FX’s Wilfred, based on the Australian series of the same name, follows the life of Ryan (Elijah Wood), an introvert who is trying to find his way in life until he meets Wilfred (Jason Gann). The world sees Wilfred as a dog; Ryan seems him as a man in a cheap dog suit, who is trying to push Ryan out of his shell and into the world.
In this interview with Gann, who co-created the series and plays the role in both the U.S. and Australia, we get his take on the series.
How does this compare to the Australian show?
Jason Gann: It is such a different show. This show really is about the character Ryan. It is called Wilfred, and Wilfred drives each story but it is really about this guy and what is going on in his life. In the Australian version, it wasn’t that. It was about the relationship between a guy and a dog. And he heard him speak, but we didn’t really address it. In this show, we really try to work out what is going on and it could be either. In the writer’s room, David [Zuckerman, executive producer]and I battle it out. To me, Wilfred is real. I need him to be real. And in Wilfred’s world, he is real. I like that kind of magic element to him like this could really happen. Listening to a lot of fans, [they say], “I want a Wilfred. I want my dog to say that.” I am, “You really want that?”
But also, there is the suggestion of some sort of mental illness. I won’t go into what it is. I would press David and say, “What’s he got?” He would say, “I don’t want to say.” I’m, “He’s schizophrenic.” I actually wanted to go in to see a psychiatrist before the show came out and tell him, “My dog talks to me,” and see what he would diagnosis me as. It is probably too late now that the show is on. But we are kind of vague in that. But it is fun to play with the reality of what is going on and we really do twists and turns. It is as dense as Lost where we take the show and we love staying one step ahead of our audience, so as soon as someone thinks they know where the show is going… I read that someone said, “I get it, right? In the end, the dog always screws him over.” I am looking forward to seeing people’s response as the show goes on.
So are you a dog owner?
Jason Gann: I don’t have dogs. You see what I think about dogs. Wilfred is my dog. I have cats. They are so much easier. Dogs are more responsibility than kids. A kid you can send off to their mum’s and he stays there, because, obviously, I am not going to be with the mum.
How many dog suits do you have?
Jason Gann: Four.
How do you deal with that over the long days?
Jason Gann: People say, “How hot is it? How uncomfortable is it?” It is as hot and uncomfortable as it looks. I have to say at times it is really good, like when it is really cold. In Venice [Calif.] at night, people are all ragged up freezing, and I’m, “I’m not feeling it.” When it’s hot, I have this kind of cool look where I take the suit down and tie the arms around and wear a wife-beater. I call it sexy farmer.
Will you think about costuming before you take your next role?
Jason Gann: Yeah. That is why I resisted this at first, but I realized I had to find a way to enjoy it. But now there is so much love for Wilfred, and I am a Wilfred fan, I know that once I get in that thing and shoot for a while, it is going to be over soon. Now when I watch it, I don’t see me. I see Wilfred, so it is all worth it. I would do it again.
Is there any room in the show for any of the other characters to have a Wilfred of their own?
Jason Gann: You will have to wait and see.
Was this the first show you filmed in the U.S.? What was your biggest culture shock?
Jason Gann: Having my car impounded. Yeah. That wasn’t much fun.
Jason Gann: No, I crossed a double … I can’t believe that anyone would want to print this. You can drive with an Australian license in the U.S., but if you have got a car registered in your name, you need a California license. I was driving without a California license. They just took it straight in and I couldn’t get it out until I had a California license and because I was shooting Wilfred, I couldn’t. It cost me $5,900 to get it out. That was culture shock.
But, something that is more relevant to culture shock: When we were testing for the Ryan character and there were three final contestants, Elijah was one, and I was in the suit — I wanted to give the actors the best chance to play off me. So, I was sitting in the Twin Towers in Century City [Los Angeles] in Prospect Park’s offices and I am looking out and there is a row of producers, big television people. I am looking at Elijah Wood and I am looking out over Hollywood, and I am, “This is the moment I will never forget. This is ridiculous. This is a bad joke gone too far.” That was what Wilfred was. A bad joke gone too far. Ten years later I am here.
Wilfred airs Thursday nights at 10 p.m. on FX.