INTERVIEW – Elijah Wood tries on the dog-suit and talks when to call it quits on ‘Wilfred’.


Interview - Elijah Wood 01

Last week saw the premiere of season 3 of Wilfred on FX and in a follow up to our interview with Jason Gann and Fiona Gubelmann, I was able to take part in a call with Wilfred’s best buddy and the star of The Lord of Rings trilogy, Elijah Wood. Here are some of the highlights:


When I talked to Jason and Fiona I posed this question, and I wanted to get your take on it. Do you think Wilfred should have a fixed ending point or can it just continue on indefinitely?

That’s a very good question. I’m curious as to what they said. I think that the structure of the show that’s been created is such that it’s about a guy who is essentially in recovery, and trying to figure out what his path in life is. This manifestation of Wilfred has provided essentially a push for him to kind of figure that out. I think that can only really last for so long to believe that we are dealing with a man who is kind of struggling for answers to these questions and in this sort of existential period of his life and in recovery.

[pullquote_left]I would hate to make the show kind of carry on for too long and it not necessarily support what we’ve created.[/pullquote_left]I don’t know that we can believe that for ten seasons. I think to a certain degree, there has to be a resolve or a move in a certain direction, so I don’t know. I think… to the fairness of the construct of the show, I think it can only survive for so long. I would hate to make the show kind of carry on for too long and it not necessarily support what we’ve created, if that makes sense.

In the premiere episode, Comfort, there was a lot of Ryan thinking and deciding that maybe he is mentally ill and sort of seeing how he’s going to cope with it and come to terms with it. I was wondering if throughout the season now that’s going to add a whole lot more sort of double meaning to the scenes and the things going on.

We don’t really address head-on any further in this season so much the idea of mental illness, but I think it’s always been there, even if we haven’t talked about it. I think it was interesting to see that in the first episode, Ryan kind of addressing it for the first time and sort of being self-aware that could potentially be the reason for Wilfred’s existence. I think from here on out, having established that as a possibility, it will always be there as a way to sort of potentially look at each of the scenarios that he gets himself into with Wilfred. But I also think because we don’t outright answer it, there’s still a sense of ambiguity as to what Wilfred is, and I think that’s kind of important for the show that we don’t necessarily answer that question.

Interview - Elijah Wood 03

What is it that drew you to this character and what is it that keeps your approach to continuing to make this character fresh and grow at the same time?

Well, upon reading the pilot script I kind of fell in love with the whole idea of the show, both the character and the structure of what this show was, being so unique and so unlike anything I’ve seen or read before. I also found it deeply funny. As far as the character is concerned, I think the idea of playing someone who has effectively hit a wall in his life and is trying to rebuild himself and help himself, it definitely provides a lot to work with. There is a sense of growth over the course of now the three seasons, but it’s also fun to work in the context of what we’ve created, and always exciting to work with Jason. Aside from the characters in development, I find it inspiring and always exciting as an actor to be working opposite him for everything that he comes up with, it sort of inspires me.

What perhaps sticks out most in your mind about filming your first Wilfred episode, and what maybe were some of the initial acting challenges you found stepping in to the role?

[pullquote_right]I love the idea of Ryan and Wilfred not always being in sort of a combative relationship, but rather actually working toward something together.[/pullquote_right]It was completely new territory for me. I’ve never really worked on a television show before. I mean, I’d kind of done guest appearance and things but I’d never made a show from scratch, so it was a brand new experience. Working on a comedy I found it deeply exciting because it was something that I really believed in, and it was exciting to work on something that felt really unique and really different. I’d never really worked in comedy before, and not having worked in that space before was definitely challenging. I suppose I’m not really fearful, but any time you sort of jump into something that is a little less familiar it comes with it, you know that sort of exciting anxiety about pulling it off in the right way.

Do you have a favorite moment from this season that you can talk about, either part of the show or behind the scenes?

In episode three [airing this Thursday night on FX] the kind of caper aspect of that episode between Wilfred and Ryan kind of working together, that was something that we sort of experienced for the first time this season, and it was something that we all really loved. I love the idea of Ryan and Wilfred not always being in sort of a combative relationship, but rather actually working toward something together. It was a blast. It was really fun, particularly that scene where we bust in to the guy’s car, and we’re sort of in this thing together. I think it’s something that we’d like to continue doing.

