Teen Mom OG: 13 Shocking Secrets From The Show’s Creators

  

Back in 2009, MTV changed the face of reality television when 16 and Pregnant debuted. In the seven years since, the show has spawned the massively popular series Teen Mom OG and Teen Mom 2, giving viewers one of the most authentic reality television series in the genre. Through the years, fans have passionately followed the stories and lives of the stars, and while the girls have often talked about their experiences through the show and through their own books, for the first time, Teen Mom‘s creators have given a very candid interview. From the inception of 16 and Pregnant, to how filming Teen Mom really works and their true feelings about the stars, these are the 13 most shocking secrets from Teen Mom’s creators and producers, Lauren Dolgen, Dia Sokol Savage, Morgan Freeman, Larry Musnik, Kirsten ‘Kiki’ Malone and Amy Kramer.

13. The Beginning

Before getting into the secrets from Teen Mom OG, creator Lauren Dolgen revealed exactly how it all started when she came up with the idea for 16 and Pregnant. “I was flipping through People magazine, and I came across an article about teen pregnancy. It said that 750,000 girls between the ages of 15 and 19 get pregnant in the United States every year. It was like getting punched in the stomach. I couldn’t believe it because it was happening to our audience.” Dolgen was working in development at that time and immediately came up with a concept and pitched it to her boss who jumped right on board and instantly stated, “We should call it 16 and Pregnant.” They started casting as soon as they could but knew it wasn’t something to take lightly. “It was a pretty sensitive arena that we hadn’t really approached before. We really had to handle it in a very responsible way. We decided to connect with the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, and they became our partners from the very beginning.”

Source: Teen.com

Source: Teen.com

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12. First Impressions

All of the creators and producers, except for Kiki Malone, met Maci Bookout, Farrah Abraham, Catelynn Lowell, and Amber Portwood during 16 and Pregnant, and revealed how they felt first meeting these young and pregnant teenagers. “Maci was our first girl to have the baby, and it was exciting. All the girls were so different — they had such different personalities and came from such different backgrounds,” Dolgen said. Meanwhile Dia Savage said that her first impression of Amber was that “she had a lot to say and wasn’t afraid to articulate it…and that she and Gary were hilarious and that I could listen to them talk all day. And that she was stubborn!” Meanwhile, she said her first impression of Farrah was that “she was a really vulnerable and scared teenager who was used to acting really strong and powering forward despite obstacles.” Savage added, “Additionally, it was a tricky first shoot because she hadn’t told any of her friends that she was pregnant, and rumors that had been circulating at her school really heated up when MTV cameras showed up.” As for Maci, Savage said, “She took us on a quad ride in the hills of Tennessee. I was trying so hard to hold on to the gear and to the vehicle…and I couldn’t believe I went riding with a girl who was 8 1/2 months pregnant!”

Source: MTV

Source: MTV

11. Day 1: Catelynn and Tyler

Of course, it was different with Catelynn Lowell and Tyler Baltierra as they had made the decision to give their daughter up for adoption. Musnik and Savage both said how incredibly “mature” they both were. “I was just blown away by their emotional intelligence and how well they could put into words the very complex things they were feeling,” Musnik added. Meanwhile, Malone revealed her somewhat scary first day filming with Catelynn and Tyler on Teen Mom, saying she “fell in love with them instantly,” but their family made things hard. Everything was going great as they were all at Butch and April’s house, who were together at the time and where Catelynn was living, so Malone posed the question, “Hey guys, can you talk about where everything is going with the adoption?” “From there, Catelynn threw a lighter at Butch, and Butch is screaming, ‘You got a tattoo of a kid you don’t even have.’ I was hiding under the stairs watching this instantly break out. Catelynn was crying; she was fighting with her mom […] And from that moment on, I was so linked in with Catelynn — and every time they cried, I was behind a monitor or camera crying through one full day of every shoot with them.”

