Photo by Michael Becker/FX
Tonight a very unusual show called Wilfred premiers on FX. But perhaps even more surprising than the premise of a guy who talks to a dude in a dog suit, is that the series stars movie star Elijah Wood. In a recent conference all interview we spoke with the actor from the Lord of the Rings trilogy and Wilfred creator Jason Gann.
Wilfred is based on a short film and Australian TV series that Gann had created, but he explained that people who know those sources shouldn’t expect the same old concept. “Despite the fact that the show is called Wilfred, and there’s a dog called Wilfred in it, and I’m in the suit playing Wilfred, it’s a really different show.”
He believes revamping the show for American sensibilities will give it a better chance of survival in the U.S. market. Of other adaptations he said, “Maybe the reason why some of those reboots don’t work is because they’re trying to just translate something from one territory into another and the only thing that’s different is sort of some accents and stuff, whereas this is a completely new show. “
But having the characters’ innovator involved with the American version of the series was a big selling point to Wood, who recalled, “Before I read the pilot script, I was not aware of the Australian show. But when I was sent the script it came attached with information about the original show and indicated that Jason, who had created the original show, was involved in the creation of this incarnation as well as reprising [his role] as Wilfred. For me, immediately even before reading the script, [that] fact gave me such confidence. It’s so rare for a show to be that good from a foreign country that actually includes it’s original creator, I knew that is was immediately going to have a sense of integrity attached to it in whatever incarnation it was going to be from it’s origin, and then reading it and falling in love with the pilot.”
And to that end maintaining the rules of the Wilfred reality is critical to the series. Gann acknowledged that point, remarking, “One thing… which I think is a similarity, is that we’re all telling one joke and that it’s important that everyone is on board and understands the tone of the script and is all telling the same story. And that we don’t have any kind of renegade guest actors that are out trying to steal the show or steal the scene or do their own comedy shtick.”
For his part Elijah is enjoying playing a character that is very different from his real life personality. Of his depressed character, Ryan, Wood commented, “He’s sort of in constant struggle. It’s an interesting character to play. On the surface level, he is interacting with Wilfred and kind of takes that, as we as an audience, take that for granted and accept that relationship.”
He added, “Throughout the show as we’re filming it, I’m constantly thinking about what’s happening in reality and what he’s really going through. I’m not necessarily playing that and I don’t have to play that, but I think there’s a lot of depth to what Ryan’s experience is, and he’s kind of broken and he’s constantly in the state of trying to repair himself and he’s working really hard to sort of stay above water, and it’s constantly interesting to play.”
Not surprisingly the concept of the show is getting a lot of comparison’s to the classic Jimmy Stewart film Harvey, in which his character is the only one who can see his imaginary friend who happens to be a 6-foot tall bunny. Gann reflected on the similarities between the two projects, “That wasn’t in our minds when we first created the character or the Australian version. But it’s interesting… what it is I love about [Stewart] as an actor and how he brings this incredible authenticity to his characters, unique authenticity that we actually as an audience. We’re sort of prompted to believe in him even though we can see that there’s no rabbit. We can see what everyone else is thinking, but we believe in him. I don’t want to embarrass Elijah, but I think that Elijah brings something really similar and he really makes my job as playing Wilfred a lot easier, because seeing through his eyes it’s easier to believe it and so we’re ready, as an audience, hopefully ready to suspend our disbelief.”
Wood agreed, saying “Yes, that’s interesting that reference to Harvey. Jason and I immediately thought of that as well. I’m a huge fan of that film. I don’t know how many times I’ve seen it, and it was interesting the parallel. I mean the parallel, it’s obviously similar, but it’s extremely different, but that notion of our sort of imagined friend is quite similar and I think there’s something kind of beautiful about that.”
And the unusual tone and nature of the project is what ultimately drew feature actor Wood to the small screen. “I’m definitely attracted to things that are less easily defined, and this is a perfect example of that. It’s never interesting, I don’t think, to do anything truly conventional. I think convention can have its merits, certainly, but I think it’s far more interesting to travail roads that are less traveled and that are a bit more fascinating and certainly more challenging. For me, with this as well, I’ve never done comedy before and I was very interested in the notion of delving into comedy and working within a medium that I’ve not worked in before.”
Catch Wilfred when it premieres on Thursday, June 23 at 10 p.m. EST/9 p.m. Central on FX.