Joining the wave of big-screen stars tackling interesting small-screen projects, Elijah Wood has traded sparring with orcs in the Lord of the Rings to parsing out his psychological problems with the help of a talking dog in the new FX series Wilfred. Between shooting this dark shaggy-dog tale and prepping for his return to Middle Earth in the upcoming Hobbit Wood gave us 60 Seconds on his new show, his career path, and Wilfred's curiously Australian accent.
DETAILS: Now that viewers have seen the first few episodes of Wilfred, how are people reacting to you playing Ryan, a suicidal guy who sees his next-door neighbor's dog as a guy in a dog suit?
Elijah Wood: It's all been really positive, which is wonderful. In making the show, we were quite aware of the fact that it's not the easiest show to describe. The construct is absurd and bizarre and kind of dark. We love it and think it's hilarious, but we thought it would take people a couple of episodes to groove into it. But people seemed to respond really quickly to it and get it.
DETAILS: How did you get mixed up in such a strange endeavor?
Elijah Wood: My manager sent me the script. She read it and thought it was hilarious. I read it and concurred. I wasn't, at that time, familiar with the Australian show [on which it is based]. I actually looked up clips of that on YouTube and totally fell in love with it. I liked the idea of working on something that felt different for television. And the fact that Jason Gann, who had created the character [of the dog], is reprising the role gave me confidence that it could work.
DETAILS: It makes it even more surreal having a guy with an Australian accent play the dog in an American show.
Elijah Wood: The accent makes it just a little more inexplicable. Just for no real reason that's ever explained, he's Australian.
DETAILS: What's the best part about playing this character?
Elijah Wood: I think the duality of the character and the scenarios are the most interesting. He sees this guy in a dog suit, and he's constantly thrust into these situations where other people don't see him as a guy in a dog suit. Those scenes are definitely challenging. It very clearly defines the reality of the situation that Ryan is in: He's carrying on a relationship with kind of an imaginary person.
DETAILS: Will the audience ever get to see Wilfred as an actual dog?
Elijah Wood: You'll never see the dog as a dog, at least not in the first season. Because the show is so clearly through Ryan's perspective in the way it's set up, if we were to ever see a dog, it would take us out of that.
DETAILS: But you must have tried to imagine what kind of dog he is.
Elijah Wood: I think he's some kind of shaggy mutt. My brother has a bearded collie, and every time I see him I think he's what Wilfred would look like. This is such a part of my life that I'm starting to see dogs a little bit differently. I haven't quite gotten to having conversations with dogs yet, but give me another year.
DETAILS: Will we ever find out why this is happening to Ryan?
Elijah Wood: The thing I love about this show, too, is how it's never explained and questions are rarely asked. Some people have referenced frustration about it, but I think answering too many questions would start to break down the walls of the viewpoint that we have. That first day with Wilfred in the pilot, when Ryan is just trying to fucking figure out what is going on, he recognizes by the end that Wilfred could be a force for positive in his life, and so he just accepts it.
DETAILS: Do you have any theories, though?
Elijah Wood: I think Wilfred is a manifestation of the part of Ryan that is not as chained by the confines of logic and the right way to be. He's a manifestation of part of Ryan's psyche, the desire to live without fear. He helps him make bold choices to help him to live.
DETAILS: So where do we go from here, plot-wise?
Elijah Wood: The course of this season is about the slightly antagonistic friendship they have. And throughout all of that, Ryan is trying to get his life together. More specifically, there's an episode that revolves around a doggy-day-care scenario that's great—so dark and manipulative and extremely funny. There's an episode where Wilfred gets involved in a situation at a hospice, which you can imagine how that goes. The more we got into this season, the more it took a shape that I'm excited about.
DETAILS: Will you be going back to work soon as Frodo Baggins in the new Hobbit movie?
Elijah Wood: I start shooting that later this year. It's not even so much that I'm excited about playing Frodo again—I am—but the most exciting element is to be reunited with my friends and family in New Zealand. It's just an opportunity to experience that again. It's going to be really fun and weird to be in costume and playing that character again. It's not often that you get a chance to revisit a significant time in your life like that.
DETAILS: Anything about revisiting hobbithood that you're not looking forward to?
Elijah Wood: We would always gripe about putting the feet on because our call time is, like, an hour and a half earlier to do that, and half the time you don't even see the feet on camera. We'd be like, "Guys, come on, we don't need the feet!"
DETAILS: You have certainly had an odd career—in a good way. Do you have some kind of master plan?
Elijah Wood: Not at all. I don't even know that you can. It's impossible to have a clear map. Something ends and then you're free to do a number of things and weigh options. It's not like things are just offered to me. I have to put myself out there for things I really believe in. I'm just attracted to unique projects and unique roles. It keeps me interested and keeps me challenged as an actor. It also provides a really unique path. I've been lucky, too.
Best place to see a concert: "If I was going to answer that question generally, I'd say a small club. There's something far more special about that than a major stadium. In L.A., I love the Troubadour. The Troubadour doesn't get as many huge bands playing there anymore, but it's so intimate and the sound is so good. I also love the Hollywood Bowl, and that's the exact opposite. I've seen Radiohead there every time they've played. There's something so majestic about it, and the sound system is incredible. It just envelops you." Best song to work out to: "Major Lazer's 'Pon de Floor.'" Favorite guilty pleasure: "I don't know that I necessarily believe in the idea of a guilty pleasure, because if you dig something you dig it, whether it's socially acceptable or not. I could potentially say that watching The Biggest Loser is a guilty pleasure. It's great. I don't watch a lot of reality television, but what's great about that show is it's about the people and their personal struggles. It's about human beings trying to get their lives together, and it just happens to be about weight. It's powerful to watch people triumph over their former selves." —By Jennifer Armstrong