Source: MTV

Source: MTV

10. Creating Teen Mom

As it turns out, after 16 and Pregnant came to an end, MTV had no plans or thoughts about extending the series and continuing the story of the girls with their newborn babies. It didn’t take too long, however, for that to become an obvious necessity for the network. Dolgen explained, “The first season was so well-received, and obviously it connected with the audience in a really big way. I think there are a lot of reasons for that: It was so authentic, it was like life on steroids. It was like, ‘I totally know what it’s like going to prom’ to ‘Oh my god, prom with a baby!’ Everything was amplified; there was something with this that the audience totally connected to. My boss at the time had said we should think about spinoff potential with this series, so we had a discussion about how we would approach that. It was a creative, joint effort where we said, ‘Let’s pick four girls and follow them through their first year of motherhood.’ We would follow them separately and cross-cut their stories.”

Source: Starcasm

Source: Starcasm

9. Casting The Main Four

The first season of 16 and Pregnant featured six different girls, and many fans have wondered why and how the four, now known as the Teen Mom OG stars, were picked. Savage and Dolgen revealed that there was no definitive reason why they selected the four that they did for the series. “It was a lot of factors. We look at a lot of things — how open were they to the cameras and to opening their lives up and sharing all of these aspects of their lives. Also, how heavily populated their worlds were — meaning, were there a lot of family members, friends and maybe the father who was or wasn’t in their life but there was lot of story to tell […] We wanted the right balance between those four girls to make a really full picture of what the American landscape of teen pregnancy really looks like. Those four girls had such different lives and different situations. And the girls really have great personalities, they’re really interesting to watch.”

Source: MTV

Source: MTV

8. The Effect

One of the main criticisms of 16 and Pregnant and Teen Mom was that the shows were “glamorizing” the lives of teen parents, and made young people believe they could become reality stars if they got pregnant as a teen. In reality though, Amy Kramer, who is the Senior Director of Entertainment Media at the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, revealed that statistics show the teen birth rate has dropped significantly in recent years since the shows have been airing. “I have younger siblings who grew up watching the show, and I think back to 2009, how taboo it still was and what an epidemic teen pregnancy was. And the fact that we’ve been noted for being a part of why teen pregnancy is at its lowest rate is astounding to me,” Malon said of the “16 and Pregnant/Teen Mom Effect.”

Source: MTV

Source: MTV

7. Filming

All shows whether reality or scripted follow a schedule, but MTV goes about things a little differently when it comes to Teen Mom in order to make the stories as authentic as possible. “We basically go in for sometimes two, three, four days. Our show never had a real production schedule, since day 1. We always knew basically when we would start, basically when we would stop, so we could get shows on the air,” Musnik stated of their filming plans. He also added, “This whole series came about because of lack of planning. There wouldn’t be this show if things were planned out. We go and we film when stuff is going on — moments we feel carry the stories and themes that are going on.”

Source: MTV

Source: MTV

6. Creating a Story

Unlike a lot of reality series, Teen Mom doesn’t need to be “soft-scripted” or manipulated into certain situations to tell great stories, and Malone explained how they go about picking which days they will film, and how it creates the story over each season. “Our shoot schedules are really, truly dictated by the girls’ schedules, unlike a normal reality show where we try and make a quota and say, ‘I’m going to shoot ten days this month with this person.’ We don’t do that, so we have an ebb and flow to it. They tell us what’s going on, and we follow that and then we continue to track those stories that are going on through every shoot.” She added, “Generally, our shoots are set up around tent-pole events that they have going on: It could be a birthday, or it could be a doctor’s appointment. It could be as simple as Catelynn wanting to go shopping for an outfit for Nova. When we hear these things, and our producers talk to the girls nonstop, that’s how we track the show.”

