Wilfred, which returns this evening, is not only one of those television series that asks you to take a leap of the imagination, but to uniquely embrace the oddities of both human and canine nature.
Thanks to the vision of Jason Gann, who plays Wilfred and co-created the series with Adam Zwar (the duo also created the original Aussie series of the same name), the FX show has found an audience.
I talked to Gann last week to get the scoop on the Wilfred Season 3, as well as ask about the mystery the show confronts in the new episodes – how long has Wilfred been a part of depressed Ryan’s (Elijah Wood) life?
TV Fanatic: Because this is such a not-so-traditional sitcom, how do you think of a new season? Do you think of story arcs? Or what you want to do that just makes you laugh?
Jason Gann: This year we really decided to focus on more episodes that would stand alone that would just be funny but, also, we had to give service to the series arc that we’ve been developing all this time. That’s always a challenge but we wanted to service the story that we’ve already got and service all our characters. We’ll talk about what’s happened in the stories so far and where it needs to go and then we’ll talk about the characters and where they need to go. And then we go one episode at a time and knock them out.
TVF: The mystery surrounding Wilfred and how long he’s actually been a part of Ryan’s life is great. How much will that pop out throughout the season?
JG: It will pop up fairly frequently during the season but we really take it somewhere great at the end of the season, which we can’t ignore it anymore. We really need to address it next season. It’s a really cool cliffhanger. I think it’s our coolest one yet.
But from the start David Zwar and I talked about in season one what Wilfred was and David was confident that Wilfred was a conjured up from Ryan’s imagination because of his mental illness and I came from an angle that Wilfred was a magical being. And we really wanted to see how far we could take the show. At the end of last season, David said to me after two seasons of debating, he said ‘You know what? I’m starting to come around to this magical being thing.’ I think that’s why we’ve started to toy and play with what Wilfred might be. Really push the boundaries of what Wilfred could be.
TVF: I love Stinky (a clone of Wilfred – also played by Gann – that we meet in the second episode) a little too much. [Gann laughs] How did you come up with his accent and attitude?
JG: It’s funny, we have so many ideas that we pitch and a lot of them don’t fit the story and don’t make it but over the years they tend to come back. I was pitching back in season 1 a story of an evil twin where they go to England and Wilfred discovers he has a long lost brother and then they trade places like the movie with Lindsay Lohan [The Parent Trap]…the character is a lot of fun to play and he was only meant to appear in the one episode but when we were shooting it we said we’ll have to bring Stinky back for some episodes.
TVF: What will it mean for Wilfred now that Jenna (Fiona Gubelmann) and Drew (Chris Klein) are back from their honeymoon?
JG: Jenna and Drew’s relationship has a lot of problems and they jumped into marriage so their problems will continue and come to a head. Something happens which puts in jeopardy Ryan’s relationship with Drew and also Wilfred. There’s a chance of Ryan and Wilfred being split up. I think there’s a little bit of that love triangle element of Wilfred-Ryan-Jenna and we play with that a little more this year.
TVF: The US version has already run longer than the Australian version. Is this the direction you saw the show going?
JG: We only did 16 episodes in Australia and we’ve shot 39 here but this feels like the show it was always meant to be. Wilfred, the show, always was what it was but the Australian version feels like the freshman version and prepared me for this.
The characters have changed so much, even the character of Wilfred has changed. I get to do a lot of crazy stuff. Adam Zwar, who was on the original show with me, he talked to me recently and he said it reminded him of when we were in college twenty years ago and all the crazy characters I played… I see Wilfred as the Hamlet of Dogs. I really get to do some crazy, fun things. I just love the show.
Wilfred airs Thursdays at 10 p.m. on FX.