Oz Comic-Con Interview: Ian Bohen on Teen Wolf, complex characters, being true to yourself & interacting with fans

For some character actors the journey enables them to continually keep learning and growing. Ian Bohen began working when he was 16 years old and has worked as an actor fairly consistently throughout his life. His filmography boasts stints in a number of tv series including Mad Men, Chicago P.D. and Breakout Kings but he’s best known for his role as Peter Hale in Teen Wolf. Returning to Australia for the Brisbane and Sydney legs of Oz Comic Con, we had a chat with Bohen about his work in the YA supernatural drama series, his work as an actor and getting to interact with fans through both Facebook Live and meeting them at pop culture conventions.

Teen Wolf the MTV series was loosely based on the original Michael J Fox film of the same name. However it prefers to take a more dark and edgy approach to the difficulties and complications of both high school and the supernatural world. One of those troubles happens to be the character of Peter Hale, played by Bohen. Hale enters the show as an antagonist for our lead Scott McCall (Tyler Posey) however his motives and allegiances and deeds fluctuate over the course of the series. Considered one of the more complex of the characters in the show due to his ever turning moral compass, Bohen elaborates on what he’s enjoyed most about playing that particular character.

“So for me, when you get to play someone that is so morally questionable, and pseudo sociopathic, let’s say a bad guy that does bad things, undeniably. To justify it in your head without judging the character, and to play him without hating him and figuring out ways to make him likeable and to understand how he likes himself, and present that good person that’s doing the bad things, that puzzle is fascinating to me. And watching the sort of revolution from terrible guy coming around to good guy, helping the good guys out … Oh, I’m gonna try and kill the good guys again, and then back to sort of ambiguous, in full revolution, which is where we see him finishing up this season. It’s so much fun.”

Now in its 6th and final season, Teen Wolf has almost wrapped up. Traversing through many different stories though the character of Peter Hale has had his own fair share of ups and downs. From seeking revenge, returning from the dead, manipulating his nephew Derek Hale (Tyler Hoechlin) and a run in with the Ghost Riders there’s plenty that he’s experienced. Since the show itself hasn’t finished airing its last few episodes it’s time to speculate as to what potentially could happen for the character and whether or not he truly gets his redemptive arc.

“A year ago, people used to start asking me this question and what I wanted. And I would say is that I would like for Peter to sacrifice himself, and to be killed at the end for either Malia or even Scott. And so for his last deed, you show that, he cares about something more than himself, and then he can sort of pass as a good guy. That’s how I always wanted him to finish. If I was writing it, I would’ve done that.”

After 42 episodes on the show and nearly 6 years of his life the role has definitely been one of Bohen’s longest gigs. Stable and secure work and a steady income is something that all actors are grateful for. But for Bohen who has done his fair share of work and has around 50 credits to his name it might come as a surprise that the old dog can learn new tricks. When it comes to the most revolutionary thing he learnt from working on the show it was the ability to be schooled by his younger co-stars that was his biggest takeaway.

“We all think that we’re, you know, as you get older, more experienced, that you can’t really be taught anything, and that sometimes you can be surprised, and if you keep listening, in the scenes, and keep thinking, you can get better and you can even learn from people that are brand new.”

With the show first going to air in 2011 and spanning right through to the present, it arrived at a time when social media was really beginning to lift. Not only that but that fans of pop culture were embracing it as a tool in order to be connected with the creatives who were making the shows they were consuming. From Twitter to Facebook to Instagram the ever growing fanbase used their digital voices to express their views and opinions. But did this ever affect what they did with the character, or impact on Bohen’s own performance?

“I think that they’ve definitely helped the character grow and evolve just simply in the feedback of “We like who this person is within the world of Teen Wolf. We want to see more of what he’s doing. We think he’s interesting”. And so the people that are writing and developing see and read those comments and feel that wave, so that’s been helpful.
As an actor, you have to be really careful of just pleasing people and listening to what they say that they like because you can’t just repeat and get the same thing. You have to constantly trust. There’s only one instinct that you can go with is yours, and if you’re wrong it’s on you. And if you’re right, it’s on you. But you can’t be wrong, and have it be on someone else. So you really can’t put too much stock in what they say. You just enjoy that they like the character, but you have to keep yourself true or even truer to what you were doing that got you there in the first place.”

