teen Wolf. He talks to DA MAN about his role on the show, the controversial “Sterek” pairup and how selling a joke can be harder than being romantic
Dylan O’Brien is a comedian who is so funny he can make even the grimmest werewolves flash a fang-filled grin. On the MTV produced hit serie Teen Wolf, which can be seen locally on AXN, he plays “Stiles” Stilinski, best friend to high-school lacrosse player and part-time werewolf Scott McCall. A darker take on the 1985 comedy of the same name, the new Teen Wolf just finished in its second successful season and its cast of lupine warriors is quickly supplanting vampires as the conflicted supernatural creatures of the moment. O’Brien’s quick-witted Stiles provides much of the comedy relief on the show. The character is a natural fit for the 21-year-old actor, who first made a name for himself online with a series of self-produced YouTube comedy videos.
DA MAN: The story online is that you were originally considered for the role of Scott, but that you found yourself more interested in playing Stiles. Is that true? What attracted you to the character?
Dylan O’Brien: Yes, it’s true. I was originally sent the appointment email for Scott and when I read the pilot, Stiles is the character that stood out to me. When auditioning or preparing for a character, I think it’s essential, as an actor, to have an instinctual understanding of that character’s role in the storyline. And for me, I understood the Stiles role in the Teen Wolf world whole-heartedly and I saw him as being the heart and soul of the show. I wanted the chance to play that.
DA MAN: Have you seen the 1985 Teen Wolf movie? Stiles is a very memorable character in that film. Did you consciously model, or try to avoid modeling, your take on Stiles based upon Jerry Levine’s performance?
Dylan O’Brien: When I first heard about the project, I hadn’t seen the movie so I Google’d it—and saw that it was a very popular cult classic and well known movie and my favorite character in the script, “Stiles,” was a part of the original film as well. I found out that he was also very iconic to the movie and I actually consciously avoided watching the original for a while. I shot the whole pilot without having seen the original. I didn’t want to portray the character the exact same way. I had come up with a really strong idea of what I wanted to do, so I just wanted to try my take first and then check out what he did later.
Outfit by Hugo Boss
DA MAN: Stiles, in both the 1985 movie and the TV series, has a very specific style. Do you have any say in Stile’s wardrobe choices? Would you say his style is at all similar to yours?
Dylan O’Brien: It’s similar to mine in that it’s kind of loose and carefree and baggy, but its not similar to mine in that the clothes actually have relevance to today’s fashion… and typically I have no fashion sense whatsoever. I am lucky in that I get to approve the clothes before I wear them, but then again, I’m pretty easy when it comes to that. I don’t really strike down the hammer too badly on the wardrobe department. I’m not too picky and I think they do an amazing job of establishing a really cool look for Stiles.
DA MAN: One of the major foundations of the show is the friendship (or, as some might say, bromance) between Stiles and Scott. But executive producer Jeff Davis hinted that their friendship may be tested in season 3. What could come between these two best buds?
Dylan O’Brien: That’s really interesting. I don’t think anything could come between them, but I think their situation is tough and that they’re going down different paths while growing up. What happens when we grow up is there are responsibilities that we have to deal with and at times, that means sacrificing things like friendship. Their friendship’s already been tested and that’s basically what we’ve seen in the first two seasons. We know that they have a really strong foundation, kind of like a brotherhood. It’s really organic and just kind of built-in to them, so that’s not to say that they are going to break up or not be friends anymore, it just means, they have less time for their friendship.
DA MAN: One of the more interesting subsets of Teen Wolf fandom are those passionate about “Sterek,” the pairing of Stiles and the stoic werewolf Derek as a romantic couple. Do you have any comment on the Sterek issue? What do you think fans who are into Sterek are reacting to?
