FX’s unconventional buddy comedy Wilfred, about a dog that may or not be a real person and his insecure, mentally unstable but good-natured neighbor pal, returns for a third season this week. I was able to speak with Wilfred himself, Jason Gann, and the adorable Fiona Gubelmann (Jenna) about the return of the unruly pup.
Season 3 of Wilfred gets under way this week, and people are pretty excited. Can you tell us what to expect from the upcoming season?
Jason: You can expect a murder. You can expect me making out with one of my co-stars. You can expect me to be sucking on some toes. That’s just off the top of my head.
[pullquote_right]I think we definitely have the self-exploration and the darkness and the soul searching, but I do feel this season adds a bit more comedy. [/pullquote_right]Fiona: I’m really excited about Season 3! I can’t believe we are on our third season. I think it’s just incredible and I’m also very proud that the fans are excited. Overall, Season 3 has lot more comedy than we had last year. I think we definitely have the self-exploration and the darkness and the soul searching, but I do feel this season adds a bit more comedy.
In terms of Jenna, she’s gotten married and is in this very happy place, and in Season 3 we find her adjusting to married life and learning the reality of that situation, which I think we all can relate to, that we as people have an idea how things are going to turn out – whether it be marriage or a job or a certain situation – and we find ourselves there and it’s just not what we thought it would be. It’s not a good thing or a bad thing, it’s just you have to adjust to the actuality of it. That’s where we find Jenna, coming to terms with where she’s at and if that’s where she wants to be.
In the first episode we see a kind of an existential thing with Wilfred’s character, about his origin and where he comes from and a bit of his history. Are we going to see any more of that throughout the season?
[pullquote_left]In Season 3 we take that whole mythology of what Wilfred is to a really exciting place that I’m certain no one is going to expect.[/pullquote_left]Jason: Yeah, you’ve the seen that part, so you can kind of see what we’ve done there. We had to address it but we didn’t want to get bogged down and we really wanted this season to have a lot more fun with some self-contained episodes. A real buddy comedy, almost Scooby Doo capers and stuff like that.
So we kind of put it on ice a little bit after the premiere, but then towards the end of the season we really ramped it up and take that whole mythology of what Wilfred is to a really exciting place that I’m certain no one is going to expect.
I think fans are rooting for Ryan and Jenna to figure out a way to be together, but being married to Chris Klein’s character Drew is certainly a roadblock to a relationship with Ryan. Is there the possibility of some kind of love triangle this season for the characters?
Fiona: You mean a threesome? Is that what you’re asking about? [laughs] Well, this is Wilfred, so I would never put a threesome out of the picture.
More clearly, do you think Jenna has feelings for Ryan?
[pullquote_right]She’s realizing there may be some traits of Drew that she’s not necessarily happy with and might not want to spend the rest of her life dealing with.[/pullquote_right]Fiona: I think Jenna and Ryan definitely care about each other and have a love between them. It’s a very special relationship and friendship. She’s really trying to help him as a friend, because he just got out of relationship that he thought was going to work out, between him and Amanda. He’s really in a dark place right now dealing with that situation, and it’s really hard when you love someone and they are mentally ill or either going through drug addiction or something and you just can’t help them.
I’ve had people in my life that were in situations like that personally, and it’s a really hard place to be in, to not be able to help someone you love and see them in pain, and I think Ryan is going through that right now and Jenna just wants to help him as a friend. I will say, however, she is realizing there may be some traits of Drew that she’s not necessarily happy with and might not want to spend the rest of her life dealing with. I think this season for Jenna is a lot about figuring who she is and what she really wants to be in life, and maybe that will leak through to her relationship with Drew and Ryan… people will just have to wait and see.
Speaking of the future of the show, the American version of Wilfred has now officially gone longer than the Australian version, which only had two seasons. Do you see an end point to Wilfred or will you continue to do it as long as FX wants more episodes?
Jason: We’ll do it as long as FX wants it. [Producer] David Zuckerman and I basically agreed that realistically, we could maybe do four or five seasons and then the whole dog thing… how much can we explore, you know, dog behaviors and stuff? But I’ve really got to say that after this season, I really think we can go for as long as they’ll let us. It’s definitely the most fun we’ve had and the three month shoot just went by like a breeze, but we’re at the mercy of the networks.
