By ANGELA DAWSON
Front Row Features
HOLLYWOOD—In his post “Lord of the Rings” career, Elijah Wood has occupied himself mostly by making quirky independent films and, for the past four years, starring in an offbeat cable comedy TV series called “Wilfred.” Now, in its fourth and final season,
“Wilfred” airs Wednesdays at 10 p.m. ET/PT on FXX.
The 33-year-old actor, best known for playing Frodo Baggins in Peter Jackson’s big screen adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien’s fantasy trilogy through Middle Earth, recently spoke about doing the show, in which he plays a manic-depressive, who sees the neighbor’s dog (Jason Gann in a dog suit) as a man in a dog costume. He also reflected on his connection to his characters and what’s ahead.
Q: What do you think has made “Wilfred” so endearing to its fans, which have followed it from FX (where it aired originally) to FXX?
Wood: Central to the story and to the show is that relationship, and that has connected with people. A large part of that is what Jason (Gann) does with the characterization of Wilfred, and what he brings to that is always so extraordinary. As the actor who works opposite him, I’m constantly challenged and surprised by what he brings to the table. It’s that relationship which is sort of core. It’s also about the scope of the show, which is beyond focusing on the absurdity of a man in a dog suit and this guy. There’s depth to it. What I’m most proud is that the show balances the absurd comedy with real drama and a kind of pathos.
Q: Was there one particular character you wish would have been explored more throughout the series?
Wood: I don’t know if there’s anything that we didn’t explore enough. Maybe the roommate from last season played by Kristen Schaal, because I absolutely adore Kristin Schaal. I really wanted her to come back this season. And I thought what she did with (Anne) was so brilliant and so funny. It was an absolute joy for all of us to work with her. I also love (Dwight Yoakum’s) Bruce character. If you kind of take a step away and think about the fact that all of this might be in Ryan’s mind, the fact that he would manifest a sort of villainous character that is an antagonist to Wilfred is so absurd and strange and kind of wonderful.
Q: When I think of Elijah Wood, the first thing that pops up in my mind is Frodo. With “Wilfred,” fans now think of you as Ryan. Who is Elijah Wood to you?
Wood: Wow, that’s intense. I don’t behoove people from drawing those very easy comparisons or labels because those elements, particularly something like Frodo, is very predominant in people’s minds. So, to a certain degree I will always be that character, even that character will always be linked to me. But what am I? Well, I’m a human being who has a lot of interests. In some ways the expressions that I get when I deejay is as much a major definition of who I am as any of the roles I’ve played because it’s an extension of something I’m deeply passionate about and something that I love and in some ways is almost more personal because it’s what I do when I go home. I listen to music. So, if anything, deejaying is almost a more direct, clear expression of who I am. I don’t know that I could simply be satisfied or happy as just an actor. That’s why I’ve created the production company because I love filmmaking and I particularly love genre filmmaking. I wanted to be a part of producing films that I really believe in and supporting filmmakers that I really believe in.
Q: What do you think the legacy of “Wilfred” will be five or six years down the road, and do you think that’s contingent on how the series finale is received?
Wood: I’ve not given much thought to that, but yeah, I think to a certain degree, I think “Wilfred” is a show that was designed to be enjoyed as individual episodic television so that each piece could be enjoyed into itself or unto itself, whilst a deeper enjoyment can be gleaned from the whole. I still hear from people that go back and watch the first two or three seasons and enjoy them just in terms of the relationship between Wilfred and Ryan, which I think is at the core of the show. So, I think, to a certain degree, once it’s fully contextualized at the end, perhaps that will have some bearing on it as a whole. I’m really pleased with how it ultimately comes to an end and I think—without revealing anything—it has a sense of being definitive whilst still plays with ambiguity. To me, in some ways, it’s not even about answering questions. What’s important is the relationship and Ryan’s personal journey. Five or six years down the road, I think it is a show that people seem to enjoy watching again.
Q: What do you think of this final season? Episode Four was rather surreal, wasn’t it?
Wood: Yeah, I read the first three episodes, and then I read the fourth one, and it just totally blew my mind. It’s honestly representative of some of my favorite elements of the show. When the show can get as surreal and twisted sort of psychologically as this episode gets, it’s sort of my favorite areas for exploration, especially when it allows for a visual way to explore psychological things visually. It’s one of my favorite episodes and I’m so glad that we were able to not only do it, but also we actually shot primarily all of that with anamorphic lenses, which was a real treat for us because typically we’re shooting with our DSLRs and to be able to utilize the anamorphic wide screen was really exciting on a nerdy level for all of us. When we were finished using them they ended up going off to (be used in) “Star Wars,” which is kind of awesome.
Q: Do you have any special connection with animals, like your pets or your neighbor’s pets or any other creatures in real life?
Wood: I’ve always loved animals. My family has always had dogs and cats, so I grew up with animals my whole life. I have many friends who have dogs and cats that are really connected to their lives. It’s been kind of a major timeline through my life is love of, certainly domestic animals, but also I’ve always loved animals, in general.
Q: Since you guys have already divvied up the props and everything I assume that you’ve completed production on all 10 episodes for the season, correct?
Wood: Yes, we finished about a month ago.
Q: For the finale, do you have any special plans or are you guys going to get back together for a big party?
Wood: I don’t know. We haven’t actually talked about it, but it would be kind of nice to have a little gathering. I had some friends that went to a friend of mine’s house, the owner of the new basement and then a bunch of them watched the premiere sitting on the couch from the basement, which was kind of amazing. I was actually abroad so I couldn’t join them. But it would be nice to have a small gathering to watch the final episode. I think it’ll be kind of emotional, but maybe we’ll sort of need each other because it’s an emotional ending.
Q: Do you want to do another TV series?
Wood: I don’t know if I’ll be doing another show immediately. It’s been really gratifying. Prior to doing “Wilfred,” I had never done television and so it was a completely new experience for me. It was filled with new challenges: the pace and working within the context of comedy. I will certainly take all of those experiences with me. I’ve certainly grown as a human being and, hopefully, as an actor as a result of the experience because it’s so different from anything I’ve done before. If anything, I think I have this feeling of wanting to create a sense of a little bit of distance, just because we’ve sort of accomplished this thing and it’s something that we’re all really proud of and I’m keen to sort of have the horizon be a little bit open from now on and excited about what that will bring.
Q: What do you have coming up?
Wood: There’s a film called “Cooties,” that my production company produced. It played at the Sundance Film Festival. That should be coming out also, hopefully, before the end of the year. That’s pretty much it. There’s also something we produced called “A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night,” which I’m extremely proud of. It’s an Iranian vampire western in black and white that comes out in October. It’s written and directed by Ana Lily Amirpour, who is an extraordinary filmmaker. It’s her directorial debut as a feature film and I’m really excited about people getting a chance to see that.