The dog days of summer are coming sooner than you think. On June 23, FX will unveil Wilfred, a surreal series about a suicidal former attorney (Elijah Wood) named Ryan, who sees his neighbor’s pooch not as a furry creature but rather as a rude dude in a dog suit (Jason Gann, who co-created the original Australian version of the show). To learn a little more about one of the more unusual shows to hit primetime in recent years, fetch a new issue of EW — and chew on these bonus quotes from Wood and Gann.
On Wilfred, Ryan’s questionable mentor
WOOD: There are motives, seemingly dark motives, underneath Wilfred’s directions occasionally, and then something will take a twist and pan out in a very different way than we expect or Ryan expects. Or perhaps he’ll take that path knowing that it’s not the right thing and then something positive will come out of it, which is always keeping it in question with whether or not the motives are genuinely pure or for Wilfred’s own interests. And I love that. There’s a real ambiguity.
GANN: His own purposes may be rooted in some sort of deep motivation or [he’s] just screwing with him. That’s part of one of the mysteries of Wilfred. We hope people discuss this and argue about what Wilfred is and what’s supposed to be happening…. Hopefully we raise questions to the audience: “Is Wilfred a figment of the imagination?”
GANN: This season, there is a recurring theme of recovery and different forms of recovery. We don’t go too far into the specific mental illness that Ryan may or may not have, but he is going through this journey. The series opens with him trying to commit suicide, so he’s already at rock bottom. And this season we see him try to climb his way back up and get back into society, and Wilfred either deliberately or inadvertently helps him do that.
WOOD: He recognizes the low he has hit. He was a lawyer for a number of years, but essentially he was only doing that to please his father. That is a massive sore spot for him. His relationship with his sister is fraught, particularly because she is another person in his life who’s trying to ultimately create his path for him, to tell him what he needs to do as opposed to what he thinks is best for himself. We’ll get more information about those relationships. But at the end of the pilot, he feels a sense of empowerment that he has someone who is genuinely looking out for him, and that’s Wilfred. And through that relationship, as troubled as it gets at times, he also feels like he’s trying to make a steady progression to clear himself up and to be happy.”
On why Wood signed on
WOOD: I was definitely interested in looking at the world of television to see what was out there, particularly in drama, because there are some incredible dramas being made on cable. I was also interested in doing comedy. I’d never had a chance to do comedy before, so I was reading a few comedy scripts. This was one of the last comedy scripts I read, and I just immediately fell in love with it. It was unlike anything I had ever read before. It’s incredibly strange and surreal and very, very funny. And the fact that it was at FX, I knew they would be open to taking risks.… It feels interesting to be working on something that is so different and I don’t think I’ve ever been so curious to see what people think.
On that dog suit
GANN: Whenever someone says, “How hot is it in there?,” I say, “It’s as hot as you would imagine it is.” There are days when I’m really hot, but we shoot on location, and there are some really cold nights and people are getting really cold and I’m just like, “Really? I’m not feeling it tonight.” … It’s always a scary experience [when] people that haven’t seen the show see me in the suit. But I’ve heard that from the beginning, since it was a short film in 2002. We had a crew of people I didn’t know, and everyone was looking at me and I could tell they had that same look in their face like, “I hope you know what you’re doing, mate, because you’re sitting there smoking a bong in a dog suit and your show’s called Wilfred and it doesn’t make a lot of sense to me right now.”
On the unique appeal of the show
GANN: We were shooting something about a month ago on the roof of this hospital. It’s pouring rain, and Wilfred may or may not have just pushed someone over the edge of the building, and Ryan’s trying to stop him, and these two are having this massive argument about life-or-death stakes, and you can see that this is probably going on inside this one guy’s mind. And I said to [exec producer David Zuckerman], “If someone in middle America were flipping through their TV stations and just happened upon that, how could they change channels?”