Interview: Jason Gann and Fiona Gubelmann On Season 3 of ‘Wilfred’

Interview: Jason Gann and Fiona Gubelmann On Season 3 of ‘Wilfred’

Jason Gann plays Wilfred, a dog that Ryan (Elijah Wood) sees and hears as anthropomorphic. Photo courtesy of FX.

Interview: Jason Gann and Fiona Gubelmann On Season 3 of ‘Wilfred’
June 26
11:00 2013

Preston Barta / Film Critic

Jason Gann, co-creator and star on the American sitcom television series “Wilfred,” and Fiona Gubelmann, the titular pooch’s perky owner, talked with NT Daily recently about the writing process and what it’s like to pretend that Wilfred is a genuine canine.

Since you created the character by writing the short film in 2002, starting the Australian series of the same name and selecting episodes throughout your career, how has writing affected your acting? Are there ever times on episodes where you think, “I wouldn’t have taken the story in that direction”, or, “I wouldn’t have done the character that way?” Or, would you say that all the writers are pretty much on the same page?

Jason Gann: “There are some things that I’m not in love with, but that’s normal. I’ve hated things before that everyone else loved and then three months later I watch them back and realized I was 100% wrong. I’ve learned to trust the opinions of those around me a lot more and that in turn takes off a lot of pressure.”

How rewarding does it feel that you’re on season three?

Fiona Gubelmann: “It’s a pretty surreal feeling. It’s weird to me because it still hasn’t quite hit me that I am on the series and that we’re on the third season. To be honest, I still get excited and surprised when people say, ‘I am such a big fan of the show.’ I am like, ‘Really? That’s so cool!’ I’m so thrilled when people say that. It is very rewarding.”

What are Elijah Wood and Jason Gann like onset?

Gubelmann: “Elijah is so easy to talk to. He’s one of the most down-to-earth people that I have ever met and yet he’s so talented, hard working and brilliant. Jason is a very fascinating person. He’s a genius and a complete goofball. We both have such a dark sense of humor, so we quickly became good friends. Between him, Elijah and me, there’s a lot of banter onset. I never had brothers growing up, but I feel like Elijah and Jason are my brothers.”

When you first began the show here in the states, did you approach your character differently for an American audience?

Gann: “Not intentionally at first. Wilfred was more of a douche in the Australian version. But when I started reading with Elijah, I was like, ‘How can I be mean to this guy?’ Elijah is one of the sweetest and coolest dudes around. So other sides to Wilfred started coming out— a protective side. That’s when the whole element of Wilfred wanting to help Ryan, Elijah’s character, came about. Now there are so many different crazy sides to Wilfred that I can’t even keep up.”

When it comes to doing scenes with Jason, is it difficult to pretend that Wilfred is a dog, especially in scenes where he’s in your lap and licking all over you? Because it’s interesting to think that while you see him doing all these dog-like things, Ryan sees it as something almost sexual because he sees Wilfred as a man in a suit.

Gubelmann: “For me, the way I have to treat Wilfred is that he is my dog. I have to ignore the reality of the situation and see Jason as my dog. I have to stick to that belief because it would be really challenging otherwise. I would be cracking up all the time. I have to think about how I am with my animals and bring it to the set.”

I read that you wrote the “Sincerity” episode for this season. How does that process work? Do all the writers meet in a room and discuss ideas for episodes to see what will work for the season’s story arc?

Gann: “Yeah. We start the season by pitching story ideas. Often there are a few really strong ones that jump out of the gate and we put them to one side. Then we talk about each character and where we’d like to see them go throughout the season. Then we have a series arc that we’ve been weaving in-and-out of the stories for the past two years, so we try to service that. Then we ‘break’ one story at a time. Each story takes three to four days, with all the writers throwing in ideas and jokes. Then when we have the outline, one writer goes away and writes the first draft. So each episode is filled with a lot of people’s ideas.”

What do you find easier to do, scenes of comedy or drama?

Gubelmann: “That’s a tough one. I mean, I love doing drama, but I am passionate and super crazy about comedy. When it comes to comedy, I tend to prefer comedies that come from an honest place and have a great sense of truth to them. I definitely prefer comedy over drama, but ultimately, I would say it depends on the scene because they are both very challenging in their own ways.”

One of the most compelling aspects of the show is how Wilfred is very human in nature, as well as very dog-like. How do you find that balance?

Gann: “I’ve been in-and-out of that suit for so long now that I don’t even know anymore. Something just happens and Wilfred takes over. The suit helps a lot. What am I saying? It’s all the suit.”

And lastly, if you could teach a college course, what would you teach? It could be a class that already exists, or of your own creation.

Gann: “Probably Theatre, and maybe focus on physical comedy master classes. I may actually do that one day, when I hang up the dog suit.”

Gubelmann: “I would like to teach a class on wizardry [Laughs]. No, if I could teach a class— I am sorry, but this is going to be real sappy— it would be a class about teaching people to embrace their unique, individual talents and just be who they are. I want people to feel proud for who they are and what they have to offer to the world. I would love to be involved with something like that.”

“Wilfred” airs Thursdays at 9 p.m. CT on FX.

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