The Teen Wolf casting department had a tremendous template to reference when casting the role of Young Derek Hale for tonight's flashback episode, titled Visionary, since Tyler Hoechlin was exactly the age they required when he starred in 2002's Road To Perdition.
In fact, it was Hoechlin's performance as Michael Sullivan Jr. that convinced Ian Nelson he could pass for a younger version of Derek Hale, fueling his audition.
ETonline exclusively hit up the Teen Wolf set during the filming of Visionary to sit down with the young star, find out what fans can expect from tonight's episode and offer you this first look photo!
ETonline: How did you first hear about this role?
Ian Nelson: I met Danny Zaccagnino (MTV casting) a year ago, and he was like, "I want you on one of our shows!" And I was like, "Yeah right, I've seen the people on MTV, I don't look like that!" [laughs] I was like 95 pounds and 5'4" but then I got a call they were trying to cast a young Tyler Hoechlin. He was in Road To Perdition when he was younger, and I looked at a photo of him then, and I realized I do look like this kid.
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ETonline: How do you describe Derek in tonight's episode?
Nelson: Derek is the man. He's like the big man in high school -- popular, confident, head of the basketball team, everyone loves him. He's like the king. And then he veers off course in a way he could have never expected. In this episode, we meet Derek's mother, so you get to see how [the werewolf gene] affects the family -- it's so much different than Scott being bitten. They always talk about Scott being like Spider-Man, but for Derek, it's more about him realizing what it means to have that power then learning to deal with it.
ETonline: What are you excited for the fans to see?
Nelson: Derek is a guy trying to figure out his life. I think everyone is going to be excited to see how everything happens to him. It's like when you meet someone and halfway through talking to them you realize something terrible has happened in their past. Derek is a closed door -- but this episode opens that door in a major way and you can watch this kid go through all these experiences.
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ETonline: Did you study Hoechlin in any way to mirror his performance?
Nelson: If nothing had happened to Derek Hale, if his life was free of traumatic events, I would have absolutely sat down with Tyler to talk about how I was playing the character. But those things change you, I can't play the Derek Hale that Tyler plays because that's not my Derek. I don't live in this realm, this is Derek before, so if I played him as he is today, it wouldn't make any sense.
ETonline: You were just fitted for some fangs; how much action do you get to do in the episode?
Nelson: Some. But in this episode, the fight scenes happen because there are emotions behind them; you fight for revenge, you fight for power, so it's all emotion driven. Jeff [Davis, EP] has given me, as an actor, a lot of fun things to play with. I get to try things that I've never done before. I feel so lucky!
Teen Wolf airs Mondays at 10 p.m. on MTV.