The FX comedy Wilfred has returned for Season 3, and Ryan (Elijah Wood) is still learning how to overcome his fears and embrace the unpredictability and insanity of the world around him. As Ryan struggles to make his way through life, the one constant is his unique friendship with his neighbor’s canine pet, which he happens to see as a crude Australian (Jason Gann) in a cheap dog suit.
During this recent interview to promote the show’s third season, actor Elijah Wood talked about keeping a sense of ambiguity, as to what Wilfred is, that he has his own idea for what Wilfred actually is, how he believes the show has to be resolved or move in a certain direction, at a certain point, how the sense of growth over three seasons helps keep the character fresh for him, his favorite moment from this season, how it’s been harder for him to keep a straight face, the importance of Bear to the story, what it was like to have Lance Reddick (Fringe, The Wire) play Ryan’s therapist, and how he tried on the dog suit for himself, this year. Check out what he had to say after the jump, and be aware that there are some spoilers.
ELIJAH WOOD: We don’t really address that head-on, any further in this season, but I think it’s always been there, even if we haven’t talked about it. It was interesting to see Ryan, in the first episode, addressing it for the first time and being self-aware that that could potentially be the reason for Wilfred’s existence. From here on out, having established that as a possibility, it will always be there, as a way to potentially look at each of the scenarios that he gets himself into with Wilfred. But, because we don’t outright answer it outright, there’s still a sense of ambiguity, as to what Wilfred is. And it’s important for the show that we don’t necessarily answer that question.
Do you have your own answer, for why Ryan sees Wilfred?
WOOD: I do, yeah. I have an idea. I’ve made up my mind as to what I think Wilfred is. I don’t know that that’s reflective of what the character has decided, though. When Ryan meets Wilfred in the first season, it’s really in a way that he just accepts Wilfred’s existence. From there on out, even though there are these questions, and he does question what Wilfred is, there’s a deeper level of acceptance and recognizing that Wilfred’s purpose, albeit uncertain, as to where he’s manifesting from and what it means. I don’t know what Ryan has decided, but I have an idea. I think that perspective probably does help me in playing the character, but overall, there’s just a sense of general acceptance for Ryan.
Do you think Wilfred should have a fixed ending point, or can it just continue on indefinitely?
WOOD: That’s a very good question. I think that the structure of the show is such that it’s about a guy who is essentially in recovery, and trying to figure out what his path in life is. This manifestation of Wilfred has provided a push for him to figure that out. So, I think that can only really last for so long, to believe that we are dealing with a man who is struggling for answers to these questions, in this existential period of his life, and in recovery. I don’t know that we can believe that for 10 seasons. To a certain degree there, has to be a resolve or a move in a certain direction. So, I don’t know. To the fairness of the construct of the show, I think it can only survive for so long. I would hate to make the show carry on for too long and have it not necessarily support what we’ve created.
WOOD: I think the idea of playing someone who has effectively hit a wall in his life and is trying to rebuild himself and help himself, definitely provides a lot to work with. There is a sense of growth, over the course of three seasons now, and I think that keeps me excited. But, it’s also fun to work in the context of what we’ve created. And it’s always exciting to work with Jason. I find it inspiring and always exciting, as an actor, to be working opposite him, for everything that he comes up with.
When you develop a character for episodic television, do you take a different approach, as opposed to when you’re working on a film?
WOOD: Not really. The predominant difference between television and film is the pace to which you work, but the development of the character or the process for playing the character isn’t necessarily different. The other main difference between film and television is that you have the opportunity to flush out a character, over a longer period of time. Whereas with a film, you’re confined to two or three hours, or whatever it may be.
Do you have a favorite moment, from this season?
WOOD: In Episode 3, the caper aspect of that episode, between Wilfred and Ryan, was something that we experienced, for the first time this season, and that was something that we all really loved. I love the idea of Ryan and Wilfred not always being in a combative relationship, but rather actually working toward something together. It was a blast. It was really fun, particularly that scene where we bust in to the guy’s car. I think that’s something that we’d like to continue doing.
WOOD: Oh, yeah! And even more this season, oddly enough, than other seasons. For some reason, I busted up more this season, because of what Jason was doing, than ever before. I’m so used to seeing him in the dog suit and, but it still definitely serves to make me laugh. It’s a wonderful environment to work in. All of us, as a crew, are constantly laughing. It makes it pretty wonderful to go in to work to that, every day.
Can you address the importance of Bear to the story?
WOOD: I think Bear is an important character for Wilfred. The fact that Wilfred has an independent relationship that is not reflective of his relationship with Ryan adds something to the show, and it adds something to Wilfred’s own existence. It’s obvious that it also provides a great amount of comedy because it’s a hilarious relationship that is extremely curious and strange. It’s also reflective of the notion of dogs having an obsession with a certain stuffed animal because that happens with dogs. It works on all those levels, but at the end of the day, it’s also just really funny that he’s carrying on these conversations that in some ways mirror the Ryan and Wilfred relationship. We never get to see the outside perspective of Ryan talking to a dog and, in some ways, we get to see what that perspective is like, with Wilfred talking to a stuffed animal that can’t talk.
