Elijah Wood and Jason Gann in Wilfred. Photo credit: FX
In part two of our exclusive interview with Jason Gann, creator of FX’s hit series Wilfred and the man who plays Wilfred, he dishes about David Zuckerman, Wilfred’s future and if we’ll ever see Wilfred as a real dog. Watch Wilfred on FX, Thursdays at 10 p.m. ET.
What kind of influence has David Zuckerman had on the American version of the show?
JG: He was going to take a year off and then Jeff, my manager, fought and petitioned for me. He was looking for a showrunner. He showed it to David, and David loved the show. He came back with a concept that was a different show, but was like a new vehicle for this character that he loved. And that fit my agenda, because I didn’t want to make the same show that we made in Australia. I wanted to do something new. And so what David thought was that instead of probing into the psychology of the guy who’s seeing this dog, we really go into who is Wilfred? What is Wilfred? Why is he there? What’s happening in Ryan’s mental space? These questions have opened the world up and really taken the show in a whole new direction, which made it different, but that I love. I really think the show has taken another step again beyond what it was. We did 16 episodes total in Australia and we’ve done 26 so far in America, which is the show. It’s like Wilfred was the freshman series in Australia and this is the sophomore version.
This is like the next evolution.
JG: Yeah [chuckles]. I don’t know if there’s going to be any more after this but people are always asking about a movie or whatever. Ah man, I’ll look into it, but it would have to be a pretty good idea.
Will there be a third season?
JG: It hasn’t been confirmed yet. They’re still working some stuff out. I hope so, but, you know, I’ve been in this business for 20 years and a hundred things could happen.
How much of the show is improvised?
JG: There’s really not a lot, not as much as we’d like there to be. We really have 22 minutes of television. And because the American version has so much more dimension than the Australian version, it really has to be so finely structured, down almost to the molecular level. We generally have to end up cutting a lot of stuff anyhow—cutting a lot of jokes, unfortunately—so we don’t really often have time to improvise. There has been some stuff that we’ve done, Elijah and I on the couch, that has been really funny. It’s like, man, it would be really great if we could afford to do more of that stuff, but unfortunately we’re limited to that amount of time. We also shoot one episode every four days, so we don’t have a lot of freedom.
What has it been like to work with FX?
JG: There’s a real family environment at FX. I was talking to Tom Landgraf and he said everyone here could be earning more money somewhere else. But we all believe in what we’re doing. Everyone believes in the programming; everyone believes in the scripts and the stories. So there’s a real feeling that we’re all in something really exciting together—almost like a movement, you know? It’s how I feel about the other shows as well. To have our show sitting in with Anger Management, Louie, and Russell Brand‘s on FX, to be in that kind of company is a real privilege. And yeah, FX—they trust us a lot; they know what they’re doing, so they’re definitely a privilege to work with. I think I’m spoiled in my first shot in America. I keep hearing horror stories about other places and other shows and I’m very grateful.
What is Wilfred? Is he a dog created by Ryan or something else?
JG: We’re really trying not to define exactly what it is. And as soon as you think you know what it is, we try and alter that. When we went into the American show, I had the idea that Wilfred was this kind of mystical, magical creature, and David had the idea that he was a figment of Ryan’s imagination. And we would arm-wrestle over that concept throughout the early days. In the end, we compromised and said we need to make a show where Wilfred can exist on both levels—that it could be magical, mystical, or it could be a figment of Ryan’s imagination. So we make you see into the show and at the time it was going on, I kind of go to the other side and said, “Yeah, he’s definitely part of Ryan’s imagination.” But then at the end of season two, David pulled me into his office and said, “Don’t tell anyone but I’m starting to come around to this idea of a mystical, magical creature thing.” So after two seasons, David and I talked over the points of what we think Wilfred is. And as long as we don’t know, then I don’t have a clear answer for you.
A lot of the fun is to have fans debating this issue of what Wilfred is. Everyone has their conclusion, and they’re often passionate about what Wilfred is. We really wanted it to be a show that got people talking. I think that the moment we say this is exactly what Wilfred is, the mystery might be over.
So will we ever see Wilfred as a real dog?
JG: Um, I hope so. We have a really fun, crazy idea about how the show would end. And the idea whether Wilfred is seen as a real dog would be a really fun, satisfying thing to see. But in television, you don’t have the luxury of being able to decide when your show is going to end. It can wrap up in plain season. If we’re lucky enough to get to season three and seasons after that, then there’s a good chance that you might see something like that. But we won’t see a real dog in season two.
Has Wilfred ever considered dabbling in anything other than pot?
JG: Well, yeah, in season one he was cussing out pills—morphine pills and stuff like that—at the hospital. And there was some reference to—ah man, Wilfred will take anything. I mean, so far it’s mostly been pot, but Wilfred’s kind of like a drug hound. He’ll take anything and everything.