Dylan O’Brien: I think fans are reacting to something that humans naturally react to, which is good chemistry between characters that you wouldn’t expect to be seen together. Stiles and Derek couldn’t be more opposite as people or as personalities. On the one hand, you have the most eccentric, animated, irritating and spaztic character in the show. And then on the other hand, you have the very serious, very “has everything on the line” kind of dark character. When you put those two together, that’s just comedy 101, so it just creates a funny and fun dynamic.
DA MAN: How has your life changed since Teen Wolf started? What is it like getting recognized by fans out in the wild? Have you ever seen any of the many fan sites devoted to you like?
Dylan O’Brien: I think it depends on what kind of person you are. I’ve always been a person who deals better with less attention and is shyer about receiving any sort of admiration or flattery. It’s hard for me to receive those things and its not that I don’t like it – I do love it and am thankful. It really does make me feel good when a fan genuinely likes my work. It’s kind of spectacular the way that you could touch certain kids’ lives and now I’m entering into the adult world and becoming a young adult. It makes me remember when I was a kid. If I ever saw Shia LeBouf walking down the street from “Even Stevens” it would have made my day! It would’ve made my whole life… so I think that it’s a really amazing thing to have a young fan base. It’s really endearing.
DA MAN: Some of your fans might not know that you’re also the drummer for the band Slow Kids at Play. How do you balance your music with your acting career?
Dylan O’Brien: It’s really hard to balance not only playing with my band but just drumming myself, ever since I started professionally acting a few years ago. I’m always working around the country and most of the time I end up in an apartment building where you can’t have any drums. I’ve even tried an electric kit and still got shut down by the building. It’s currently hard to actually balance any drum playing with what I do. As for my band, they’re all at college anyway so we are only able to play together during the summer and if I’m working, I can’t play over the summer and it’s kind of a shame. It’s what happened this summer so I’m freshly bumming about it.
DA MAN: Your father was a cinematographer. Was that something that affected own decision to get into the industry?
Dylan O’Brien: Absolutely, directly because of both my parent’s influence on me as a kid. My mom was an actress when she was younger and they both have a love for movies and a really smart understanding of movies and the industry. I was brought up to love movies and I have always loved movies and acting and filmmaking. When I was 9 or 10 and first picked up a camera and wanted to make my own videos, my parents were fully involved in it. They were super supportive and I would always show them my videos and my dad would always teach me tools. He would help out when he could. The entire foundation of what I know about filmmaking was inspired by my dad.
DA MAN: Even before Teen Wolf, you’d made quite a name for yourself on Youtube for some of your hilarious short films, such as the horror movie spoof Charlie Brown: Blockhead’s Revenge. How did you first get into doing that? Are you still producing your own videos now that you’re busy with Teen Wolf as well?
Dylan O’Brien: First of all, I can’t take credit for Blockhead’s Revenge. As much as I’d love to, I have to stop myself. I’m only an actor in that. I play “Charlie Brown.” That was a Ben Garrant and Funny or Die produced idea. As for the other You Tube videos I made as a kid, they definitely sparked the career I have now. When I was younger, I wanted to make my own videos with my sister for fun. It was all about what I thought was fun. As I got older, I slowly grew and learned more. I started editing, and the videos eventually started getting better as I was making them. The only reason I haven’t executed any videos in the past few years is that I have been busy working. I still write sketches and have written things, I just haven’t had the time to do them. I absolutely continue to plan and have been trying to discipline myself to be more proactive about getting my stuff made; directing and writing some shorts, and producing my own things.
DA MAN: Since you’ve already had some experience directing and producing your own shorts, would you eventually like to do that more professionally someday? Maybe direct an episode of Teen Wolf?
Dylan O’Brien: That would be an incredible opportunity. I do plan and hope to direct professionally someday so it would be an honor to direct an episode of Teen Wolf if the opportunity presented itself. It would be a dream to have that first professional directing experience on the show that launched my acting career.
DA MAN: You did the movie High Road with the Uprights Citizen’s Brigade, New York’s most famous improv comedy group. What is it like shooting a film using a mostly improvised script?
