If you haven’t seen BBC3’s dark comedy Wilfred, you’re missing out. Spend half an hour perusing its delights and you’ll witness Lord of the Rings star Elijah Wood acting alongside Jason Gann dressed up in a giant dog suit. The premise for such hilarity? Wood plays Ryan – a washed-up former lawyer intent on ending his life until he meets his neighbour Jenna’s pet pooch Wilfred, who he happens to see as a talking, pot-smoking lout dressed in a furry canine outfit. Following the show’s series two finale, RadioTimes.com caught up with Elijah to hear all about on-set hilarities, gate-crashing the filming of American Idol and the future of his surreal comedy…
For the benefit of Wilfred novices, can you describe your character Ryan in three words…
Confused, unsettled and (hopefully) perseverant.
Poor Jason Gann has to dress up every day in a giant dog suit – does he have more than one?
Yes, there are several suits that get rotated. There’s a finely-coiffed one which Jason puts on when Wilfred is meant to be freshly groomed – often in the context of a dinner party or some event where he needs to look presentable – and then we have a couple of regular suits that get rotated when they get too smelly.
Does acting alongside his ridiculous get-up ever become normal?
It totally has – it doesn’t seem surreal to me at all anymore. I suppose, like my character, I’ve accepted it as a part of my reality. Although last year Jason and I went to American Idol and sat in the audience which was very odd, especially considering the fact that he was in the dog suit. It was in that moment – in a separate context – that I was able to look at it objectively and think, this is strange…
Is that the weirdest scene you’ve filmed?
There are plenty of bizarre moments. We deal in the surreal on the show with nearly every episode so I don’t know if there’s one that stands out. On a weekly basis I take a step back from ridiculous moments and think, “f**k, at the end of the day this could very easily be my character in a closet talking to himself”.
Do you have a favourite episode?
The Bruce episodes are my favourites. It gets so much more surreal because there’s suddenly this other character [Bruce] who can also converse with Wilfred and is somehow playing with Ryan’s mind as well. They seem to be working in tandem but they’re enemies. The whole mythology of that to me is so bizarre and wonderful.
It could be argued that the concept of the show gets old after a couple of series – how do you think creators Jason Gann and David Zuckerman will avoid that in the newly-commissioned season three?
All of us have a mind to keeping it as fresh as possible. I think with the construct being what it is, I can’t imagine it being a super long-running show because it relies upon the lack of sanity and the constant state of recovery that my character is in and I don’t forsee that lasting for eight seasons. The audience who watch and love Wilfred are really savvy and they pick up on elements of the show that may be re-treading similar ground. I think that’s something David and I are really conscious of – not to simply rely on the tropes that we’ve established thus far.
I love the idea behind the show and I always hoped it would be similar to a British comedy series where it would tell a story and be done with it, as opposed to the typically American thing which is to beat something into the ground over and over. I’m not interested in that.
Is British television something you enjoy?
Very much so. I don’t keep up with it regularly so I tend to be slightly behind what’s currently airing, but I’ve always loved British comedy and television – the level of quality is pretty extraordinary and the writing is so good.
We’re living in this amazing golden era of cable television – I don’t remember ever having so many shows that I follow and watch so religiously. I love The Walking Dead, Mad Men, Breaking Bad, American Horror Story – to name a few. I’m still trying to catch up on things that I’ve missed but there are some amazing shows right now – it’s a really exciting time.