Source: MTV

Source: MTV

5. New Stars

Fans who have been with the series since the beginning are aware that after season four in 2012, Teen Mom went on a two-year hiatus with a “special season” in between. When it returned with season five in 2015, things were different. The show was rebranded as Teen Mom OG to further differentiate from the equally popular Teen Mom 2, and this time the show had opted to break the fourth wall and see the producers interacting with the cast members. Right away fans got to see Farrah throwing a fit on Larry Musnik, and also got a better understanding of the friendships that had been formed between the cast and crew over the years. All the producers have had different thoughts and feelings about being featured on the show. Kiki Malone revealed, “I like that we are involved in that way. Personally, I hate seeing myself on camera because I freak out. But it did motivate me to lose 70 pounds in the past year. And I would not have even noticed if I hadn’t seen myself on camera.” Dolgen added, “It had been almost two years since the show had been on; the girls’ lives were so different and all of them were friends with the producers. Some of them were better friends with the producers than other friends in their lives, so they may have a real conversation with a producer rather than someone else.” It also made much more sense to fans who could better understand why the girls were so frustrated with people off-camera sometimes.


4. Biggest Moments

Through 16 and Pregnant and Teen Mom, the producers have been there for all of the biggest moments in the girls’ and their family’s lives. Some of the producers recalled key moments on the shows that were especially difficult or emotionally tough that stay with them to this day. For Freeman and Malone, that moment has to do with Catelynn and Tyler and their daughter, Carly. “Their 16 and Pregnant episode remains one of my favorites, as we had unfettered access into their final hours with Carly and the actual hand-off. It really underscored how hard making that decision is plus how courageous those two are,” Freeman said. Malone stated, “The toughest emotional shoot for me and the crew was the Carly visit in New York City.  It was the first time when Carly was a bit older — she had a personality and was more of a little person. The two of them were sitting crying and Tyler was saying, “I wish she was calling me daddy.” It was the first time it really hit them. I remember the entire crew of all men and me were on the street shooting this and crying at the same time, because it was so heartbreaking.”

Source: MTV

Source: MTV

3. More Big Moments

While Catelynn and Tyler’s is the only story to involve adoption, there have undoubtedly been emotional and difficult stories for all of the parents, and for Savage, her most memorable moment in filming the show was with Amber. “Even though we have to remain objective, when one of the participants is struggling, it can be really hard to watch. It was very scary to see Amber at the height of her drug abuse, so it feels like such a huge accomplishment to see her clean. And it makes me so happy for Leah that she is able to have a mom who is drug-free,” Savage stated.

Source: MTV

Source: MTV

2. Stress

Being a part of a hit series means that everyone is full of pride in their work, but it is also tough, and they dished about what the most stressful parts of the job are or what their most stressful experiences have been. For Freeman, he was not looking forward to that memorable scene in season five when he had to tell Maci that Farrah was coming back.” I knew Maci had very strong feelings about this, and I’m very close to Maci, so dropping this bomb on camera created boatloads of stress for me. I couldn’t sleep the night before because I was so worried about her reaction. Turned out to be a great scene when she quit on camera. And ultimately, she forgave me. I still got invited to her wedding!” For Larry Musnik it was the day Amber turned herself into jail, and for Kiki Malone, it involves none other than Ryan Edwards! “He’s going to kill me for saying this, but Ryan is probably the most stressful part when I was producing. I love the kid madly; I consider him a close, personal friend. He’s like my little brother. But he can be stressful because he doesn’t care and doesn’t show up. Tracking him down can take days. He has no bad intentions — he’s in his own world.”

Source: MTV

Source: MTV

1. The Impact

One of the most interesting aspects of Teen Mom is that it all started right around the same time that social media began to take off, creating a strange dynamic as the show became a pop culture phenomenon. “I also think that when Teen Mom began, it was during the infancy of Twitter and the infancy of the widespread use of social media. And they were early into that and people connected with them that way, and I think that’s also been a driver of some of the popularity of the show. Social media was new, and people were communicating with them. This is one of those issues that people care about. These are four girls that people care about,” Kramer stated. Larry Musnik added, “I think Teen Mom has had such a major impact on pop culture because our audience is watching people that look like them, sound like them and basically are a reflection of what a lot of other people are going through. For that one hour, people are watching our show, it actually makes them think about something. And it doesn’t feel like they’re being preached to because our show is not judgmental. It’s just putting everything out there. And over time, each of these girls has developed a fan base that watches them and is invested in their lives. This show is still unique, after all this time.”

Source: MTV

Source: MTV

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