He’s back! One of the funniest, most subversive characters on TV, Wilfred, is back entertaining us and torturing poor Ryan (Elijah Wood) every Thursday on FX.
Jason Gann plays Wilfred and he’s just as funny in person as he is on-screen. I love how he just seems game for anything and that almost crazy, mischievous look he always has in his eyes.
I talked with him on a recent conference call where he talked about how he’s willing to do anything when the cameras are rolling, the challenges of making the show and why he quit Twitter.
Wilfred airs at 10 on Thursdays on FX
In Wilfred you do so many crazy things on the show, has there ever been anything that you were hesitant to act out, or are you just up for anything?
Jason Gann: Look, I will do anything. Like, I sucked ‘Kristen’ … toes this year.
I mean, you go into these things… I came home from work the other day and my wife said, “So, is Elijah a better kisser than me?” And I paused and said, “He’s different, he’s different.” I didn’t want to offend anyone. But I mean, the only thing I’d draw the line on is going underwater with the suit, because I nearly drowned in it once before, because that suits gets really heavy. So there’s a scene this year where ‘Wilfred’ dives into a lake, and I had my trusty stuntman go and do that one for me. As far as the gross out stuff goes, no, I’ll do anything.
Is it hard sometimes not to crack up with everything that’s going on, on set?
Jason Gann: It’s really rare for me to … and start laughing in the middle of a scene. Occasionally, I do, but normally I’ll start laughing when I think about that all of this is seen through ‘Ryan’s’ POV, that ‘Ryan’s’ creating it. Some of the funniest stuff for me is when ‘Ryan’ has just accepted that ‘Wilfred’ does this stuff, like when they’re both taking a leak outside the car in the premiere this year and ‘Ryan’ just says, “Look, I’m sorry to keep going over this stuff all the time. I just need to get this clear in my head.” And to me that was as funny a line as there’s been, and it’s just like who are you rationalizing to, who are you justifying your behavior to? I’m kind of immune to the silliness of ‘Wilfred’ being in a dog suit by now. I’ve been in the suit for like 10 years, I think.
Was there any particular reason for quitting Twitter, because Twitter is such a big part of Wilfred now as kind of an extra experience for the show and built up the following here in the U.S. Can you explain why you pushed aside Twitter this year?
Jason Gann: Yes, look, I got mad, I’ve got a baby on the way and I’ve just had some kind of crazy, kind of creepy, kind of fan obsession kind of weird things that at different times I’ve felt kind of threatened my private life and even at times feeling of safety… So I’m just taking a break. I’ll be back on there, but until my child is born and while I’m just setting up my new young family I just want to sort of try and make my life be as normal as possible and live like – I mean, I know there are a lot of celebrities who have a good career as well as also maintain a peaceful, kind of private life, and I’m just trying to get that balance right. I mean, if anything I kind of probably went a bit too far with the multi-media thing interacting with my fans, and had a very open kind of rapport with my fans, but, as I said, I’ve had a couple of crazy catfish-y type things happen to me and I just wanted to pull out for a while.
Your family is now starting to grow, will any of that start to influence some of the direction of Wilfred at all, have you thought about kind of those sensitive family moments, and has that infiltrated this season?
Jason Gann: Yes, yes, it’s really weird, every year there seems to be this weird synchronicity with ‘Wilfred,’ even if I’m not writing certain things it seems to be a real parallel in my life. And this year just by chance ‘Wilfred’ got married to ‘Bear’ and I recently got married in Vegas in a fast, impromptu marriage, and was kind of like, oh … now ‘Wilfred’s’ getting married, and then ‘Wilfred,’ there’s the baby that ‘Wilfred’s’ interacting with a lot, and I’m like holy … I’m going to have a baby. And then ‘Wilfred’ gets fat and I’m getting fat, which is kind of in sympathy, I think, to my pregnant wife, so one informs the other all the time.