Dylan O’Brien: It’s fascinating working on an improv movie like High Road, in that when you are making it, you only have a general understanding of the plot line and what’s supposed to be in it. We had a loose story line and we shot the film for 12 days. It was over so fast. It’s an interesting thing to be a part of because when you are watching the movie, a year later, you have no idea where it is going to go. All of the moments are really organic and spontaneous so it’s exciting to see what happens with the moments you created.
DA MAN: Have you been able to utilize your improv skills on Teen Wolf or any of your other projects?
Dylan O’Brien: Yes, in literally every project I have worked on I have been able to ad lib. I think Improv is such an essential part of acting. It’s a very basic tool. It’s almost the most natural form of acting. Just being on my feet and being in the moment. I hope that every project I have the chance to work on will allow for some improv. I feel its essential. Can you execute a film solely based off of a script? Yes, but I think sometimes bringing it to its truest form may require a little improv.
DA MAN: Can you also tell us a little about your upcoming movie The First Time?
Dylan O’Brien: The First Time is a story of many firsts. It’s a story of young love and experiencing not just feelings for the first time but experiencing handling those feelings. Not really knowing how to deal with those feelings. It’s a coming of age story about two teenagers in high school who meet for the first time. It takes place over one weekend; the classic high school weekend. My director, Jon Kasdan, always says that everything happens in high school between Friday at 3:00 PM and Monday morning. That’s when the film takes place and it’s about a relationship. You literally watch two people meet for the first time. You are with them every step of the way and you watch them process feelings for each other. My character, Dave, is becoming a man and it’s the same thing for Britt’s character Aubrey. Its about growing up and experiencing what it’s like to grow up.
DA MAN: Which do you think is harder as an actor – selling big over-the-top jokes or believably romantic scenes?
Dylan O’Brien: I think selling big over the top jokes is harder because it take a lot more of a commitment. You have to commit wholeheartedly to everything you are doing. Whether you are doing something completely surreal or ridiculous or you are doing something
that is actually close to real life, that is very authentic, acting is a big commitment. I think it’s easier to do something authentic. Romantic scenes are easier to handle and are more truthful for me. It’s easier to act that than it is to sometimes sell a campy, over the top punch line that is more of a comedic beat.
DA MAN: Are you currently working on The Internship? Can you tell us a little bit about that film and the character you play in it?
Dylan O’Brien: Yes, The Internship is about Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson who play sales men in their 40’s. Their company goes under and they lose their jobs and are existing in this advanced technological world for which they are not equipped. They are clueless about the new times and what the new generation is like. They try to get an internship at Google so that they can start a new career path while enlightening themselves about the Technological age. Through some twisted loophole they get accepted into the program and so they are the two 40 year-old guys amidst the sea of 20 year-old geniuses all vying for jobs at Google. My character is Stuart. Stuart is very cynical, a know-it-all who spends his time buried in his phone. He is not very social. He knows nothing but his phone and the internet.
DA MAN: In that movie, you get to work with comedy veterans Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson. Is it intimidating to work with such titans of funny?
Dylan O’Brien: I thought it would be insanely intimidating to work with them, especially given the environment; on a big set, on a big movie, big actors, big director. What I have found most surprising about working with them is how comfortable the entire experience has been and how comfortable they make you feel. They are both so brilliant at what they do. I’ve learned so much watching them and working alongside them. Their work is always efficient and smart. Working with such genius improv actors as Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson really refines your listening skills, which, as an actor, is crucial and vital. Same for Shawn Levy, our director. Shawn creates such an incredible atmosphere and energy on set that allows you, as an actor, to really relax and focus on your work.
DA MAN: Anything else you’d like to tell your fans in Asia?
Dylan O’Brien: My first thought was that I have fans in Asia? That makes me so overwhelmingly happy! I love you fans in Asia!
Photographs: Mitchell Nguyen McCormack
Styling: Drew Manares
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