The show, a second season of which has just been commissioned, is based on an Australian short film and series of the same name, written by and starring comedian Jason Gann. Wood plays the part of Ryan, a washed-up former lawyer who lives next door to an attractive blonde, Jenna, and her dog, Wilfred (Gann). Everyone sees Wilfred as a normal dog, but Ryan - like the audience - sees a big Aussie bloke in a dog suit.
“I was immediately pleased that the original creator would be involved for the duration,” Wood says, “because oftentimes America has remade a number of English and Australian shows, and the quality and integrity is not always there.
“I’d never really read anything similar or seen anything like it on television. I just found it incredibly funny and multi-layered,” he adds.
After growing up with pet dogs, Wood also recognised the subtle dogisms that are crucial to the understated humour within the show. “One of the things I loved so much in the pilot, and it’s so simple, was him (Wilfred) walking into my living room and turning around three times before he sits down.”
Wilfred is produced by David Zuckerman (The Fresh Prince, Family Guy) and comparisons have been made with the 1950 film Harvey, starring James Stewart as a middle-aged man who befriends an invisible rabbit. It is a movie that also happens to be one of Wood’s favourites. “Oh, I love Harvey, I’ve seen it so many times. The notion of what psychologically is bringing about that imaginary friend, I find so interesting.”
Wilfred creator Gann also freely admits to being “baked” (high on marijuana) when he came up with the original idea for the show back in 2001, during a conversation with his friend (and later co-creator) Adam Zwar. The characters (including the dog) are regularly seen using a home-made bong in the show – an element that Wood feels is integral to the surrealism of Wilfred.
“What is happening and what is not happening is constantly in question and I love that. It is a bit bizarre, though, and that is certainly aided by copious amounts of marijuana.” Wood is quick to clarify at this point that he is talking about the characters’ rather than the actors’ drug use on set, to avoid any confusion.
It isn’t needed, but it shows how media savvy he has become in an already long acting career. He also laughs off the suggestion that he is wearing eyeliner in the show, or in any of his other roles – he’s charmed that RadioTimes.com was convinced of it.
The chemistry between the two leads is what makes Wilfred so watchable, and Wood credits the “shorthand” he developed with Gann for this, saying it often led to hilarity between takes. “I actually put on a part of the dog suit once, which freaked Jason out. I put on the head and took a photo of myself with it. He thought it was hilarious but he’s been living that thing for years and years, so it’s sort of an intimate relationship he has with it.”