Interview: Executive Producer David Zuckerman and Director Randall Einhorn talk ‘Wilfred’

Zuckerman and Einhorn talk casting, table reads and more!

Wilfred‘s Executive Producer David Zuckerman and Director Randall Einhorn, the guys behind the look and feel of the show, were at this years Comic-Con where they were clearly happy about the success of the FX comedy.

David talked about the casting of Elijah Wood and Fiona Gubelmann and how not doing table reads leads to them “not second guessing” themselves.

Randall, a former director of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, discuses how he came on board the series and how he finds the beats in the scripts.

Oh, and if you didn’t know, David is Casting Director Dori Zuckerman‘s brother.

Wilfred airs on Thursdays on FX at 10pm.

For the full interview, click the audio link above or download it from iTunes

You guys don’t do table reads for the show. Do you think it helped as far as the show feeling very spontaneous, very real, and very kind of in the moment? Do you think that it helped because the show doesn’t seem too rehearsed?

David Zuckerman: Well, I don’t know.  I mean, there would have been time for rehearsal.  I think it helped in the sense that it didn’t allow for any second guessing. 

We did the scripts the way we thought they should work. And sometimes after a table read, you know, people will second guess.  We did table read for the first six episodes because we did them all in one day and they just went so extraordinarily well but then after that point, there just wasn’t time. And there was very little improvisation, I know that it kind of looks like there was. Everything was very tightly scripted and adhered to very closely because the scripts were written in such a way that a lot of plot points were interwoven, and if you pulled one thread it could have dire consequences down the line.  We made changes on the set when something wasn’t quite working or when we were anticipating that we would need a cut, a time cut, but otherwise, it really was carefully scripted and carefully adhered to.  We didn’t have to second guess ourselves, which is something that you end up doing a lot when you do table reads.  You know, because if somebody reads the line wrong and then suddenly, “Oh, the story doesn’t work! No, they just read the line wrong.  In the moment, somebody just made a mistake, or was up or didn’t get it.  So, it was nice to not do that actually.

When you were writing the character of Wilfred, you’re not only writing for a canine, you’re also writing for an Australian. Do you write in Australian… phraseology?

David Zuckerman: You know, we were very fortunate to have Jason in the writer’s room.  Jason was a writer on the show, wrote two of the first episodes himself, and contributed to every script. And I asked him anytime he could use Australian slang to throw it in because I don’t know any Australian slang.

And also, he has been writing and playing this character for 10 years so he has a pretty clear idea of what Wilfred would say, what Wilfred would do.  So, I always defer to him on that and one of the things that we try to do is maybe lighten his character up a little bit, make him a little more playful and a little more fun than in the Australian version.  There was this air of menace about him that I think would have made it hard for American audiences to warm up to him. But Jason is Wilfred and Wilfred is Jason and we couldn’t have done this without Jason, without his input in the writer’s room.

Casting Fiona and Elijah, how long did that take to find them?

David Zuckerman: It seems like forever. I mean we read a lot of actors, really good actors, and everybody was sort of divided.  There were a lot of opinions and people were sort of divided, and then I got word that Elijah might be interested.  He had read the script and liked it.  I thought someone was putting me on.  He has got a feature career, he works whenever he wants. But I met with him and he really sparked to the character.  He had great ideas.  He liked my ideas and then we heard him read it and it was a different way than I had envisioned the character.  I had envisioned him to be a little more, maybe a little more New York energy, but what Elijah brought to the character was he brought this vulnerability and that is, I think, what makes the show work because you would really care about this guy and you really want the best for him.  You understand what he wants.  He is extraordinary.  He and Jason together, first time they read together was like, the chemistry, you could feel it.  It was amazing.

Randall, when you first got the scripts, what did you think?

Randall Einhorn: Holy shit. [laughter] It’s really refreshing to see stuff that is so new and like nothing else.  I mean, there’s so much of the same gak on TV that, you know, there’s a lot of great stuff but just seeing something that is so, like nothing else, pretty inspiring.

How did they contact you to direct pilot? Did you know people associated with the show?  

Randall Einhorn: Well, I knew FX.  I’d done a bunch in It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, two seasons of that so I had them, you know, recommending me for it. And then I met the rest of the producers and David Zuckerman, the creator, and I basically had to convince them I could do it.  This was my first pilot.  It’s kind of a challenging pilot to take on because I think the margin for error is enormous. I could have really messed it up.

Now you said you directed It’s Always Sunny. How do you compare that to Wilfred? 

Randall Einhorn: Sunny is like, it’s this freight train that’s moving.  You’ve got to eek out the comedy and punctuate it because the guys are on their way.  It’s really cool.  I really love doing that.  I love that show.  I love those guys.  Wilfred is like… “Okay, I need to read the script 10 times.” 20 times, you know, probably 3 times stoned to get it to be able to figure what it is, you know.  Sunny is a little bit more straightforward storytelling. 

How do you break down the beats for Wilfred?

Randall Einhorn: Its funny, because the writer writes some screen direction and he writes something like, “and the war begins.” And it’s an eighth of a line but it takes you a day to shoot it.  So, Wilfred was really, really dense. Really dense storytelling.  There is an episode coming up, episode 11, with Dwight Yoakam in it and there’s one scene that takes… it’s this montage and it just took so long to shoot it but it’s a quarter of a page.  So the studio looks at the quarter of the page, they say, “Oh, okay. You’re doing five and a quarter of a pages today, what’s wrong?” Well, one-quarter of that page is going to be 100 shots to be able to tell the story, whereas Sunny is a lot more straightforward.

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