Jason Gann Talks About ‘Wilfred’, the Mythology, and the Show’s Last Season

Jason Gann Wilfred Interview
Jason Gann stars in ‘Wilfred’ (Photo Credit: Ray Mickshaw/Copyright 2014, FX Networks. All rights reserved.)

June 25, 2014 marks the beginning of the end for Wilfred, the bizarre, often heart-wrenching, frequently humorously raunchy series about a man (played by Elijah Wood) who sees his neighbor’s dog as a pot-smoking, foul-mouthed man in a dog suit (played by Jason Gann) while everyone else sees Wilfred as just a big, friendly dog. The fourth and final season of the show will air on Wednesday nights at 10pm ET/PT on FXX, and in support of the upcoming final episodes executive producer/writer/series star Jason Gann took part in a conference call to chat about Wilfred’s journey and how he feels about the show getting to wrap up storylines with one last season.

Jason Gann Wilfred Interview

Has the mythology of the series from when the show was conceived to now changed or is this always what you had in mind?

Jason Gann: “It’s definitely changed. Even from the pilot of the FX series, no one knew what happened beyond that pilot, and it just morphed into its own creature. I mean, even when we changed showrunners for season three was really when the statue came in at the end of season three and we knew where we wanted to take that. When David Zuckerman came back on board as a showrunner this final season, we were kind of tied into that. But at the same time, we were really aware of doing more than one theme, which has been probably the only thing that has been consistent through the FX series is that there can be different answers depending on the interpretation. There’s no cut and dry, spoon-fed answer.

I think my series pretty much kind of worked out if you get picked up again for another series when there’s nothing on the playing field. When we write a season, we give everything because you never know when you’re coming back and when you’re not. We’re so blessed to be given this last opportunity to really have one last hurrah and end the show on our own terms.

To answer your question, I mean even to go back before the FX series to when it was a short film, which was back in 2002, it was certainly a short film. It was a conversation between two dudes, one of them happened to be a dog, and even then people were saying, ‘It’s a great idea, but it would never have gone beyond the seven minutes.’ When we decided to make a pilot for an Australian series, we were like, ‘I can’t imagine that after seven minutes. I think this idea doesn’t have legs, and I was, ‘No, no. This idea has got a lot of legs,’ and here we are. We did two seasons in Australia; we’ve done four seasons here.

The characters are for history to judge. You never really know where something small can take you, but I’m tremendously proud of where we have taken it though. It’s like now that it’s come to its proper conclusion – and it feels like a full conclusion – all the little steps along the way seem to make sense in a new way that they didn’t at the time. We got to the destination.”

Did FX make the decision to just give you one more season or was this more your idea? Or was it sort of mutual?

Jason Gann: “No, it was a network decision. I don’t know too much about the details, but I have noticed a couple other shows have also been brought to a close. Also, FX has an enormous amount of new shows, so it feels probably the end of an era. We feel really lucky that there was a great show of respect that we were given this opportunity to bring the show to its conclusion, even though the show may not have been like a ratings sensation.

I think that FX has been really proud of what we’ve done creatively, and the painting has been completed and it’s there for everyone to see now. I do believe that history will be kind to the TV show that is Wilfred over the years, and that’s going to be fun to watch the response grow. I mean, even the Australian show, over two years, breaking in between seasons because it was finished, just the word of mouth just kept slowly growing. We’ll see what happens.

Also, David and I, I think we’ve mentioned it in early interviews, that we kind of saw this thing like a four or five season show. We are really pleased with the end result. [Laughing] I don’t know how many more years I could’ve stayed in that dog suit anyway!”

Do you think the fact that it is the final season allowed you to let loose creatively?

Jason Gann: “Yes. Well, let loose and also be kind of restrained at the same time. I guess the main frustration, for me personally with such a heavy mythology strand—part of that show is that the first thing to go is the comedy in an edit. I’ll always fight for the comedic moments, but when it comes to story, story’s got to come first. We had so many loose ends to tie up in 10 episodes that certain things like, for instance, in the basement, we don’t have any this season just because we just couldn’t fit them in time-wise. But having said that, yes, we really did get to do some crazy scenes, some you don’t see in the first couple of episodes, but towards the end of the season. I’m certain that no one’s going to predict where we take it.

We didn’t have to worry about ratings anymore. I mean, season three we kind of thought that maybe we’d gone too mythology-heavy in season two and perhaps too dark. I think we lost a section of our audience because it wasn’t as funny as, I think, season one promised it to be and a lot of people did tune in for the comedy. Season three we really tried to steer it back closer to where we were season one and make it really comedically satisfying. I really felt we achieved that, but it wasn’t enough, I guess, to extend the [levels] of viewership, I guess. This season we didn’t have to worry about trying to win back numbers; it was just about creating a satisfying conclusion for us as the creators, and we’ve done that.”

