Elijah Wood Talks Wilfred Season 2 Premiere, debuting tonight, June 28th, only on FX
Wilfred Season 1 ended on a dark, down note last summer, with Ryan (Elijah Wood) finally succumbing to his own mental illness, which brought the revelation that there was...No Basement! Ryan found himself in a mental institution, and his beloved canine companion Wilfred (Jason Gann) was confined to a wheelchair. This could possibly be one of the most depressing twists to ever hit a so-called sitcom season finale.
The show isn't turning its tail on the weird in Wilfred Season 2. In fact, Progerss, the very first new episode back, was so psychologically unnerving, FX snuck it on last week as a special "sneak preview", when they knew only the hardcore fans would be watching. The jokes took a backseat to what can only be described as a David Lynch-ian fever dream, and it was a pure descent into madness. FX knew it could possibly turn off new viewers just now coming into this oddity of a series. It stands on a wholly unique ground, and it would certainly be disorienting to jump in sight unseen, here, at this juncture. If you missed Progerss, thinking it wasn't the Season 2 premiere, you've missed an important piece of this show's on-going mythology.
Though, it's understandable why FX dumped it. It was very creepy, almost bordering on horror, while tonight's "official" Season 2 launch is a sunny affair that actually has some jokes tied to its sailing mast. But don't fret, Wilfred certainly hasn't lost it's edge. It's still a show about a mentally ill man who, like David Berkowitz, believes a dog is telling him how to live his life.
Letting Go, which premieres tonight, June 28th, finds Wilfred refusing to help Ryan because he believes the man to be selfish. Is their relationship one-sided? We caught up with star Elijah Wood to find out.
On the surface, it appears that Wilfred is a Schemmer and a liar, and that he doesn't deserve to be taken seriously. Elijah Wood explained why Ryan has stayed loyal to his canine friend throughout the madness of this series.
"As much as Wilfred cannot be trusted, I think that almost entirely, those sorts of schemes and those lies end up in Ryan learning something and Ryan continuing to grow and advance as a person despite the method for getting him there. I think deep down Ryan has a sense that Wilfred does have his best interests at heart, even though his methods aren't exactly to be trusted. I think he's aware of the fact that he's on a path of self-discovery and a journey to bettering himself, and it's his friend, it's the person that knows him the best, it's the person that understands him the best, again, despite the difficulties present in their relationship sometimes. It's the person that he can actually rely on and that can truly understand what makes Ryan who he is."
Improvisation doesn't play a big part in the interaction between Elijah Wood and Jason Gann in bringing Ryan and Wilfred's relationship to the screen. Letting Go, and most every other episode for that matter, is finely tuned in the scripting stage of the process.
"None of those [bigger] moments are improvised. The scripts are very finely tuned. We don't actually have a lot of time for improvisation. We're doing four day episodes, we're running somewhere between six and nine pages a day of dialogue, so we're moving relatively quickly. The pace is fast, so it's difficult to get time for that kind of thing. And those beats, those couch moments of them sitting together and hanging out and smoking weed at the end of the episodes are also kind of finely tuned little character moments. You will be seeing more of them now that we've established that the basement does in fact still exist, which we can now reveal since people have seen the episode. Yes, we will see them hanging out in that space more for sure."
Though Jason Gann is hilarious as Wilfred, he's never gotten Elijah Wood to break during a scene. Not until a fateful evening late into last year's run.
"I was actually talking about this on set the other day, but the first season I rarely broke. It was actually funny, we were about a day or two before we were finished on the first season and Wilfred had this line, it was a nebulous line, it didn't seem particularly funny or outlandish, but he just said something that...I think Wilfred's line was "I wasn't finished yet, Ryan," or something. I had interrupted him, but I clearly hadn't, and it was that line, I didn't break all season for some reason, even though everything we were doing was hilarious, and Jason was constantly funny, but I never broke until that line. It was the weirdest thing to break in. And this season has been the total opposite. I laughed so much this season and broke in so much more. I don't really know why that is. I don't know if it's because the material is funnier this season or if, I don't know...If I'm more comfortable with what we're doing and what we're creating, that I'm laughing more, but Jason has made me laugh a lot this season. It's been hilarious. And I can't quite put my finger on it. I literally was talking about this the other day, it's like what the [fuck] is it about this season, why am I suddenly laughing at everything? And we've had a couple of moments, like doing some of those couch scenes at the end, where there was one thing, he changed a line of dialogue in one of the couch scenes, and you'll see it in the season, he changed one word and that one word change made the line so ridiculously funny that I broke and then every time we tried to do it again I knew it was coming, so we literally had to walk off set and clear the air, because he was laughing as well. It was great. It's been a really fun season. It's sort of ridiculous how much fun it is to come to work. It's just one of those jobs where every day I look forward to seeing everyone, every day I look forward to the material that we get a chance to make come to life. It's really a blessing. It's awesome."
The darker side of Ryan has emerged over the course of the last few episodes, which is something Elijah Wood has enjoyed playing in returning to the character.
"It was a lot of fun. It provided a color to the character that was very different from the character we were introduced to, and that we've only kind of ever alluded to...That side of him in the first season, until we saw it at the end, so it was great fun to play. It provided another layer and sort of insight into the darkness that lies within him, that ultimately led him to the place that we found him in at the beginning of the first season. We won't necessarily see that darkness again. He allowed himself to get to the precipice a little bit, and in doing that he almost lost everything that was holding him together, Wilfred included, and so we see him now having come out of that space, and I don't think it's likely that he'll return there any time soon. But we now are aware of the fact that that exists, and to a certain degree, I guess more importantly, that is ultimately what led to his initial downfall, it was that sort of selfish activity, and doing things that he knew were wrong despite the fact that he knew them. That put him in the place that made Wilfred come into his life in the first place, I think."
There is a huge tonal shift between last week's Progerss and tonight's Letting Go, but the darkness still looms over the series. Ryan will keep digging into his own psyche as the show progresses into the future.
"The first few episodes back we find ourselves in a familiar Wilfred in terms of the comedy and the construct of the show. But as the season progresses some of those existential questions and complications start to arise again, and we'll see more of that, of the digging, I suppose, and of his self-discovery and growth, or lack of growth, as the season progresses. Like I said earlier, I think from episode 7 on it starts to become a little bit more like that, which represents, again, an element of the show that I think I'm most in love with. I love the first episode. I love this preview episode. It is totally emblematic of when I think the show is at its best. I love the comedy too, and I love those episodes, and we've got some very, very funny, ridiculous episodes this season, but we will definitely be getting back to more of what you've seen in this first preview episode as well."
Ryan's mom, played by Mary Steenburgen, won't be making an appearance in tonight's episode. But if you've been patiently awaiting her return, you're in luck, as she will show up a little later in Season 2.
"You will be seeing Mary again. And we particularly love working with her, she's amazing. The one shame about doing these small episodes is that we only get our guests in for a short amount of time. Sometimes a character will feature literally for an episode only and so we only get them for a couple of days, or three days. And that was the case obviously last year with Mary because she was only in that one episode, but it felt like working with her, she left and we missed her. It felt like she was with us the entire time. She just has this beautiful presence to her and such warmth and kindness. She was incredible in the role. She has the right amount of madness and sweetness in the character and I think she gave great insight as to where Ryan comes from. We were so excited to see her again and to work with her again this season. She's wonderful."
Wilfred airs Thursday nights, only on FX.