Wilfred is dead, and Wilfred is dead. Or is he?
Well… it's not as complicated as it might seem, and thanks to a Wilfred series finale that was sweet, revealing, and sad but (as star/producer/writer Jason Gann puts it) ultimately uplifting, the show's fans got some definitive answers to the FX (and then FXX) series's central mysteries.
The four-season run of the American adaptation of Wilfred ended Wednesday night, with Wilfred the actual dog dying of cancer while the version of Wilfred who lived to alternately enlighten and be the ornery companion of human BFF Ryan (Elijah Wood) — i.e., the version of Wilfred that looked like a guy in a dog suit in Ryan's mind — lives on.
A few days before the two-part finale aired, Australian native Gann talked to Yahoo TV about the finale, about how he understood viewers' impatience with finding out who or what Wilfie was to Ryan, about the future for him and the Wilfred suit, and about how he and the cast and crew celebrated the end of the series in true Wilfred style: with a Wilfred wake.
Congratulations on the finale. It's been such a fun ride with these characters, and I think it's an incredibly satisfying wrap-up to the series.
I think you are the first person I've spoken to outside of the Wilfred family about it, so thank you. I've been reading some comments online, and everyone's speculating; everyone's getting real nervous. People have been crying, saying, "Don't die! You can't kill Wilfred! I'm really nervous, but I can't wait to see it." A lot of anticipation. I think some people are starting to sense that Wilfred might die. They're like, "Dude, look at every movie or every book ever written where a dog is the star. They always die."
Did you feel pressure to have a definitive ending to the series, in terms of answering exactly what Wilfred is to Ryan?
I came over here with an open mind, open to a fresh interpretation of what the show was. It's what I always wanted, and I'm very proud of that.
If I had my way, I wouldn't have made the whole "What is Wilfred?" question such a big deal. In the Australian version, we never did. With Ryan, he's only ever seen [Wilfred] in a dog suit. He's talking to Wilfred. You just accept these characters as they are. I think we made so much of it in this series in the States, and so many fans were getting frustrated with it, like "What's going on? I want to know. If you're going to tease me with stuff, I want to know something."
For a long time, we were dragging it out. I'm getting frustrated, saying, "Let's decide what's happening here, because people out there want to know, and we don't know." Eventually, I wanted to work out what happened, what is going on there. I'm really proud of the answers that the writers in the group have come up with. I think it is satisfying, even though it might be sad. I think we got the mix just right. I think it's a sad but a pretty uplifting end.
Were you ready for the show to end after four seasons, or do you think it could have, should have, gone on?
I think it could have gone on for another season or two. And [the finale] doesn't mean that Wilfred necessarily is over forever. It started as a short film. It was a few years before it became an Australian show, and then a few years again before it became an American show. I can't imagine coming back in this particular form. But people are like, "I just discovered the show on Netflix." If the show continues to have a slow-building, die-hard fanbase, who knows? We might bring Wilfred back in a movie or something.
Are there things you couldn't do in the series that you could do in a movie?
There's the "Black Eyed Peas plane" episode I was pitching since Season 1. In the story, Wilfred was friends with the Black Eyed Peas and went up in their airplane, and then they had magic mushrooms mid-air. The pilots were out, so Wilfred and Ryan had to land the plane, and they landed on the Hudson River or something like that.
Do you want to do more TV?
I'm developing an animated series with Fox. I'm really excited about it. It's about a bunch of millennials on steroids, just really out-of-control millennials. It's called Big American Babies. It's crazy. Animation really is the perfect platform for me. There's no restrictions with imagination. I'm really loving that at the moment. Whether this show goes all the way to broadcast or not, it's definitely an area where I want to make a groundbreaking show.
The Wilfred suit: Are you relieved to put it aside for now?
It's one of those things. I mean, yeah, when I'm doing it, it gets kind of hellish. It was just part of the job. I don't miss it, but at the same time, I'm not massively relieved. If I ever get the urge, I can always put it on again.
Did you keep any of the suits from the production?
I got one of them, yeah. There's about six of them, I think. And I got the Australian one. I've also got one of the ones FX sells, the plushy ones. Those things are a pleasure to wear.
There was always a certain amount of freedom in putting that suit on, right? Being able to say and do things no character could get away with without it?
There was definitely that element. The Wilfred character was somewhere between a live-action and an animated character, you know what I mean? I would get away with saying and doing things that no human could. Beyond that, it allowed me a freedom to perform in a way that I would never have been brave enough to do without the suit… it was just like a mask of sorts that really let me behave in some silly ways, just some crazy parts of my personality, but I would normally be… I'm kind of shy in person.
And what about Bear? Who has custody of Bear?
Do you know what? Bear's downstairs, in my f--king basement. Elijah kept him, because no one wanted Bear. He was like, "Who wants Bear?" I'm like, "I don't want Bear. He disgusts me. I have a little kid. I don't want him playing with Bear." So Elijah kept Bear.
Then when we had the Wilfred wake at my house, I'm like, "Can you bring Bear just for the wake?" Elijah drives over to my home, one side of L.A. to the other, with Bear sitting in the passenger seat, which I just think that in itself is hilarious. He brought him to the wake with his little black tie, and Bear was dressed in black.
Later on, someone said Elijah had to go, but he left Bear here. He said he didn't want to take Bear away from the wake; he'll get him back later. Bear's still here, and now Elijah's overseas. Bear's like the kid no one wants. Like, "When are you coming to pick up Bear?"
Tell me a bit more about the wake. Did you wear the Wilfred suit? How was Wilfred represented?
No suit. I have a really beautiful oil painting portrait of Wilfred that a fan did a couple years ago for me. It's framed, and it's just beautiful. I put that on top of the fireplace, and we had flowers under it and candles, and a lot of photos. A bunch of different special props from the show, all Wilfred's things.
We had a bouncy castle for the kids that was a big giraffe, so it was like Raffie was there. Bear sat right there. Everyone came dressed in black to pay their respects. The show is ending, but it was also kind of like Wilfred is [over]. We wrote the short film in November of 2001. That's how long the character was around.
It was a moment where everyone got to come together. There were a few people that were upset, too. It was just a good moment for everyone, outside a traditional wrap party, to come together. We loved working together. It was just a party to commemorate that and the dog.