[pullquote_left]Season 3 is definitely the most fun we’ve had. We’ll do it as long as FX wants it.[/pullquote_left]People have been trying to talk to us about doing a Wilfred film for years, a movie, and I was always like “No, no, no. No TV show movies. They can be really be hit-and-miss.” But it’s funny, in the second season of the Australian version, Wilfred started having these dreams of becoming a movie star, and it was totally independent of any opportunities that were eventually to happen in real life, but the Adam character shot this trailer for an action movie and Wilfred was like “Yeah we’ll go to Hollywood. We’ll take it to Stephen Ballbag and we’ll get Alec Baldwin to play your role.” And Adam said “You’re going to replace me?” and Wilfred was like “Man, you’re no actor.” Anyway, the irony is we went to Hollywood [laughs] and he got replaced by Elijah Wood.
But I was joking with him the other day that if the show eventually ended or got cancelled or whatever, about going back and doing another Australian one and start it out by having Wilfred wake up from a dream and would say “I just had the worst nightmare.” I think the character of Wilfred has done enough things that he can exist in another world. We joked about an animated cartoon, “Little Wilfred” or something. Ryan and Wilfred would be little kids but the real Elijah will have moved on to his next blockbuster hit but I’ll still be doing the voice. I’ll say “I’ve been doing this character for 25 years! I know what works!”
I could definitely see a type of Calvin and Hobbes vibe from something like that. It could be pretty fun.
Jason: You know what? I’ve never actually seen or read Calvin and Hobbes. I hadn’t heard of it until the American version [of Wilfred] came out and people said “Oh, it’s like a weird version of Calvin and Hobbes.” I deliberately stayed away from it because I just don’t want to go into any similar territory and have it on my mind. But one day when it’s all done and I hang up the dog-suit, I’ll buy the whole Calvin and Hobbes series and read it all.
So this season we get to see the return of Chris Klein, Mary Steenburgen and Dwight Yoakam and there’s a whole new lineup of some really talented people coming aboard, including Gina Gershon, Angela Kinsey, Lance Reddick…what’s it like having a revolving door of all these talented actors? Is it fun to have someone new on the set all the time?
[pullquote_right]I’m on a show that I love and cherish and get excited about. I’m so blessed.[/pullquote_right]Jason: Yeah it really is, it’s one of my favorite parts. We had Kristen Schaal as well, who is a recurring guest. She’s on three episodes too and heavily in them. She’s just so good that we hope to bring her character back because she brought a whole new fun dimension to our show.
But it’s great, they always have the exact same kind of speed bump in their first scene. When I start speaking and they look at me and react and they have to go “Wait a minute. What am I doing?” It’s actually a real talent because the first thing you learn as an actor is to listen and to respond and interact, so to actually then shut off that part of your brain and imagine that’s just an actual real dog that you can also look at, but at a human eye-level. We haven’t had an actor yet that hasn’t been able to adjust, but it’s always fun watching them in that first first scene and going “Oh my god, what am I doing here?”
Fiona: I feel like a star-struck fan when I get to come to work. It’s pretty amazing that as a series regular I’m the one gushing over the guest stars. Zachary Knighton, I’m a huge fan of his and I love him on Happy Endings and having him on the show is just an absolute blast.
Kristen Schaal is “oh my God” amazing! She is so talented and funny. Mary Steenburgen is one of the kindest and most talented people in Hollywood and every time I get to sit down and talk her is an absolute joy. Lance Reddick, I’m a huge Fringe fan… I can’t get over every time these people come in I’m like “oh my God, I get to talk to you!” I feel like I’m bugging them and it’s incredible.
I’m on a show that I’m a fan of personally. How rare is that in this Hollywood universe to be on a show but then to be on a show that you personally adore and cherish and get excited about? I’m so blessed.
One of the first times I noticed Wilfred was really connecting with fans was when I started seeing people showing up at Cons and Halloween dressed as the character. Have you had any interesting fan encounters or any fun stories with the show’s fans?
