After a season of laughs and outrageous hilarity, the FX series Wilfred ended Season 1 with some shocking revelations, leaving the mental sanity of Ryan (Elijah Wood) in question. About a young man struggling unsuccessfully to make his way in the world until he forms a unique friendship with his neighbor’s canine pet, which he happens to see as a crude Australian (Jason Gann) in a cheap dog suit, the half-hour live-action comedy shows how that dog can teach a man to overcome his fears and joyfully embrace the unpredictability and insanity of the world around him.
As a big fan of the series myself, I am quite anxious to see where things pick back up and how those questions will be answered, when Season 2 premieres on June 28th. In the meantime, you can check out this exclusive interview with Collider to read what Elijah Wood had to say about what’s in store in the coming season, how he likes to keep a certain amount of space for interpretation instead of more definitive answers, getting to see more of Ryan’s family, enjoying the fast pace of shooting an episode in four days, not breaking into laughter while shooting, how surprised he is with some of the things they get away with, and what they learned from doing Season 1 that has made Season 2 easier. He also talked about what it was like to return to Hobbiton to reprise his The Lord of the Rings role for The Hobbit, and how cool it was to get to see the scene playback in 3D while still on set. Hit the jump for more.
Collider: With all of the big questions left in the Season 1 finale, how quickly will fans get answers when the show returns?
ELIJAH WOOD: Well, 95% of the answer to what happened in the last episode will be resolved with the other 5% adding new questions that will carry through into the season. The bulk of what happened and where it’s left will ultimately get resolved, mostly in the first episode.
Were you surprised by where things ended up?
WOOD: We talked pretty openly, during the process. The idea of the basement being potentially a figment of Ryan’s imagination occurred mid-season. It was an idea that (executive producer) David [Zuckerman] had, so I was aware of that. And then, he came up with the concept for what the finale would be, and that the last two episodes were together. It wasn’t so much a surprise because I was involved in the conversation, but I was so excited. I think where the show went, in the last part of the season, from Episode 7 or 8 on, is my favorite element of the show. The show reached heights that I had dreamed that it would, getting a little bit more cerebral and a little bit more surreal whilst being very funny and also getting into a little bit more of the psychosis of the character, and I love that. I loved the episode where there’s potentially another imaginary friend. All of those mind games were fascinating to me. That’s the element of the show that I love the most. I’m hoping that the show continues to take that path.
Will viewers get to see more of Ryan’s family in Season 2?
WOOD: We’ll definitely see my mom, provided that Mary [Steenburgen] comes back, which would be an honor. She was one of our favorite people to work with. Each episode is about four days, so it’s a really short amount of time. She was with us for three days, and yet it felt like she had been with us the entire time. She just has such a beautiful spirit and she’s an absolute delight. There was a void left when she left. It was amazing. The plan is to revisit the mother character because it’s an important relationship. It was important, in the evolution of the Ryan character, to relate him to his family. Finding out who the mother is and what she’s going through really informed upon the character.
Do you think there will be any more definitive answers, as to whether this runs in the family?
WOOD: I don’t know. In some ways, I feel like that would be the simplest answer, and I don’t think we’re ever trying to go a simple route with explaining what’s happening. We always want to keep a certain amount of space there for guessing and interpretation. If we delve too heavily into it being a family trait and it’s just psychosis or a mental illness, it too easily answers it and it ceases to have legs to continue to tell the story. I’m sure we will explore a little bit more of that, but Ryan’s journey is unique to Ryan. I think there will always be a sense of discovery and not quite knowing what’s happening to him.
Do you feel like, in order to get involved in this show, you have to really just give yourself over to this insane concept, as a viewer, and go on the ride with it, so that you get to a point where the bigger answers don’t really matter anymore?
WOOD: Yeah, it’s cool. The first episode does that so well. I think we were all a little bit surprised that people were able to get it, right away, but part of that is due to a certain acceptance of what is happening and almost forgetting that it’s bizarre, after awhile. They’re just two characters talking to each other. One of them happens to be potentially a figment of the other person’s imagination, but you sort of almost forget that and accept it, as Ryan accepts it. The whole show is sort of from Ryan’s perspective. Wilfred exists for Ryan, and Ryan exists for Wilfred. We, as an audience, see what Ryan sees. In that regard, Ryan accepts him, almost within the first couple of days, so we accept him as well. Some of those larger existential questions are there, but in some ways, it doesn’t matter.
What’s it like to go from a TV show, where you shoot an episode in four days, to shooting The Hobbit, where you’re working with the height of technology, with 3D cameras that shoot 48 fps?
WOOD: Oh, you know what you’re talking about. It’s all filmmaking, whether it’s on a small scale or it’s on a large scale. The thing that’s great about The Hobbit is that, returning to that space, it’s largely the same group of people who had made The Lord of the Rings – a lot of the same crew members and creative heads of departments, and stuff. I was definitely aware of the fact that there were more trucks now and more trailers, and the production feels larger in scale. On a technological level, obviously that’s a huge part of it, as well. But, at the end of the day, it’s still the same group of people, making it very much in the same spirit as The Lord of the Rings, so that intimacy and that family aspect on set is still the same.
That’s a long way to explain that I think the differences aren’t really that different. It’s still filmmaking. It’s still approaching it from the same perspective. One just happens to be on a much larger scale. But, it’s pretty cool. The technology is amazing. It’s funny, you suddenly just accept things. I suppose I’ve been working for a long time, so I’ve seen all kinds of filmmaking. I can fit into anything, and it doesn’t feel that weird or that fascinating. For instance, I was on set for The Hobbit, in Peter’s little tent where he has the monitor that he watches, you’re watching it in 3D. That is amazing, but at the same time, you’re like, “Oh, okay, that’s what we’re doing here.” It’s an odd sense of just tuning into it and accepting it, but it’s totally amazing. And, it’s really cool to see the 3D on set, and to know what the images ultimately look like.
