There are few shows that can make us cry with laughter and look twice at our dogs, FX's new hit comedy Wilfred combines dark humor, important life lessons and true friendship. If you aren't watching this hilarious foul-mouthed pot smoking buddy show, well, you should be.
Jason Gann, co-creator and man inside the shaggy dog suit talks to us about the three sides of Wilfred, working with co-star Elijah Wood and teases Ed Helms' very dirty guest role.
Q&A with Wilfred Star Jason Gann
Why do you think Ryan (Elijah Wood) sees Wilfred at this point in his life?
When we're in that writers' room and we're breaking stories there are three different Wilfred that we have to consider all at once. One is the Wilfred that's in Ryan's mind. Then there is Wilfred's actual character. If Ryan is going to create this character in his head, Wilfred is a pretty complex and has a very unique individual perspective on life. In that sense Wilfred exists in his own right. And also, he's a dog. So everything that Wilfred does has to conform to the rules and the world of a dog. In the writers' room we will refer to them as Ryan's Wilfred, Wilfred's Wilfred and The Dog Wilfred. My opinion on it is, he's all of them.
Ed Helms guest stars as a dog molester in this week's episode. Where did that idea come from?
That's one of the episodes that I wrote. That came from an idea that was a pitch from a pair of writers that were involved in the show and the pitch was just that Wilfred has to lick peanut butter off of this guys' balls. Then it was a matter of working backwards. Each episode has to be about Ryan. It's about Ryan, it's driven by Wilfred. To work backwards from the peanut butter and licking it off the balls to being a story about Ryan took a lot of work. But then it becomes about guilt and responsibility.
There was a scene when Daryl (Ed Helms) arrives with the peanut butter and Wilfred puts Bear on a chair and turns him around facing the wall, so he doesn't have to watch it. It just grew into this little piece where Wilfred is, "No, shh, Bear. No, I'm OK. I'm OK." Like he's taking the hit for the other one. And it just had this dark social commentary about abuse. I guess in some ways we are parodying a pretty dark subject. I think we are also being responsible in that there is a message that is important to me to be in there, which is believe your dogs. If your dog says that there's something going on, believe.
In next week's episode there is a great dramatic showdown between Ryan and Wilfred on the roof. How was it shooting that?
When we shot that scene on the roof, in between takes, I said to [executive producer] David Zuckerman, "if someone in middle America had never heard of this show and was flipping through their channels one night and stumbled upon this scene. How could they change channels?" They couldn't. This is pretty engaging, for all its ridiculousness. That's what I think a lot of comedy comes from and what I enjoy is some of the intense emotions and drama that plays out with this conceit that this guy in a dog suit is having this intense conversation with this human. What happens when an audience and creators suspend reality and go along for the ride? It's interesting what can be comedic and what kind of emotions we can pull out of that whilst keeping this ridiculous conceit that I'm in this dog suit. It's fun.
Wilfred in some ways is a great friend and the worst friend. How does that complicate the relationship between Ryan and Wilfred?
Some relationships are like that aren't they? Often they are hard work and you have to wonder if the rewards are worth the hard work. Wilfred definitely has a real fondness for Ryan that is undeniable. A relationship between a human and their pet is pretty unique. There are not many relationships where you would walk around next to your friend with a plastic bag in your pocket, cleaning up after them or they wee on your bed and you take off the sheets and go and wash them and just accept it and cuddle them. Or watch them lick themselves and lick your face. Most people, if they did that to you, you'd shoot them.
Will Wilfred continue to sabotage Ryan?
Every time you think you know where it's heading then we will put a spin on that. There's a really strong arc that happens between these two guys over the season.
How do you make a relationship between a man and a man in a dog suit so believable?
My performance is always based in truth. And Elijah, he is just so consistent and authentic and genuine in his acting that between the two of use, we believe in it. People know when they are being bullshitted and when they are watching the scenes I guess they can't help but get invested emotionally in the scenes because of how deeply invested we are.
Is there anything coming up that you are excited for the viewers to see?
The whole show. When we are making it, I said to Elijah, "This is my favorite show. And I'm in it." The character Wilfred has really taken a massive step from the character that was in the short film and then the series. In this there is a lot more depth to his character. At one stage in the shooting David Zuckerman said to me, "I've noticed that Wilfred, in this show, has moments where he's a lot lighter and he's a lot more fun. I really like it." And I do too. I've really gotten to extend myself as an actor within this show. So I'm excited about that.
Have you been watching this hilarious dark comedy? Are you worried your dog is a foul-mouthed pot smoker? Is Wilfred helping Ryan or just making his life worse? Hit the comments and be sure to watch Wilfred on Thursdays at 10 p.m. on FX.