[pullquote_left]I got blown off by my own creation, a dude in a Wilfred suit was too cool to have a photo with me.[/pullquote_left]Jason: What’s funny is the last two Halloweens I’ve seen Wilfreds around and took photos with Wilfreds and the guys in the suit would kind of be blown away because they couldn’t believe they were having a photo dressed as Wilfred with the guy that really played Wilfred. But last year I went down to Santa Monica Halloween and there were these real cool kind of late teen hipster dudes walking down the street and one was Wilfred.
Earlier, the first guy I went up to and took a photo with him and didn’t tell him who I was and he said “Yeah, cool, have a photo!” My girlfriend at the time and my friend said “That’s so cool, that guy didn’t even know he had a photo with the real Wilfred.” So I said the next one I see, I’ll tell him.
And so I see them walking by and my friend asks “Hey, can he have a photo?” and dude was like “…no.” [laughs] He actually just looked at me and said “No, it’s okay, I’m alright.” My friends tried to tell him “He doesn’t understand, this is Wilfred!” He just waved my friend off and I said “Dude, I’ve just been blown off by my own creation. That dude in that Wilfred suit is too cool to have a photo with me.”
I used to have a Wilfred room which is now dismantled. But the two walls were covered in fan art because a lot of fans do really cool animation art. That’s the coolest thing that happened. Apart from that, I’ve had some girls send some sexy photos of them half Wilfred-ized with fluffy ears… and underwear. It’s kind of been weird. But I’ll never complain.
Fiona: Okay, first of all when people started dressing up as Wilfred I flipped out. I thought it was so insanely cool to be on a show that people dress up as the character from it. I haven’t seen any Jennas yet, just Wilfreds.
Last year at San Diego Comic Con I saw a Ryan, Jenna and Wilfred cosplay walking around together.
[pullquote_right]I’ve had girls send sexy photos of them half Wilfred-ized with fluffy ears and underwear. It’s kind of been weird. But I’ll never complain.[/pullquote_right]Fiona: Oh my god, did you take a picture? Oh wow, that would make my week. I can’t believe that, that is so cool. I have to tell you because I’m a big fan of certain shows, I love science-fiction and fantasy and in high school I was the kid watching Buffy, not Dawson’s Creek. Like I told you, I love Fringe, Comic Con is my favorite week of the year and I can’t believe I’m on a show with that kind of fanbase.
People will tweet me pictures of themselves dressed as Wilfred. There was this really cool one, I will send you the picture when you send me the [Comic Con] picture, someone had a birthday cake made of Wilfred and it was so cool. Tim Goodman is one of my favorite television critics and he dressed up as Wilfred and I was like “What?” He’s a fan? I just couldn’t get over that. Last year at Comic Con we had this one girl Violet who’s a huge fan, she made a stuffed version of our characters. I have a stuffed animal doll always out and it’s one of my most treasured possessions. I got really excited. I love our fans.
So does the dog suit suck to wear after all these years? Is it hot and uncomfortable?
[pullquote_left]The suit helps him get into character because it makes him grumpy.[/pullquote_left]Jason: Yep. [laughs] In a word, yeah. The funny thing is those fan suits I was talking about before, when I saw them I was like “Oh my god, these are the most delightfully fluffy plushy things I’ve ever seen in my life.” So I got one and it was an absolute joy to wear. But the real thing isn’t so much like that. It’s prickly and it gets hot. But you know, it seems the more I do the show, the less it bothers me.
Fiona, I’ve got to ask you this and be honest with me – have you tried on the dog suit?
Fiona: [laughs] In all honesty, I have not. That’s the first time I’ve been asked that! You know, Jason and I are very good friends, he’s like my brother and he always complains about how much he sweats in that suit, so I just look at that suit and think it’s got to be really, really gross. So I don’t think I’d want to put it on! [laughs] It’d be like sitting on someone’s dirty sock or something. He says it helps him get into character because it makes him grumpy.
The third season of Wilfred kicks off with a two-episode premiere Thursday, June 20th at 10:00pm ET, exclusively on FX.