Yes, look, we’ll wait and see what happens next year, but there’s always some weird synchronicity. I had two scripts sent to me recently as well for some future scripts, and two roles that I’m looking at are both young dads, and it’s just weird, I’m like, oh, I never get sent these scripts, these things never come into my life, and then all of a sudden while this stuff is happening in my life the rest of it is, and it’s always been like that for me. When I was living a kind of wild, crazy party lifestyle I’d come home, it was like 4:00 in the morning or whatever, and things in my life would always seem to reflect what I’m doing, what I’m writing. And I wrote something recently last year, and a lot of my things these days seem to be about becoming a better man, so hopefully in a couple of years I’ll be writing things that are about goodness.
Is there ever room for any improv on set, does any of that ever make it into the show?
Jason Gann: Again, we don’t have a lot of time when we shoot, and we shoot an episode every four days, and …, so we don’t have a whole lot of time, so we’ve pretty much honed those scripts down to the point where we don’t have a lot of extra space. But inevitably we end up cutting things anyway, something always ends up getting cut, so we try and avoid those as much as we can by making the writing super tight.
But having said that, when we’re rehearsing a scene or even sometimes when we’re in the middle of shooting a scene, something like a strikingly obvious possible adjustment, a new line or an extra …, and that can even happen in the edit or in the sound. I was doing some ADR, additional dialogue recording, the other day for a Wilfred … where ‘Wilfred’ .., tackles this old lady to avoid her getting hit by a car, even though she’s not really in danger, and there was no line on there in the scene when we shot it, but then when I did some ADR they wanted just something in there and I just put in there, “Look out, …”, as he … tackling her, and then … down and … was just saying it’s like probably one of his favorite lines now in that episode. And so we’re … opportunities to enhance, but no, we don’t really have a lot of time to improvise.
Is there anything you find particularly challenging still about the filming?
Jason Gann: Challenging, yes, I mean every year is, like right now is challenging. We make the show and we never know if we’re coming back for another season or not, and you do your best. We want the show to improve and we want our audience to grow, and so we take on board as much as we can, feedback that we get from tester audiences and stuff like that, and so we’re constantly trying to hone our craft and make a better show. And so it’s just difficult, and right now we’ve done it, you do your best in the writing room and you do your best on set, and you do your best … and then it’s out there for the world to see and you just let it go, and then you’re in the hands of the gods and it’s up to the … elements. And so I guess that’s probably the most challenging part has been just sitting back and letting nature take its course … control.
You’re on a network with lots of shows featuring a real singular voice, you referenced Louis CK, but even Jim Jefferies and Legit, just speaking from your experience, what is it about FX that really attracts these types of shows and really allows them to flourish?
Jason Gann: I was talking to John Landgraf a couple of years ago and … and he said to me, we were talking about that very thing about what makes FX better than everyone else, and he said, “… all these people here, they can all be earning more money somewhere else doing something, but they actually all believe in what they’re doing.” And that’s at every level. That isn’t just at an executive or creative level, it’s everyone in marketing and in every department. I think the marketing guys just won some massive award … . They’re fantastic. We have so much fun … and I really think that there’s a vision that has been suggested from the … and it really does go all the way down and everyone feels like they’re really part of something special.
I know … really lucky because my manager … who convinced me to do this show again over here, when he contacted me in Australia … and he pitched me the idea of doing Wilfred again over here with me as ‘Wilfred,’ at first I said sort of flatly “No,” and then eventually he convinced me to try it again with a new direction. And I said, “If you can sell it, I’ll do it.” And he was pitching it around town and when he first contacted me he said, “Look, I think we’ve got the probably network, they’re called FX,” and told me a little about them. And I said, “The perfect network is the network that wants to make the show, whoever they are, I don’t need to know any more.” And then I came over here and we shot the pilot and I … watch this network and see, since I’m going to be on it, what they do, and I was … on my feet here, to be on a network like this is a blessing for me. After a lot of years of struggling to maintain my creative voice, and even though that meant sometimes not having … to perform from, I mean, to finally have a place like FX to do this kind of work is a real blessing.