MTV is going back to the mother of all spin-offs.
Two and a half years after ending Teen Mom, the network is resurrecting the 16 and Pregnant spin-off as Teen Mom OG (premieres Monday, March 23 at 10/9c) with all the "original girls," Maci Bookout, Catelynn Lowell, Amber Portwood and (eventually) Farrah Abraham.
"We're always interested and excited about checking in with them," executive producer Morgan J. Freeman tells TVGuide.com. "And this just felt like enough time had passed [since the show ended] and a lot of things have changed since then too and happened in their lives."
Like Portwood serving a 17-month prison sentence. Or Lowell and her fiancé Tyler Baltierra starting a family, and Bookout having another child (both which will be chronicled on the show). Or Abraham, well, doing all this.
Abraham wasn't initially part of OG, which will also break the fourth wall and show the girls' interactions with the crew, until well after production began and producers asked her to return. Why the change of heart? Get the scoop from Freeman below.
You've done a few specials since the show ended, but why reboot the whole series now? Morgan J. Freeman: We were still excited about where they were in their lives. We also broke the fourth wall in those instances to see what it was like to let them be Maci from Teen Mom, Amber from Teen Mom, and pull the curtain back a little bit. In Being Amber, it was some of the most amazing stuff between the producer and Amber, just even the challenges of being on a TV show. That fascinated all of us, so I think in looking at those and the idea of weaving them together again with a different format sort of checked all the boxes.
I like breaking the fourth wall. You see how close the girls are with the producers and crew. Freeman: Definitely. There's not that much stability in a lot of their lives. You realize this relationship has spanned through crucial [parts] in their lives, highs and lows, and it is a unique and interesting relationship that only develops when a show can go this long and when a show can keep all those people. The producers want to keep telling these stories.
You never planned for Farrah to be part of it at first, correct? Was there a specific reason why?
Freeman: Initially in bringing it back, that was the decision. ... I do think her priorities and the things she was focused on did not quite fit in at the time. We sort of started them at different points. We didn't have to jump into their stories at the exact same time. Just looking at those three stories, ultimately, there was a feeling that something was missing and having a fourth perspective — the four different journeys and four different sets of consequences, all stemming from Teen Mom — that was the right way to go.
I don't think you could've done this without her.
Freeman: [Laughs] I like that observation. ... We were a few episodes in [filming], but everything is sort of staggered in following their stories. We're not going super hard and fast in banging out an episode.
The other girls aren't fond of Farrah, to say the least. I'm assuming they were not happy when they found out she's back.
Freeman: Well, that's hopefully what people will be watching for! [Laughs] I wouldn't say you're wrong.
What do you hope fans get out of this iteration of the show?
Freeman: The idea of having all four stories, there's something for everybody. There are fans of all the stories. I feel like they're gonna get their hearts broken. You're gonna get annoyed with certain people, you're gonna root for certain people. Just being able to continue that for the actual fans of the show, it feels great to bring them back. The show also has the cautionary tale of the immense amount of obstacles these girls have faced. Being able to see some of them climb out of them, like Amber, come out a different person. It's authentic. There's something really satisfying about being able to tell this part of her story.
She seems like she wants to prove to everyone she's changed.
Freeman: Yeah, and it's still not easy. She's not taking the edge off. ... I love the second chance part of it. She went away for a year and a half. She comes out with much more compassion and understanding. I think she wants to be able to show people she can rebound and be there for Leah. There was a time she thought she was gonna lose Leah for good. Catelynn and Tyler's story always fascinates me. ... The breaking of the fourth wall is interesting because Brandon and Theresa [the adoptive parents of their birth daughter Carly] don't want to be all over TV, and there's interesting ways about our format of telling their story while respecting their privacy. The format just opens itself up to showing a lot of the unique access and production issues that people go through, but usually have to hide them. It's really perfect for this.
Not much has changed between Maci and Ryan. Or he hasn't changed.
Freeman: Definitely not. They said all the way back in Season 1 of 16 and Pregnant, "You are now stuck with this person." At least for 18 years, but probably forever. It's a struggle for Maci trying to [communicate with Ryan]. While a lot of them are parenting better, the cautionary tales of dealing with having kids at that age remain.
The dynamic is different now too with the kids being older and able to have conversations.
Freeman: Yeah, it's so much more interesting now, I think. I was thinking about the Michael Apted Seven Up docs [which follow subjects every seven years starting when they were 7 years old]. We're coming up on seven years! The kids are in school now and just the idea of them having these conversations with their mothers. You're seeing what that looks like and what parenting looks like there, what acting out looks like, what the first lie looks like. That particular struggle continues. I think people will like to see Leah, Bentley and Sophia now.
Farrah isn't in the first episode, so what can we expect from her?
Freeman: [Her mother] Debra has been living in Seattle. She starts to sniff around to see if she can move to Austin. Her dad Michael lives there. Farrah definitely has some feelings about that. You definitely get reacquainted with the entire family. Farrah does a lot of traveling. She does meet somebody. I'll leave that there.
So she won't go on Couples Therapy alone next time?
Freeman: [Laughs] We'll see. She does have that ability. I will say this one has gone on a little longer than some of the previous ones.
Teen Mom 3 ended after one season and now you're back to the original one. Are there any plans to launch a fourth series?
Freeman: There's nothing being discussed right now. [Teen Mom OG] is our big focus. We are still shooting and we're coming up on the launch. That's where all our energy is.
Teen Mom OG premieres Monday, March 23 at 10/9c on MTV. Watch the trailer below.