WILFRED: Elijah Wood Talks New Characters and New Confidence
Wilfred is something, well…different. I started watching it on Hulu during Season One and didn’t quite get it initially. However, I know sometimes if I’m not in the right mood or frame of mind for something in one moment, it doesn’t mean I won’t be later. There are shows and films that really are just not for me and I know those when I see them. There was something about Wilfred though that made me want to ‘get it’. I adore Elijah Wood and have grown up alongside the thirty-one year old actor. My affinity for Elijah and such an admittedly odd concept for a show is what brought me back to Wilfred after giving myself some breathing room. This time, I got it.
Wilfred is one of the freshest, most original, deepest and heavily layered comedies, hell, television shows on air today. The subversiveness and symbolism, the psychology of the whole thing shows a lot of confidence in the viewing public on the part of Wilfred‘s writers. If you really take the time to enjoy the nuances and embrace the dark humor, then the faith that David Zuckerman and team have put in their audience will be rewarded.
This season Ryan is less quick to be fooled by Wilfred; he has more autonomy. There will be more opportunity for him to delve into his issues and look outside of Wilfred and Jenna with the addition of Stephen Weber as Ryan’s boss, Jeremy and Allison Mack of Smallville as new love interest Amanda. There are also some really great guest spots that Elijah eluded to, but couldn’t share with us. One of these guest spots was had by Robin Williams in the preview episode that you can see on VOD and Online currently and will air on FX this Thursday, June 21.
Interviewer: Wilfred is the Anti-Jiminy Cricket (my favorite and a quite apt description of Wilfred). Why does Ryan stay with Wilfred? Can you also speak a bit about improvisation in the show?
EW: Though Wilfred seems to be damaging, his schemes and lies end up with Ryan learning something, grow and advance as a person despite the mans of getting there. Ryan knows he’s on a path of self discovery and journey to find himself. Wilfred is still his best friend, the person he can rely on and makes Ryan truly who he is. As to improvisation, there is no improvisation, it is a finely tuned script. The pace doesn’t allow for improvisation.
Interviewer: Will we see more of Ryan’s dark side, and how did you like portraying it in finale Season One?
EW: It was great fun to play, it provided another layer that ultimately led him to the place we found him in at the beginning of the first season. He almost lost everything that was holding him together, he will not likely return there any time soon. We know that this exists and that this is what led to his initial downfall, the selfish activity and doing things he knew were wrong. This is how Wilfred came into his life in the first place.
Interviewer: Can you speak on the difference between working on film vs. working on television?
EW: Television moves exceptionally fast…I’m having to keep up. It’s all new to me being on a comedy and television show. Realizing it was in people’s homes every week was an interesting realization. With film, you go into theaters and then it kind of goes away. People are continually reacting to television.
Interviewer: How was working with Robin Williams?
EW: It was a treat. I’ve worked with him a number of times on Happy Feet. He is humble, hilarious and an icon. To bring him into our world was a total joy. It was the first time we had gotten to act opposite each other on screen and he had a wonderful time. He regaled people with stories and spent his time hanging out on set. He elevated our episode, it was a real treat.
Interviewer: Will Mary Steenburgen be back?
EW: She will be back. We love working with her. When she left it still seemed like she was working with us this whole time. She has the perfect mix of madness and sweetness for the character, and she gave great insight into where Ryan has come from.
Interviewer: How hard is it to keep a straight face when Jason (Gann) is doing things as Wilfred (humping, etc.)?
EW: I really rarely broke the first season in the hilarious, ridiculousness, but I have broken so much this season and am laughing so much more. Not sure if it’s the content or that I’m more comfortable; I can’t put my finger on it.
Interviewer: What is it about Wilfred that resonates so much with viewers?
EW: What I love most is that it (Wilfred) can be enjoyed on multiple levels and it is a multi-layered show. There are some episodes that aren’t as reliant on comedy, there is this underlying of cerebralness to the show. Then there is the funny idea of a man talking to another man in a dog suit. We have the opportunity to take interesting risks and have freedom to delve into more than other comedies. It feels to me like a breath of fresh air. At the end of the day it’s a guy talking to another guy in a dog suit smoking pot and that is intrinsically funny.
Interviewer: They kind of wrote you guys into a closet in Season One, how did you like how they ripped you out of it?
EW: I love how they did it but I think it was complicated to write. To leave people with a cliffhanger and then trying to figure out how best to come out of that was a challenge for David (Zuckerman). What I love is where it goes in the first season and we have a similar trajectory and become very multi-layered. Things get more complex further on in the season (Season Two). There is more of a push and pull this season. Ryan is trying to look ahead to what Wilfred says being a manipulation. Ryan is less passive and is a lot more active, trying to stay ahead of Wilfred. He is keen on where Wilfred might be taking him this season.
Interviewer: What were your favorite and most challenging roles and why?
EW: My favorite experience was Lord of the Rings because it was such a unique opportunity and experience. It was a very special experience to me. Turning point in acting for me was The Ice Storm. I had never had that challenge before and it was very immersive. It was a massive growing experience. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind was another favorite; it was a piece of art I was in love with. I would have been happy doing catering on the film. Pawn Shop Chronicles is an amazing film, it reminded me what a gift it is I get to do what I do. I’m lucky to still be working at thirty-one.
Interviewer: When will Ryan start to “dig” again?
EW: We find ourselves back in Wilfred’s space at the beginning of the season. The existential questions come up again as the season progresses. I love the preview episode. I love the comedy too, but we will definitely be heading back into more of what you have seen in this first preview episode as well. Amanda represents a connection to normalcy outside of Wilfred and Jenna. Being in the workspace gets him out of his house and allows him to grow and connect with people. It will be an interesting arc this season.
Interviewer: Is there something you would like to see happen on the show that hasn’t yet?
EW: I would love to see Ryan as Wilfred at some point in some kind of strange existential dream. I always thought that would be really weird. I have an idea of where I want it to go and how I would like it to end. My favorite elements are when the show gets really trippy where you can’t tell what is real and what isn’t. I’d like to explore symbolism and putting the audience in a place where they don’t know what is going on.
Interview: Was it hard to get back into Frodo?
EW: What was surprising was how normal it felt. It felt like no time had passed and we were working on Lord of the Rings.
Interviewer: It seems that though Wilfred is the catalyst, Ryan works his issues out with other characters like father issues worked out with his boss (Steven Weber), Jenna issues worked out with Allison (Ally) Mac (hot coworker)
EW: There is real depth with Allison in this role and working with Stephen Weber is great. Jenna infatuation is an infatuation and Allison’s character offers the possibility of real connection. She gets him in a way that Jenna does not. The shadow of his father is felt a lot this season. I don’t know that he is necessarily working father issues out with his boss.
As we’ve seen time and time again, FX has proven they are an innovator in television programming and Wilfred is no exception. There are a lot of exciting things going on this season, big names, big changes and big laughs on Wilfred. The Season Two preview episode premieres this Thursday, June 21, 2012 at 10:30 PM E/P and moves to it’s normal time on Thursday, June 28, 2012 at 10PM E/P on FX.
What kind of animal would your “Wilfred” be? Answer in the Comments section below!