Last season, you had that awesome dance number. Are you going to do anything to outdo that, this season?
WOOD: I don’t think we do anything to outdo the dance, no. That was pretty incredible. It was an incredible undertaking because, in the midst of working on an intensive season, we were also trying to squeeze in dance lessons to learn this very choreographed dance thing. That was a real challenge, feeling like we didn’t have enough time to do it properly. In some ways, when we didn’t have something like that this season, I was quite relived. But, that was a blast. It was awesome to do.
With all of the wacky, fun and sometimes dark situations that Ryan and Wilfred have gotten into, so far in the series, has there been anything that’s gotten the most reaction, either from fans or from friends?
WOOD: The Jane Kaczmarek episode, from the first season, stands out. That definitely was a little shocking and extremely funny. That episode stands out for me, with the sex montage between what Jane and I are doing, and then what Wilfred is doing with the giraffe. I remember shooting that and thinking, “Wow, we’re doing this! Are we going to get away with this?” I’m constantly surprised at the things that we get away with, and I think it’s part of what makes our show fun to watch, too.
What’s it been like to work with the baby?
WOOD: I love that Ryan, in his condition, shouldn’t be carrying around a baby. It was actually a mixture of working with a real live baby, and also having a fake baby, as well. For the majority of that work, we didn’t have a baby on the set, but we did have a baby on the set for some of it. We were very lucky with the baby. We actually had twins, and they were amazing. They’re really easy to deal with, except that one of them, oddly enough, was petrified of Jason in the dog suit. If we wanted tears, it was easy because the baby would be petrified. When you work with babies, and sometimes animals, too, it’s always a little unpredictable. You almost anticipate it being difficult, and it really wasn’t. We were really lucky.
WOOD: The baby will be featured more. We’ve definitely established some relationship between the baby and Wilfred, at this point, so we explore that a little bit more. The reality is that Ryan’s sister has a baby, so the baby will be around.
What can you say about Lance Reddick playing Ryan’s therapist?
WOOD: It provides a really fun and interesting exploration of Ryan’s psyche. That’s an episode that I’m really excited about. Working with Lance was fantastic. Especially with him being from The Wire, everybody was very excited to have him on set. And I think he was really psyched, as well, so that was fun. It was cool to have Ryan in a therapy situation, recognizing that he might actually need some outside help and some outside perspective. It provides a really fun conduit for some mental exploration.
Is there a theme for the season that will tie all the episodes together?
WOOD: Well, I think that with every season, we’ve addressed scenes and elements of the entire season, towards the end, and we’ll continue on a sense of searching and questioning. I think that there are certain things that get a little bit tied up, and then new questions arise out of that. In the same way that we’ve dealt with tying up elements of what the characters have been going through, we will continue that in this season, as well.
Have you had any particularly funny fan interactions?
WOOD: I actually haven’t. I’ve seen photos of people dressed as Wilfred on Instagram, or on various social media. But, I haven’t been out during Halloween and seen people dressed up, so I have yet to have that experience. I think Jason has. Jason actually went to a Halloween party, last year, and saw someone dressed as Wilfred, which must have been really surreal for him, just given the fact that he’s been playing that character for so long. But, it’s great. People definitely have embraced the show, and it’s always fun to see it bleed into pop culture, a little bit.
Have you ever tried on the dog suit, just out of curiosity?
WOOD: For the first time, this year, I did. It’s funny, I don’t know why I had never tried it on before. I think that I was always curious, but I felt like there’s something a little bit sacred about the suit. Maybe out of respecting Jason’s character and that it’s Jason’s suit, I didn’t ever try it on, or wasn’t moved to try it on before. We actually filmed a little behind the scenes thing this year, and they wanted me to put the suit on for a specific thing that we were doing. Jason was like, “Yeah it’s fine,” so I got the go ahead, and that’s why I ultimately tried it on. It was surreal to see myself in that suit. We talked about the idea of maybe doing a dream sequence. I love the idea of the tables being flipped a little bit. What if Ryan suddenly wakes up and sees himself as Wilfred. Potentially, there’s a melding of the two there.
Do you have a dream role that you’d still love the opportunity to do?
WOOD: I don’t know if I really think in terms of dream roles, but I haven’t really played a romantic lead. That would be something that I would enjoy. When I look forward, I don’t really think in terms of specific roles that I’m looking for, beyond looking for things that I’ve never done or new challenges. Sometimes my interest in working on a film is not always dictated specifically by the character. Sometimes it’s simply about wanting to be a part of a vision that I love, or a script that I love. I find exciting and gratifying.
Wilfred airs on Thursday nights on FX.