Two weeks after graduating from UCLA, Roden was on set for the MTV series, a reboot of the 1985 Michael J. Fox movie of the same name. "Holland was perfect for the part of Lydia because she could easily move from playing the shallow, popular girl to sensitive and perceptive within a word or two," creator Jeff Davis explains.
The pilot script describes Lydia as "a drop-dead gorgeous junior ... who strolls the walkway like it was a fashion show runway in Milan." In her callback, Roden asked to make the character more of a brainiac. "I thought about Tracy Flick, from Election. I wanted to put more of an Alexander Payne slant on things, where she's a bit quirky and a bit too studious for her own good. If you look at her, she's not really surrounded by a lot of friends, per se. She's just sort of in her own world."
The show clicked with teens in the post-Twilight, second-screen era, and the popularity helped Roden, then a relative unknown, amass roughly 6 million followers across Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. MTV had asked its actors to join Instagram to help promote the show. Along with Pretty Little Liars, Teen Wolf became one of the first teen-oriented shows to capitalize on social media fan engagement. "I thought it was kind of pointless, but over time, I've obviously changed my mind on the topic," the actress admits. Roden currently has 3.8 million followers on Instagram -- that's almost 3 million more than Game of Thrones star Lena Headey and Seinfeld legend Julia Louis-Dreyfus. Instagram proved to be a secret weapon, a way for MTV to further plug premiere dates, fan contests, and fun times behind the scenes.
"We got really lucky with Teen Wolf because we didn't have a big marketing campaign -- we weren't a massively publicized CW show," Roden says. "We really succeeded because of our fans. I know every actor says that, but we actually did." And that support, providing an aura of constant attention, began impacting Roden's career. If she wanted to join the cast of an indie horror movie or, say, slip on Grey's Anatomy for a guest spot, she could.
"Because of social media, there's a more personalized aspect where I know I feel closer to [viewers]," Roden says. "Because it's almost like a friend cheering you on versus a fan." The comparison makes sense. Last season around February, for example, Roden featured in an episode in which her character was rescued from a mental hospital she'd been trapped in for six weeks. When the episode aired, Variety reported, an #AskHolland fan Q&A clocked in as Twitter's No. 4 trending topic worldwide. The hashtag was mentioned more than 75,000 times on the service, and Teen Wolf became the No. 1 rated show on social media that night.
"Do I like using [social media] for work? Not necessarily," Roden says. "But at the same time, I try to think of it from the fans' perspective, in that they've been on this ride with us for a very long time and in a very grassroots way. It's a way we can pay them back and connect with them. So when I think of it that way, I'm more than happy to post."
The actress' dedication to fanning the fan flame is part of the reason Teen Wolf kept earning renewals from MTV, says Davis, citing regular spikes on Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, and Twitter. But the popularity came with its downsides. "Twitter is often a place of high emotions," Davis notes, saying some actors found it a bit of an ordeal at times. For Roden, the biggest drawback, she says, was followers over-analyzing her every move, post, and word.
There's a "constant and unrelenting negativity," Davis says, noting that Twitter in particular has turned into Yelp. "When fans don't like something they make it known and with no filter, often projecting their anger at the stars themselves," he adds. "I think it can actually be destructive."
Says Roden: "I don't let any one individual ruin it for everyone."