Jason Gann is the co-creator and star of FX’s hit comedy series “Wilfred”. The show begins its second season on Thursday June 28th, 2012. “Wilfred” was adapted from an Australian series, also created by Gann. Media Mikes had a chance to chat with Jason about his role in the show, how he feels this differs from the Australian series and also what we can expect this season.
Mike Gencarelli: If you had to explain “Wilfred” to a person that hasn’t watched season one, what would you say?
Jason Gann: I would say it is like Mr. Ed on crack-cocaine. It is a messed up story about a suicidal dude that sees his next door neighbor’s dog, as a talking man in a dog suit who smokes bong and terrorizes him, though at the same time aims to save his life.
MG: Do you need to see the first season in order to enjoy the second?
JG: No, I don’t think so. That is why we did the special preview episode with Robin Williams prior to our season two opener. We needed to tie up the loose ends from the season one finale. We also wanted to reintroduce the show to a new audience. With the season two premiere episode, it is a nice introduction to the show. It is always a challenge to match each episode for people to be able to join on mid-way through. I am very aware of that though while working in the writers room. If I feel that something going to alienate our new audience then I will try and steer it back. It is challenging as well because there is an arc that is happening with Ryan and Wilfred’s journey. So hopefully it is funny enough and then people will go back and watch the first season and catch up. It’s almost like every episode needs to be self-contained in its own right yet. Though we still wanted to entertain and give a little more to the fans of the show. We tried to always leave little Easter eggs throughout the episodes for big fans of the show.
MG: Creatively for you, what is your process with developing season two? Are you looking to recreate from the original Australian series or start fresh?
JG: I didn’t want to do the same show again with American accents. I was very trepidatious about even playing Wilfred. Originally, I wanted someone else to play him. It is really the brain child of my manager Jeff Kwatinetz, who solved the dilemma. I play the role again but it be a different type of show. We met with show-runners and David Zuckerman came back with this fresh take which focused on Ryan’s psychiatric issues. That is something that we never really addressed, mentioning it maybe only one of twice in the Australian version. In the American series, it is really more about Ryan but the stories are still driven by Wilfred. Now that the show is in its second season, the Australian series seems like a high school version of the show to me. David told me, when he pitched us, that he was a big fan of the original and didn’t want to remake it. He wanted to make a different gig with the characters he loved and so that they can stand each side-by-side proudly. I think we used like 4 or 5 jokes in the pilot that came from the Australian series to help us set it up. We also only did 16 episodes of the Australian show and already we have done 26 of the American show. So I am really proud of this series.
MG: How has it been working with Elijah Wood this season?
JG: Elijah and I have always had this great chemistry from the beginning. It is funny because we are very different individuals and do not have a lot in common as men. But when we come together and work with these characters something really special happens. It is a bond that feels like family, really. In season one, I was a lot more polite. In season two, [laughs] well we all have a lot more fun. I don’t know if its because we can relax since we have an audience that loves our show already but we have purpose now and this great confidence. Originally, we really didn’t know who the character of Ryan was. But Elijah brought some much depth to his role. During our final screen tests with Elijah, I got into costume as Wilfred to give him an idea of what it would be like. While I was standing behind him, due to our stature, David said to me that it looks like Wilfred was his bodyguard. That really inspired me to bring out more of this protector in Wilfred that didn’t exist in the Australian version. Where as now Wilfred is trying to help Ryan become a man and survive in the world and it gives it more purpose. We just have fun and I hope it shows.
MG: Tell us about wearing your dog suit? Any behind-the-scene stories?
JG: People ask me if it is hard. I always say that it is as hard as it looks. Sometimes when I realize it is hard, I go through this euphoria…like this crazy state. People are telling me to take the suit off that I must be hot and I am just like “No, let’s do another! Let’s do another!”. Probably some semi-masochistic part of me, as I am losing my mind. It is like the pain when you are at the gym, it hurts but feels good.
MG: You guys must have massive amounts of outtakes, you ever find it hard to keep it as serious as you do?
JG: Actually last year Elijah only broke once and I think it was on the last day of shooting. This year on season two, I think he broke on like day two and a couple of dozen times after, as did I though [laughs]. There is one thing in particular that happens between Wilfred and Ryan in episode seven, which I can’t say unfortunately. I couldn’t do a take without laughing. I had to shoot it separately without him. I told them we could do that scene 100 times and I will laugh 100 times. That was pretty funny!
MG: What do you enjoy most about working on this show?
JG: When Wilfred was with Raffi (the toy Giraffe) in season one, he was massaging her neck, then bending the neck backwards in order to give a blow job [laughs]. When we came up with that in the writers room, I said “I think we can safely say that nothing like this has ever been on TV before.” When we have moments like that I get really excited…and luckily we have several this year.
MG: Robin Williams, Rob Riggle, Steven Weber and Allison Mack all guest starred in season two’s preview episode, who else can we expect from season two?
JG: Unlike last year, when we just had one guest star per episode, Robin Williams and Allison Mack will also come back for a few episodes. We also go into Ryan’s work environment for a while, so that is different. We also have returning guests from season one like Chris Klein and Mary Steenburgen back. It is really humbling to get people that one our show. Also it wasn’t our intention to make this season more dark, even though I think it is funnier. But it does get a little dark and I look forward to seeing that as well. I hope everyone enjoys it.