Actor Linden Ashby goes into total protective-dad mode when I ask about his Teen Wolf co-star Dylan O’Brien. O’Brien’s been absent from the public sphere since his serious accident on a movie set in March but Ashby says he’s been spending some time with his TV son since then, “I’ve seen him a lot. I love him.”
Ashby says it’ll be up to O’Brien when to break the public silence, “Dylan’s a very private person and I don’t think that it’s my place to talk about what he’s going through. If he wants to talk about what he’s going through, he’ll talk about it.” While Ashby is just playing a dad on MTV, you can hear in his voice a genuine fatherly affection for O’Brien, the rest of Teen Wolf’s young cast and for the show itself. It’s not really surprising to hear since it was, in part, a tough choice he made as a real life father that led him to Teen Wolf.
Ashby’s been acting all of his adult life, straight out of college he moved to New York and landed on an ABC soap opera called Loving in 1985. There he met his wife, Teen Wolf’s Susan Walters. The pair moved to LA shortly after and their first daughter, Frances Grace, came along in 1991 followed pretty closely by her sister Savannah in 1992.
The next decade was a time of tremendous success for the young couple. They both worked steadily in TV and movies. Ashby landed a long-term gig on Melrose Place and returned to daytime soaps with a run on The Young and the Restless. He also did some memorable roles in a few big films. He was Johnny Cage in Mortal Kombat and Morgan Earp in Wyatt Earp opposite Kevin Costner.
But, as they pushed into the new century, Ashby says things in his career began to slow down a bit. “I guess around 2006 I wasn’t working as much as I wanted to,” he recalls. “I’d always told myself I don’t want to overstay my welcome at the party. I don’t want to be one of those actors who is just sort of hanging on.”
At the same time, his most important role as husband and father moved into a new phase. His daughters were now teenagers and Ashby was faced with a choice. “Susan wanted to move back to Atlanta where she grew up. She didn’t want the girls to go to high school in LA. I thought ‘yeah, okay.’”
As he left Hollywood behind Ashby says he prepared himself to settle down, just be a dad and maybe even give up acting but Hollywood had other plans. “As it turned out the whole business followed us to Atlanta. It was great.”
Ashby found himself in demand more than ever as Georgia state tax incentives lured productions away from California and into his new back yard. As a veteran actor in the new “Hollywood of the South,” his career never slowed down. He landed TV movies, parts in films and a primetime ABC series called The Gates.
That show, about a supernatural cul-de-sac populated by vampires and werewolves that also featured a very young Colton Haynes, didn’t last long so, when Jeff Davis came to Atlanta to cast his new MTV show, Ashby was available to audition.
“He came in for our Atlanta casting director and read for the part,” Davis recalls. I remember seeing the tape and saying ‘Wait a second, that’s Johnny Cage.’” Davis says he’d seen Mortal Kombat in the theater when he was in college and remembered the charm and humor Ashby brought to the role. He thought the combination was exactly what his new Teen Wolf needed. “I was intent on the show being funny, so I knew that we could use someone who could deliver a sarcastic reply, especially as the father to Stiles.”
Ashby had also worked with Teen Wolf director Russell Mulcahy on the Resident Evil franchise and he was immediately on board with Davis’ choice. What neither of them expected was what kind of father figure Ashby would become. “We didn’t know just how much Linden and Dylan O’Brien would connect,” Davis says. “They really seemed like father and son onscreen. That connection between the actors is what inspired us to create so much (Stilinski) backstory.”
That bond was felt from the very first broadcast. Millions of fans began to think of Ashby simply as “dad.” “I’ve met some of the fans and it’s so cool,” he recalls. “You forget that this show touches people and it matters to people and it speaks to them about issues and it really matters to people. I love that.”
Six years later and Ashby is still loving his Teen Wolf family. “You know what I love? We still care. There’s not a single person in that cast or on that crew that doesn’t care anymore. We’re working a fifteen-hour day and you think to yourself that when this comes out I’m not going to care about how tired and delirious I am right now. All I’m going to care about is that we got it right and it looks great.”
Ashby is beaming with pride about Teen Wolf season 6 which he says will debut on the network this fall. “This season, in a way, is much more complex but much simpler and it’s tons of heart. It’s smart and it’s really good storytelling. I just get tickled that we’re still doing it.”
He says he can’t wait for fans to get a first look at what they’ve been working on at the upcoming San Diego Comic Con on July 21. “I just saw the trailer and it is so good.”
And, like the proud papa he is, Ashby couldn’t wait to show it off, “I probably wasn’t supposed to share it but I shared it with a friend of mine who is a really good filmmaker. He said he couldn’t believe this is a show in its sixth season. When some shows would be resting on their laurels, we’ve taken it to a whole new place. He says it looks like a big feature (film). This is a guy who does big features.”
After a lifetime in the industry, tens of thousands of hours on different TV and movie sets, he says his current gig on Teen Wolf is unique, “I’m incredibly blessed to be a part of it. This kind of stuff doesn’t come along every day.”
Ashby then slips back into dad mode and adds, “That’s what I tell these kids. You don’t get it. It isn’t always like this. This is special and it’s rare. I know you can’t appreciate it right now but you’re going to look back on this when you’re older and you’re going to go ‘wow that was amazing.’”
You can see Linden Ashby in his new movie Beta Test which opens in select theaters on July 22.