'Wilfred' Stars Share Season 1 Secrets from One of TV's Quirkiest Shows
by Annette Bourdeau, posted Oct 30th 2011 2:00PM
Jason Gann has just curled up on my lap. I'm not sure why I'm so surprised. He does, after all, play a dog on the popular show 'Wilfred,' co-starring Elijah Wood. Unsure of what to do, I awkwardly pat his head.
"OK, that's enough of that!" he says, and jumps over to his designated chair across from me. The lovely actress who plays Wilfred's owner on the show, Fiona Gubelmann, takes the seat next to him. She looks at Gann, laughs and shakes her head, as Gann is now feigning sleep as he stretches out clumsily on his chair.
The two are in Toronto to promote the launch of FX Canada, the network that carries their show about an unbalanced young man named Ryan (Wood) who sees his attractive neighbor's (Gubelmann) dog Wilfred as a scruffy man in a filthy dog costume (Gann). Naughty Wilfred encourages Ryan to do bad-yet-exciting things like blow off work and break into their obnoxious neighbor's house.
'Wilfred' originally began as a Australian short film by Gann and his buddy Adam Zwar. From there, it blossomed into a hugely popular Australian TV show, also starring Gann in the title role. Season 1 of the U.S. version aired stateside last year, and will run in Canada starting on Monday.
Once we jolted Gann out of his fake slumber, AOL TV chatted with him and Gubelmann about Wilfred's history, working with Elijah Wood and what Wilfred may or may not get up to with notable guest stars like Mary Steenburgen ('Curb Your Enthusiasm') and Jane Kaczmarek ('Malcolm in the Middle').
Jason, going way back, can you tell me about how the concept was born?
JG: Going waaaay back. Waaaay back! I'm getting sleepy [feigns being hypnotized]. I'm in Melbourne, Australia. I'm seeing my friend Adam. He's telling me a story about a dog he once knew. Now I'm performing as the dog, and we are saying this could be a film. Wait, it could be a TV show! What happened? Did I pass out again?
FG: I think you got possessed.
JG: Whoa! That's what happened. It became a short film. There were mad fans about the short. So here we are. It's been a long, strange road. We just couldn't have predicted it.
How has the character of Wilfred evolved, between the short film and now with the American series?
JG: He's grown up with me a lot. It was a really difficult period in my life when I made Wilfred, they were dark days. As a result the character of Wilfred is a dark, unhappy dog. These days I still have a lot of that darkness, but I have a lot of light and joy and fun. I think that comes out in the character. I'm really excited about that. That wasn't a plan, that just happened as we were working on the show. I think working with Elijah and Fiona also really informed that. They are just such lovely people to be with. The other people are assholes, so it was easy to be a prick to them! No, I don't mean that.
Can you think of any anecdotes that really illustrate what working with Elijah is like?
FG: When we had our table read for Wilfred, it was at the Fox lot. I was petrified. I showed up about half an hour early to get parking, and there was this crazy line to get onto the lot. After about 20 minutes I finally got into the structure, and I can't find any spots! I see Elijah looking, too. He rolls down his window and smiles and laughs and asks, 'What do we do?' Elijah just drove off the lot, parked in the neighborhood and walked back. He's so laid-back, he didn't care, he had no ego about it. I've worked with other people who would have been like 'I can't believe I had to drive around like that!' But he didn't care. That's pretty much Elijah. He's so kind, very laid-back and sweet and easy to work with.
JG: [Feigns sleep] I'm sorry, I think I fell asleep during that long story!
FG: I'm going to punch you! [Laughs]
JG: Never tell that story again! This had better be a full-page spread if you're going to tell that story. Well in the pilot, there's a scene where the guy comes home on his motorbike and we've just stolen the weed plants and Wilfred has said he couldn't open the gate and jumps over easily. Elijah climbs up the fence and trips on the bins and falls over backwards. He was falling down and just threw himself into it. And that's the thing, Elijah has no fear. As an actor and as a guy, he'll just throw himself into anything.
When you first started working together and didn't know each other as well, were there any awkward moments where you're treating him like a dog?
JG: Tell the story about your audition, when you looked at me.
FG: No, you do it, you're better.
JG: No, it's better coming from you.
FG: Ok. In my audition --
JG: [Interrupts] So basically what happens is I'm behind the desk as producer, auditioning her, and she comes in and as soon as she starts reading she's talking to the reader, and when it came time to refer to Wilfred she starts acting off me. She's obviously researched the role and recognized me as the dog.
FG: [Laughing] No, I recognized him from the Australian pilot. And I start saying the lines to him, while he's sitting not in costume amidst all these producers.
JG: And then I'm in the scene! I don't have a choice. I'm having to act. And afterwards she was really apologetic. But it was actually one of the things that warmed us to her. Then she was asked to do another take, and this time she didn't look at me and I said 'What, am I out of the f--kin' scene now? Have I been cut?'
I read an interview where you said Fiona stood out because she didn't talk down to Wilfred like a dog...
JG: Yes. Some people really went over the top like 'oh, you good dog!' and some people, when I'd be standing right next to them, they'd gesture at another dog that was supposed to be on the ground. Fiona just had that right mix of making it look like an owner and a dog, but it could also be a romantic, flirty kind of thing. For me, Wilfred is in love with Jenna. She wasn't wearing a wedding ring at the audition, so I'm thinkin'... [Laughs]
I know we're running out of time, so quickly what can Canadian audiences expect from Season 1 of the American version?
JG: Oh, since we're running short on time I'd better field this one.
JG: No, no. Go for it!
FG: Wilfred's not like anything out there. It's unique. It's bizarre, it's very dark. It has a lot of heart. And it's very funny and dirty.
JG: Ooooh yeaaaaah. Wilfred and the mom from 'Malcolm in the Middle.' Wilfred and Ted Danson's missus...
'Wilfred' premieres on FX Canada on Monday, October 31 at 11PM ET/PT.