Recommended second chance
The surreal US sitcom about Ryan, who’s best friends with a walking, talking dog, comes to the end of its second series this week. Star Elijah Wood talks about the show, and why he’s recently returned to Middle Earth…
The first thing we knew about Wilfred was when the publicity photo was issued of you standing beside Australian comic Jason Gann who was in a doggie suit. At that point we thought it was either going to be awful or genius…
Yeah, it can either work or not. When we were making that first season we were keenly aware of the fact we were making something that may not necessarily appeal to everyone. Because we were so deep in it, we didn’t have any perspective and couldn’t look at it objectively. We were all thinking, ‘God, it might take people a little while to accept it, to get into what the show is about. It may take a few episodes.’ But what really surprised us is that seemingly after the first episode people really understood it and got it. That was very surprising. In a way, maybe we thought our show was weirder than it really is.
It’s a funny show, but it’s depressing. Or maybe melancholic? What do you think?
That’s interesting. Yeah, I think there’s that element to the show. It is about a guy who is troubled and is in a sort of state of recovery. This character of Wilfred shows up in this moment in his life where he’s kind of at a crossroads and I think Wilfred exists because Ryan is not necessarily totally sound, mentally and emotionally. So that element stands out for some and could potentially be somewhere melancholic. It’s definitely a part of the show, and that’s why I love it so much.
It’s interesting because sometimes we think Ryan needs to get Wilfred out of his life, but then other things happen that celebrate their friendship…
It’s a complicated relationship. The second season is interesting because Ryan has started to see Wilfred’s manipulations ahead of the curve a little. He wises up to the ways of Wilfred, yet he still ends up getting duped most of the time. But the fascinating thing is those manipulations are ultimately an effort for Wilfred to steer him in the right direction. One that Ryan can’t see right away. But he’s really there as a guide and as someone to help Ryan, despite the fact they are often times combative.
Ryan is quite passive, is that tricky to play?
Well, he’s someone who reacts to the world around him as opposed to taking action. But that changes a little bit in the second season when he starts to become a lot more proactive, and ultimately tries to supersede a lot of what he sees as coming from Wilfred. But, in regards to the passivity, as an actor my job is really made easier as a result of working with Jason, because what he does with that character is so extraordinary and constantly surprising.
This week’s episode hinges on the fact that a childhood drawing comes to light that Ryan did, which has Wilfred in it. Can you tell me anything more?
This revelation! [Giggles] It’s such an interesting idea! Well, we’ll see what it actually ends up being in the third season, and I have very good ideas as to what that will be, which I can’t reveal. It’s an element and a late season addition that I’m really pleased about that goes to the heart of what I love about the show.
Some of the humour is pretty dark and near-the-knuckle. What do you make of it?
I love it, yeah!
Inevitably we want to ask you about The Hobbit.
You’re reprising Frodo.
Have you done it yet?
I’ve done it. Yeah, yeah. We shot last October. I filmed for three days, but I was there for a month, just to catch up with old friends.
Was it a bit like a college reunion?
It felt like a family reunion. So many of the crew members who’d worked on The Lord Of The Rings are working on The Hobbit. It’s the same set designers, it’s the same conceptual artists, the same make-up artists. So it’s kind of remarkable. It’s like stepping back in time. And a number of the actors — Ian McKellen has come back, Cate Blanchett. So it’s this interesting blend of continuity to that world we left nine years ago with a new group of people and new technology — there are all these massive 3D cameras and there’s a whole 3D rig on set now. So in certain ways there are things that have been really propelled forward. There seems to be more trailers than ever. Well, there are 13 dwarves.
Surely they only need dinky little trailers?
Right! You would think! It was such a gift to see all those people again. The Lord Of The Rings marks such an incredibly important moment in my life. An important experience. I fell in love with those people — and then I get a chance to come back. It’s such a small piece they’ve written for me in The Hobbit. It afforded me the opportunity to revisit everything, but in a really simple and small way that was just a nod to what we’d done. It couldn’t have been more perfect. It’s not as if I had to go back and reprise the role in a full, major way. I just kind of got to go back and say hello again. And then step out, which was beautiful.