The technology is so good now. I remember, years and years and years ago, video assist was really rudimentary and watching playback was so rudimentary. It only gave you a sense of what the image was really going to look like, especially when you were shooting on film and getting a video feed. Until you actually see dailies, you can’t see what the image looks like. Now, because The Hobbit is being shot digitally, we’re seeing a full HD image, in 3D, pretty much exactly as it’s going to look when it’s thrown up onto a big screen. That’s amazing! And, it takes a lot of the guesswork out of it. They can do a lot of the tweaking on the day, which is really cool.
You guys all commemorated your experience on The Lord of the Rings by getting tattoos. Did you do anything to commemorate your experience on The Hobbit, or was it just too short?
WOOD: It was too short. My involvement is so small. It was a gift to go back and return. I was in Hobbiton again, for the first time in 11 years. I turned 19 in Hobbiton. I’m 30 now. That put a lot of things into perspective. It was beautiful. It was just beautiful to go back. I only worked a small amount when I was there. I was there for a month, and the majority of my time was just going to set every day and meeting a lot of the new cast members and catching up with old friends and being in Wellington again. It feels like home, and those people feel like extended family to me. It was such a treat to go back. It was awesome!
Were you looking forward to returning to the fast pace of the show for Season 2?
WOOD: Yes. It almost feels like vacation to me. I love the crew that we have. I love Randall [Einhorn], our director. The cast is amazing. We had so much fun making the first season. I almost feel like I’m going away to summer camp when we go back to work. And it all films in L.A. I get to be home the whole time, and continue going to work, every day, and laughing my ass off. It’s a total treat. It’s a gift to be a part of this show. I’m excited about where it’s going this season.
Is it hard not to completely lose it, during some of the scenes that you do?
WOOD: I was surprised how little I broke in a scene. I rarely did, actually, which is funny. Between Jason [Gann] and I, it’s just full-on commitment to whatever ridiculous fuckin’ thing we’re doing, from moment to moment. Funnily enough, I didn’t break until the 11th or 12th episode, and it was something totally innocuous. Jason said something that was not meant to be a huge joke. It was just a really simple end line. But, the way he delivered it, I lost it. That was the only time I remember really losing it, and he even looked at me like, “Over that?!” It was the most totally innocuous, simple, end-of-the-scene line, and I lost it. Jason is so funny!
Have you had any weird moments, shooting out on location, with people wondering what’s going on?
WOOD: I’m sure we have, but oddly enough, I think I lost awareness for that, really quickly. I took the character of Wilfred for granted because I see him every day. In some ways, I forgot that people might see Wilfred and think it’s strange. I almost became like Ryan. It was so normal to me. And Jason in that suit was so normal to me. When we did that funny thing where we got to sit in the audience at American Idol, and Jason was there in the Wilfred suit and we were surrounded by the public, and it was only then that I was like, “Oh, yeah, this is weird!” And it must be weird for Jason. A fair amount of people have seen the show now, so those bizarre situations won’t happen anymore. People will be like, “Oh, it’s Wilfred!”
With such a crazy production schedule, did you learn things from doing the first season that make things easier, in subsequent seasons?
WOOD: Yeah, I knew I wanted to figure out a balance, this time around. When I work, I disappear into work, which I like to do, and sometimes I don’t really have a choice. It’s not a conscious thing. It’s just total devotion to what I’m doing. Part of it, with this, is that we’re doing eight to 10 pages of dialogue a day, so the only time I can really learn it is the night before, or a couple days in advance, and it’s a constantly moving thing. It doesn’t stop. So, I found that I had no time to do anything else. I laugh about it now because I went into the first season thinking, “Oh, it films in L.A. I’m going to be home this whole time. It will be this great balance of doing this really fun show and being home and seeing friends.” I didn’t see anybody. My friends were like, “Where did you go?!” So, I wanted to find a little bit more of a balance because I’ve been through the intensity of it, but I love how quickly we work and how quickly we move. There’s an inherent kinetic energy to that pace that lent itself very well to the style of the show that we’re making. It was a constant sense of energy and movement that worked perfectly for the show. It’s fun!
Are you surprised with some of the things you get away with, or do you think the fact that this guy is in a dog suit really helps you get away with what you do?
WOOD: That totally helps us get away with the things we get away with. There’s no way we could have gotten away with that sex montage, if it wasn’t a man in a dog suit and a stuffed animal. Yeah, I was surprised that we got away with some of that, in that episode. I’m always a little bit surprised. Now that we’ve gotten through that first season and we were able to push the envelope a little bit with our content, I’m sure we’ll continue down that path. I have to say that it’s all due to FX. Their support of the show and their faith in what we’re trying to do, and the creative and artistic freedom that we’re afforded, is just extraordinary. I can’t imagine making this show anywhere else. It’s really wonderful.
I don’t think I would have really been interested in the show, if it weren’t on a cable network. I think it would be sanitized, and I don’t think it would be as interesting. I just don’t think it would play or work. Aside from the obvious content things that we’re able to get away with, we’re also able to get away with episodes that aren’t overly reliant on comedy. Some of the latter episodes were more dramatic than they were comedic, and the network was 100% behind it. That, for me, was the most refreshing. The content is fun and we do ridiculous things that we get away with, but the fact the network was so supportive of us not always having to drive home a sense of comedy and having to have jokes all the time and actually being able to tell stories was the most exciting and invigorating. That’s what elevates our show. That’s what makes our show unique.
Wilfred will air on Thursday nights on FX, starting on June 28th.