It’s an interesting take to hear from an actor, especially since entertainment media seems to have a penchant for pushing film and television reviews and using them as a benchmark in order to judge a performance. It then raises the question of whether having reviews and constructive criticism are even worth doing if those being critiqued aren’t reading them. If a reviewer can’t honestly provide feedback to those creating the art then what’s the point?

“There’s a saying about reviews in Hollywood, which is “Only read the good ones”. And if like in any art, if you’re a musician or you’re a poet or painter, if someone doesn’t like your stuff, that’s fine. They can even be critical and say, “I think you could make it better doing this”. Sure. Everyone could do that, and it would be constantly evolving, and just being something new every time. And we just decide we don’t do that. You have to only listen to your own voice and make your work that you enjoy, that you are proud of and solid with. And that’s all you can care about. Otherwise, you have an infinite number of alternates to choose from, and you can’t do that.”
The bosses can tell you what they want. The director and the writer can bend you here and there. But you know, reviews and critiques are a little bit different, and you have to just be really careful. You’ll find one where you’re claimed as a hit, being a hero. And another one says that you’re the worst actor ever. So, what’s the point of that? If you know truthfully who you are, you know what your stuff is, you should go with that.”

As earlier mentioned the fan interaction and ability to shape what happens with characters is something Bohen is well aware of. But there’s another side to fans and the fandom that he has wanted to tap into. With his co-star JR Bourne they have been posting semi-regular Facebook Live videos where the pair of them just sit down, talk about what’s been happening in their lives and answer fan questions.

“He’s (Bourne) one of my best friends in the world. It’s interesting because it’s live, so you can’t say anything naughty really, I don’t want to make a mistake. You can’t take anything back. You see comments and mostly they just want to be noticed. So they’re like, “Hey, we love you. We love you. We love you”. It’s an interesting platform because it really allows you to be you, and just to expose yourself with your buddy without any script and talk about how you feel.
And we know that in the beginning they were a little bit boring, and we know that we’ll hit our stride if we just keep going. And that something will come up or a topic or whatever, and we’ll both get into a flow. And that’s where we feel like we’re just being us, and we think that the interaction with the fans, that’s what they want the most. ‘Cause they feel a connection with a real person without any script or dialogue. So when that happens, we start to smile and laugh, and that’s what we want and hope that fans enjoy. It’s a different side of the actor and the character and the person. Him and I, we have more fun together than you can possibly imagine. Just non-stop shenanigii”

This isn’t the first time Bohen has visited Australian shores, nor is this is first pop culture convention rodeo. Having traversed the scene for the last 6 years and travelling both across the North American continent and to overseas events you might think that it would get a little repetitive or boring. Not true though claims Bowen who enjoys seeing the excitement in fans faces during their face to face interactions.

“I always like to hear the stories that the fans have, we get to spend a little extra time with them in Australia, and we can just have a bit of a chat, and they can say, “Hey, here’s my thing. Here’s why I like the show. Here’s why it’s important”. And you can have a moment to sit with somebody even if it’s only for a minute, and that means the world to us. We really feel an obligation to sit with the people that love the show and that have propped it up over the years. So, it’s the people, the relationships. We just love seeing their faces. They get really, really excited. And we have to service that, and it’s fun, and it feels good, and they feel good. So I just want to do that and have a good time.”

Ian Bohen will be appearing as part of the Oz Comic Con lineup for Brisbane and Sydney.
Saturday 23 and Sunday 24 September – Brisbane Convention & Exhibition Centre
Saturday 30 September and Sunday 1 October – ICC Sydney
For more information or to purchase tickets, visit the Oz Comic Con website.