Australian actor Jason Gann reprises his role as Wilfred—the foul-mouthed, bong-smoking, existentialist friend/foe of Elijah Wood's Ryan on F/X's Wilfred, which has its season premiere tonight. Gann and company couldn't ask for a better time slot—sandwiched between Charlie Sheen's new series, Anger Management, and Louie CK's darkly comic Louie.
Gann originally created the role of the natty-coated sheepdog in his native Australia almost 10 years ago, but since the show debuted on American shores last year, it's taken on a kind of cult status—not just with viewers but within the Hollywood community as well, with various celebs, including Chris Klein, Rashida Jones, and Mary Steenburgen, appearing in cameos. Season 2 kicks off with yet another famous guest star—Robin Williams, who plays Ryan's psychiatrist.
Gann sat down with Details over breakfast to discuss cats, Seth McFarlane's forthcoming movie, Ted, and putting a human voice to man's (supposedly) best friend.
DETAILS: How the hell did you come up with the idea to build a show around an existential, cynical sheepdog?
Jason Gann: It really was no different than when we give voices to our little dogs or cats, when we talk to them and they talk back to us…that was all it came from. I think it was just that my particular take hit a nerve with people. When it came to what he'd look like, I'd done 10 years of children's theater, and all of my characters had had that same look.
DETAILS: Do you own a dog? And if not, why not?
Jason Gann: Dogs are more of a responsibility than kids—you can send a kid off to their grandparents or a nanny, but with a dog you can't do that. It would be unfair for me to have a dog. Back in Australia, I did foster care for sick cats for years, and I was always most successful with the animals when I was given two—a brother and sister. I always thought when I finally put down some roots in America I would get my own—and so I have a brother-and-sister pair for about two years now.
DETAILS: What does Wilfred really want from Elijah Wood's Ryan character, anyway?
Jason Gann: Are you familiar with the trickster gods? I think Wilfred has some of those elements in him; you never really know, though. If you see Wilfred as Ryan's self-conscience, we all self-sabotage ourselves, as well as have times when we can end up being the hero of our own story. We try not to take a final stand on it in the show—to me, Wilfred exists like the Scarecrow, the Cowardly Lion, and the Tin Man; in the world of Oz, Wilfred exists—he's a magical creature—at least he is to me.
DETAILS: Seth MacFarlane's new movie, Ted, about a foul-mouthed teddy bear, also comes out this week. Do you think he was influenced by Wilfred?
Jason Gann: I think Seth McFarlane is so successful in his own stratosphere, I'd be surprised if he'd even seen Wilfred. The show is such a unique creature now—even more so than the Australian version—with the whole psychology of Ryan—we are so dark—if that movie goes there at all…I'd be surprised.
[Editor's note: At this point we are interrupted by a ruckus at a nearby table. It turns out that Wilfred himself has decided to participate in the interview, uninvited.]
Wilfred: I'm looking forward to seeing Ted…when it comes out on free-to-air. I don't usually go for the whole "fantasy character" type thing. I live in the real world…of Ryan's mind.
DETAILS: I bet people recognize you a lot. What's your response?
Wilfred: It's actually offensive to look a dog in the eyes, but people forget that because they're so used to seeing me on TV. I try not to let it bother me; sometimes I flip them the lipstick.
DETAILS: What have you learned about Hollywood since the debut of your show last year?
Wilfred: It's a 24-hour fuckfest.
DETAILS: Give me three words to describe Robin Williams.
Jason Gann: King of Comedy.
Wilfred: Leg-humping master.
—Susan Michals is a freelance writer based in Los Angeles and a regular contributor to Details.com. You can follow her on Twitter at @Susan_Michals.