Before Elijah Wood headed back to Venice Beach to shoot the second season of FX’s critical hit comedy, Wilfred, he returned to the shire to reprise his Lord of the Rings role of Frodo Baggins for December’s The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey and next year’s follow-up The Hobbit: There and Back Again, and was surprised how “normal” it felt to put on the fake feet, the shaggy wig, and the pointed ears. He thought, “here we are again, this is what we’ve been doing all this time.” As if time stood still but it’s hard to believe almost a decade has passed and countless films and voice work have kept Wood busy.
Wood, now 31, just finished working on a big ensemble film called Pawn Shop Chronicles, directed by Wayne Kramer (The Cooler, Running Scared), which he says is going to be “fucking amazing” with an all-star cast. He’s also starring as “Beck” in the new Disney XD cartoon, TRON: Uprising. That’s a lot to fit in between two seasons of television, but then again, Wood’s not your average actor, and his role of Wilfred’s Ryan Newman is anything but average.
Ryan is a confused, young man trying to navigate through life and forms a tight bond with his neighbor’s dog, who is simply a dog to everyone else. In spite of that, Ryan sees an obnoxious, foul-mouthed Australian man in a dime-store dog suit. They’re TV’s latest odd couple, but that doesn’t make them any less of best friends. We sat in on a conference call with Wood, who discussed his reactions to Season 1 and what we can expect with Season 2. (For those who’ve yet to see through the Season 2 Preview episode, beware of spoilers.)
For Those Keeping Score
The second half of last season’s Wilfred was a tempest brewing when Wilfred took taking Ryan to a dark trip to a retirement home in the episode “Respect.” Two introductions to Ryan’s mother, Catherine in “Compassion” and Bruce who could also see Wilfred in “Doubt,” sent Ryan into a tailspin. And the finale, aptly entitled, “Identity” brought out the evil side of Ryan, a glimpse into the side of him that led to that lonely place in the pilot. When Jenna needed legal help, we saw a return of Ryan’s dark and selfish ways. Wood explains why, for a moment, it was important to see him slip back into that darkness and whether or not we’ll see him regress again in Season 2.
“It provided a color to the character that was very different from the character we were introduced to and that we’ve only kind of ever alluded to that side of him in the first season until we saw it at the end, so it was great fun to play.”
“We won’t necessarily see that darkness again. He allowed himself to get to the precipice a little bit, and in doing that, he almost lost everything that was holding him together–Wilfred included–and so now we see him having come out of that space, and I don’t think it’s likely that he’ll return there any time soon. But we now are aware of the fact that that exists, and to a certain degree, more importantly, that is ultimately what led to his initial downfall. I think it was that selfish activity and doing things that he knew was wrong that put him in the place that made Wilfred come into his life in the first place.”
We were left to stew over a puzzling ending where the closet that led to the basement stairs was revealed to be a closet with no stairs, putting many events of Season 1 into question. Wood loved the challenge showrunner David Zuckerman came up with.
“To leave people on a bit of a cliffhanger in such an extreme way was really exciting,” Wood said. “Then trying to figure out how best to come out of that was an interesting challenge for David. But I love the way that he ultimately did. What I’m proud of with the show is where it goes in that first season.”
Because of the multi-layered nature of Wilfred, the finale worked, but don’t think that Zuckerman’s Season 1 finale can’t be topped..
“We do a similar thing this season as well, where from episode 207 on, things get a little bit more complex in the storytelling, and those are some of my favorite episodes. We have an interesting finale this season as well that I’m very excited about.”
Teaching Ryan New Tricks
Walking up to the front door of Season 2, after viewing the preview episode, “Progress,” we see that matter of the basement is real, and Ryan is now employed. Small steps have been made towards a recovery but the evidence of some of Ryan’s vices were uncovered “digging” between the sofa cushions. Despite whatever improvements he feels he’s made, Ryan still sees Wilfred. Still, Wood insists that Ryan will be wiser in Season 2, “a little bit less passive” and be more aware of Wilfred pulling the fur over his eyes.
“Ryan is constantly trying to look ahead to any of the things that Wilfred’s suggesting as possibly being a trick or a manipulation. So there is a bit more of struggle between the two of them this time around. I think he’s a lot more active in trying to almost stay ahead of Wilfred. He’s not always successful, but he has his eye out.”
“But as much as Wilfred cannot entirely be trusted, I think those sorts of schemes and lies end up in Ryan learning something and continuing to grow and advance as a person, despite the method for getting him there. I think deep down Ryan has a sense that Wilfred does have his best interest at heart.”
“[Ryan’s] aware of the fact that he’s on a path of self-discovery and a journey to bettering himself, and Wilfred’s his friend. It’s the person that knows and understands him the best, again, despite the difficulties present in their relationship sometimes. It’s the person that he can actually rely on and that can truly understand what makes Ryan who he is.”
In “Progress,” Ryan finds Wilfred’s will and reads two words on the last page of a stack of blank paper, “Keep Digging.” And does so in the final credits, finding his trusty Gatorade bottle bong. Surely this can’t be the extent of his dig, just don’t expect Ryan’s to begin his hopeful journey right away. Wood explains that in the first few episodes, Ryan gets his bearings and everything seems more familiar than changed.
“But as the season progresses some of those existential questions and complications start to arise again,” Wood previews. “We’ll see more of that digging, I suppose, and of his self-discovery and growth, or lack of growth, as the season progresses. Wilfred starts to become a little bit more like that, which represents, again, an element of the show that I think I’m most in love with.” And while he adores the upcoming funny, ridiculous episodes that kick off Season 2, he believes “Progress” is emblematic of Wilfred at its best.
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