Writers try to incorporate what they’re feeling and what they’re thinking and what they’re experiencing in life into their work. Is that a statement you’d agree with? Are there any episodes that you’ve written or contributed to that reflect who you are in any way?

Jason Gann: “Without a doubt, mate. That’s a great question, and I’ve been a great observer of this whole synchronicity sensation; it’s just incredible. I noticed that even though when I was an actor in my theatre days I couldn’t believe how the roles I was playing seemed to, not mirror identically, but resemble greatly what was really happening in my life, how I was perceived. Wilfred is certainly a dog on steroids, but it’s weird because some of these scenes of parallels between Wilfred’s life and my own life happen when I’m not even writing it anymore. It’s a bizarre situation. Last year Wilfred got married to Bear and I got married. There was a baby who was born, and I had a baby. These are the literal things, but there are many, many things that are really close to home. When I first did the short film and I showed it to my friends, [they] just said, ‘That’s just you in a dog suit.’

Over the years Wilfred becomes that creature, and David will say, ‘Even though it’s you, it’s not Wilfred. I don’t see Wilfred when I’m talking to you.’ I’m glad that my life isn’t literally reflective of Wilfred season four for reasons that shall be revealed, but it is definitely a very strong synchronicity.”

When you look back on Wilfred, is there a particular episode or moment you think represents the show as a whole?

Jason Gann: “Looking back? Personally, there’s a skit that I wrote and that screened at Comic Con, the ones where [we] really hit the comedic highs like I think maybe the doggie dancing one, ‘Avoidance’, where we have a really great mix of comedy and the drama. Yes, I think the churro stuff where we think that Wilfred wants a [blow job] from Ryan but he really wants a shake to shiver off the churro after eating the churro. For me, personally, those are the really magic moments. Elijah [Wood] and I just worked out ourselves those dances. I watched the episode the other day and, to me, that kind of captures that real camaraderie between Ryan and Wilfred.”

What’s next for you?

Jason Gann: “Well, I’ve got an animation that’s with Fox at the moment, which is really exciting for me. I’m working with a producer called Nicky Weinstock. I met up with him over a year ago and he just wanted to work with me on something, and the feeling is mutual. He just seemed to think that my imagination would work really well in an animation platform, and I had to agree.

Since season one of Wilfred and with FX, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve thrown my arms in the air when I’ve pitched some crazy idea and had everyone say, ‘We can’t do that. We can’t do that.’ I think the semen ants in season 1 and I pitch it every year, and even season three they’re like, ‘Semen ants? Just get it through your head, semen ants will never be in the show.’ Later on in the year someone else will be looking for something and someone said, ‘I think that’s semen ants, and Eli [Jorné] said, ‘I can’t believe that semen ants made it in the show.’ There’s a reference to semen ants but it wasn’t actually the story of semen ants developed, it was the genuine pitch.

When I was pitching the concept of the show to Fox Studio and they were like, ‘The semen ants, that’s that show,’ they were joking thankfully. This was kind of like I don’t have to do it anymore. For a show that’s already really crazy and out there for ideas, the fact that I’ve had so many ideas that have always been told was too crazy for even Wilfred, I think there’s a sign that this is a really good area for me to write because there are no bounds with imagination. You’re not bound by actual logistics of shooting it, so I’m really excited about that.

I’ve got another three live-action shows that I’ll be pitching as soon as I enjoy a little bit more of a rest and come back into town and start pitching again. I’ve always got five or six shows in development with my producing partners I’m ready to pitch. Actually, I think every season of Wilfred I’ve always had a loose show, which would be a starring vehicle for me, really in case Wilfred got canceled. That’s the one benefit of being a performer as well.”

You said that originally you thought the show could go about four or five seasons. Do you feel you’ve hit all the points you need to hit by the end of this season, or could we by chance maybe see Wilfred in another medium like in the movie theatre or something like that somewhere down the road?

Jason Gann: “It’s difficult to say. Look, I definitely feel like we’ve laid it to rest, the story has been told, but you never say never. Both Elijah and I and several other key players have definitely expressed a keen interest in being involved in any future potential film [project]. I really think that’s a little out of our hands. Personally, it’s out of my hands. If we’re lucky enough to have continued increasing support from our fans, over the years other shows have come back – Arrested Development, stuff like that – because people have rediscovered after they’ve come and gone. If something like that happens, then we may come back. But I don’t think it would ever be in the TV area again.

I’ve also toyed with the idea of going back and doing another Australia season again. All of these things would have to be in a couple of years when I’d have to have a good reason to do it because I don’t want to tarnish what we’ve created in any way with something cheap. Elijah, from what I’ve spoken about, would feel the same way. I’d say it would be a couple of years before I get in the suit again.”

-By Rebecca Murray

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