In tonight's series premiere, Ryan (Elijah Wood) cooks up a smoothie of pills, fruit and protein powder. He's ready to throw in the proverbial towel but just can't get his suicide note right. For better or worse, Ryan's still with us the next morning when his hot neighbor Jenna (Fiona Gubelman) shows up and asks him to dog sit her little guy, Wilfred. Instead of a cute pup, however, Ryan sees a scruffy Australian man dressed in a mangy dog costume (Jason Gann).
"It's not the easiest thing to describe," Wood admits. "It's about a man who befriends a dog who he sees as a man in a dog suit, right, and the comedy that ensues in the world around them. And the dog smokes pot."
"One of the things that I connected with immediately upon reading the pilot was it really reminded me of [the movie] Harvey," he continues. "It's a favorite movie of mine. There's that imaginary character relationship that I find interesting and I love in that film, and there's definitely an element of it here. I became so excited at the prospect of what we could do with this world and with these two characters. I just fell in love with the project."
Wood, who was a respected actor by age nine and is now known for his run as Frodo Baggins in the Lord of the Rings trilogy, also fell in love with the idea of playing for laughs. "It's exciting for me to be a part of a comedy," Wood said. "It's not something I've ever been given the opportunity to do, and I'm so proud to be a part of this ensemble and this creative process. It's been a lot of fun so far, and I'm very excited as to where it's going to go."
The freshman season of Wilfred also stars Dorian Brown as Ryan's uptight and controlling sister, and will see guest stints from the likes of Ed Helms, Chris Klein and Rashida Jones.
Wilfred premieres tonight, Thursday, June 23 at 10 p.m. on FX.
Wilfred: the Aussie Pot-Smoking Dog
Wilfred comes from the unique mind of star Jason Gann, who is back in costume for the US version. Fans of the original Australian short film and TV series will certainly recognize their pot-smoking hero, but FX has given the story a Hollywood kick in the pants.
"I'd heard about a dog who terrorized his owner's boyfriends and I just started improvising as this dog," Gann says, recounting the birth of Wilfred. "It wasn't a concept. It was just funny and Adam Zwar, the original co-creator with myself, we just said, 'That's a short film, baby. We gotta write that down.' So we wrote down a seven-minute short and a week later we shot it. Within a year, it was at Sundance, and it's just a bad joke that's gone too far."
Not far enough, apparently: US executive producer and showrunner David Zuckerman (Family Guy, American Dad) approached Gann with an idea to bring Wilfred stateside for FX.
"He said it was a new vehicle for a character that he loved, and that excited me," Gann said. "I think of it as being a different show. It's faster. It could be darker. It's slicker. I wouldn't have done a new version of Wilfred had I not thought that it could be better. We've got a lot of great, diehard fans that the Wilfred brand has created since its short-film inception back in 2002. They're really passionate about that character. This show maintains its artistic and comedic edge, yet I think that it should reach a wider audience."
Wilfred is a quirky and original tale, which is why it may be more powerful to just let it speak for itself -- we mean the show, not the dog! Here's an FX trailer.