Interview - Elijah Wood 02

Last season you guys had that awesome dance number. Are you going to do anything to outdo it this season?

I don’t think we do anything to outdo the dance, no. That was pretty incredible. It was an incredible undertaking actually, because in the midst of working on an intensive season as these things are, we were also trying to squeeze in dance lessons and trying to learn this very choreographed dance thing. That was a real challenge without having enough time or feeling like we had enough time to do it properly. In some ways, when we didn’t have something like that this season I was quite relieved. But that was a blast. It was awesome to do.

[pullquote_left]I think I’m constantly surprised at the things that we get away with, and I think it’s part of what makes our show fun to watch.[/pullquote_left]One of the first times I noticed Wilfred was connecting with fans was when I started to see people dressed up as the character at Comic-Con and Halloween and stuff. Have you had any funny fan interactions?

I actually haven’t. I’ve seen photos of people dressed as Wilfred on Instagram or on various social media, but I haven’t been out during Halloween and seen people dressed up, so I have yet to have that experience. I think Jason has. I think Jason actually went to a Halloween party—I think this was last year actually—and saw someone dressed as Wilfred [Editor note: Jason did. Read about it here], which must have been really surreal for him just given the fact that he’s been playing that character for so long, but it’s great. People definitely have embraced the show and it’s always fun to see it sort of bleed into pop culture a little bit.

With all of the kind of wacky and fun and sometimes dark situations that Ryan and Wilfred have gotten into so far in the series, has there been any one thing that you have gotten the most reaction to, either from fans or from friends? Is there one that really stands out in your mind that caused the biggest reaction?

The Jane Kaczmarek episode from the first season stands out as a little shocking and extremely funny, particularly for me the kind of sex montage between what Jane and I are doing, and then what Wilfred is doing with the giraffe. I remember shooting that and thinking, “Wow, we’re doing this. Are we going to get away with this?” I mean I think I’m constantly surprised at the things that we get away with, and I think it’s part of what makes our show fun to watch, too.

Interview - Elijah Wood 05

Is there a theme for the season that’s going to tie all the episodes together?

I think every end of season we’ve addressed scenes and elements of the entire season towards the end. We’ll kind of continue on a sense of searching and questioning, so I think we do that. I think that there are certain things that kind of get a little bit tied up, and then new questions kind of arise out of that. In that same way that we’ve dealt with this final episode kind of tying up elements of what the characters have been going through, we continue that in this season as well.

[pullquote_right]People definitely have embraced the show and it’s always fun to see it sort of bleed into pop culture a little bit.[/pullquote_right]What can you preview about Lance Reddick’s role as your therapist, because it seems like it would be very interesting to have both Wilfred and Ryan in front of a therapist, talking about Wilfred?

Well, it’s Ryan in front of Lance’s character himself, so Wilfred isn’t even in the office. He does go without Wilfred, but it provides a really fun and interesting exploration of Ryan’s psyche. That’s an episode I’m really excited about and working with Lance was fantastic, especially being from The Wire, and everybody was very excited to have him on set. I think he was really psyched as well so that was fun, and cool to have Ryan in a kind of therapy situation to recognize that he might actually need some outside help, some outside perspective, which makes a lot of sense. It provides a really fun conduit for some mental exploration.

Interview - Elijah Wood 04

Have you ever, possibly out of morbid curiosity, tried on the dog suit?

For the first time this year I did it. It’s funny, I don’t know why I had never tried it on before and I think I always was curious, but there’s something a little bit sacred about the suit, is how I felt. Like, maybe respecting Jason’s character and respecting that it’s Jason’s suit that I didn’t ever try it on or wasn’t moved to try it on before. It was surreal to kind of see myself in that suit.

We talked about the idea actually of maybe doing a dream sequence. I mean, I love the idea of the tables being flipped a little bit and what if Ryan sort of sees himself as—you know, suddenly wakes up and he sees himself as Wilfred, there’s something there in his sort of exploration of what Wilfred is. Potentially there’s a sort of melding of the two, I don’t know.


The third season of Wilfred airs new episodes on Thursdays at 10:00pm ET, exclusively on FX.

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