There's only one show on TV where a a sad young man hallucinates a foul-mouthed dog, and there's only one comic weird enough to imagine such a program. Jason Gann is the mind behind FX's Wilfred, the American remake of the show the Australian writer and actor produced in his home country in 2007. In the States, Gann reprises his role as Wilfred, the dog, and Elijah Wood plays Ryan, his, uh, friend. It's just as strange (and, more importantly, hilarious) as it sounds.
Complex sat down with Gann to talk about the third season of Wilfred, which premieres Thursday, June 20th, at 10 p.m.
Interview by Ross Scarano (@RossScarano)
So you just finished shooting the entire season?
I just finished it, just finished it a couple weeks ago. Now we're excited to see what the response will be.
At this point we’ve gone pretty far past the original run of the show, yeah?
That’s right. We only did 16 back in Australia and so yeah.
What would you say is the biggest difference?
We've expanded so much on of what Wilfred is, the mythology, and also going further into the psychological elements of mental disorders.
It's outrageous, you shouldn't be saying it, but it's a dog saying it, so how can you get angry?
That's the focus of the first episode of season three.
Yeah, I think we dug in a little bit. We probably went a little too far within that in season two, so in season three we're trying to get back to having a bunch of really funny episodes. But we had to deal with some things from the last season dealing with the drawing
I haven’t seen the original Australian. How much of the mythology do you get into there, if at all?
None. They were only seven minutes shorts. It's just a dog on the couch, you know?
What’s the writing process like for a season?
We have about 22 minutes of TV, after you take out commercial breaks, so we don’t have a lot of time. At the beginning of the season, we sit down with the writers and say, "Let’s talk about the journey that we'd like to see our characters take." Then we map it out, with episode ideas. We have the ongoing arc about what Wilfred is, and Ryan's issues with his dad, so there’s a bunch of those boxes that we have to tick. Once we do that, we sort of break down the story, one episode at a time. It takes us about four days to break each story, and then one writer will go off and do an outline. We'll give notes on that, send it off to the network to approve. Once that happens, we sit around and write the script. It’s a pretty thorough process. By the time, the writer goes to write the script, the story is really broken down into the fine details, with act breaks and everything. It’s a pretty interesting process.
Have there been any situations you guys have concocted that have either been rejected by the network or that you all have said, "No, we can't do this, it's too much"?
(laughs) Yeah, We are finding out a bunch of things have just disappeared, there were a couple ideas that were pitched early on in season one that just won't die. I pitched this idea about semen ants in season one, these ants that sustained themselves on semen. But everyone said no way. In season two, I brought it up again, and it became this running joke. Anytime we were breaking a story, and we'd run into a hitch, someone would propose semen ants again.
What’s something that you were surprised you got past the network?
In season one, the doggy daycare episode. Wilfred's being molested by Ed Helms, from The Hangover. He's taking care of the dogs, and putting peanut butter on his balls and getting Wilfred to lick it off, or so Wilfred is leading Ryan to believe. At one point, Ryan's having peanut butter ice cream, and Wilfred turns the two scoops upside down and starts licking them. We thought there was no way it'd make it into the episode.
Then, last season, during Ryan's giving Wilfred a massage and Wilfred gets excited. He reaches climax on Ryan. At Comic-Con we showed the money shot, but we had to take it out for TV. Most of the time, we know when we're doing it that it won't make it. But sometimes you don't know. It's about the dog suit. When I put the dog suit on, it's almost like I'm an animated character, and get away with a lot more than you could with a human character. There are jokes about Wilfred dominating other dogs that would be rape in our world. By having an animal character talking in the same manner, we get a lot of humor out of pushing boundaries. It's outrageous, you shouldn't be saying it, but it's a dog saying it so how can you get angry?
How is working in American TV different from working in Australian TV?
I came here because I wanted to make TV for the world, and is there where it's happening. A show like Breaking Bad is film on TV. I made a film in Australia, and you spend years developing it and if you're lucky you get a couple weeks at the cinema and it's over. It's a shame to develop such great characters and only spend an hour-and-a-half with them. TV lets you go on a massive journey with your characters.
Hollywood is a pillar of western society. It plays such an important role in our culture. In Australia, the industry is subsidized with government money; it's not an industry that can sustain itself there. That means you have funding bodies giving you notes. There isn't the same amount of respect that comes with making TV. You're considered to be a dreamer or lazy, and if you're successful, you're lucky. But in America, it's a real business.
How long do you see the show lasting?
If we get five seasons, I'd be excited. After this season, I think we could do eight. I used to think five at the most, but this season we're going in a direction that offers more longevity. The Wilfred character is becoming fleshed out, and so lots of the comedy is coming from who he is rather than from him being a dog. Elijah and I love the show, and want to do the show for as long as people want to watch.
Interview by Ross Scarano (@RossScarano)