This is a big week for "Wilfred" star Elijah Wood: The third season of his quirky, but endearing FX comedy premiered Thursday, followed by the U.S. release of his horror movie remake, "Maniac," in which he plays a serial killer who scalps his victims.
Wood, the "Lord of the Rings" star who's also a DJ, and the owner of his own record label (Simian Records) and horror production company (The Woodshed), talked to Yahoo! TV about what Ryan and his dog-suited pal Wilfred will be up to in the new season, about his "Adrenaline Junkie" adventures, and about his reaction to the Red Wedding on "Game of Thrones."
Before we talk about "Wilfred," we know you're a huge "Game of Thrones" fan. What was your reaction to the Red Wedding?
Oh, Jesus. I had no idea it was coming. I had heard for, I guess, the past three years … friends who had read the books refer to this Red Wedding, but out of context I had no idea what that was. It was devastating, totally devastating. Characters that I'd really come to love and in some ways the Stark family was the most noble and the most honest and true. It's so awful to see them meet that kind of end. It was just so emotionally powerful, Catelyn standing up trying to protect her son, really, really beautiful and shocking.
You've actually visited the set, right? You've sat on the Iron Throne?
Yes (laughing). I got to go to Belfast, this was actually last year, and DJ there for Bushmills. Since I was in Belfast and I knew that their studio was there, we just sort of inquired, "Would it be possible to go to the set and have a visit?" It was incredible to meet the whole team, go through the costume department … it's an amazing operation they have there. They're all so enthusiastic about the show, so passionate about it. It was a real treat.
We're sure there were people there who were fans of your work as well.
Well, it's funny. There are similarities to "Lord of the Rings" to a certain degree. Certainly that mix of fantasy and history. It really reminded me in some ways of what production was like on "Lord of the Rings." The same infrastructure, the costume department is huge, the prop department is huge. They've got their own swordsmith making real swords. It felt very familiar. It definitely seemed like those people were all fans of ("Lord of the Rings"), so that was cool.
Now, about our pal Wilfred. People keep going back to the question of "What is Wilfred? Is he real? Is he just Ryan's imagination?" The longer the show goes on, though, that seems less important because whatever Wilfred is, the important thing is that he's necessary for Ryan to become the person he's meant to be, not the one that his family wanted him to be.
Totally, yeah. That's it. I also think, just naturally, as we progress, I don't think Ryan is so obsessed with trying to figure out what Wilfred is. The conflict, the back-and-forth conversations between the two of them, are becoming less and less. I think that there's more of a level of acceptance from Ryan that Wilfred is in his life and the benefits far outweigh the questions.
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Wilfred is Ryan's best friend as well, and I think he's settled more into that. But that's really interesting. I think there has to be that level of acceptance, otherwise the constant questioning would get a little bit exhausting, which isn't to say that Ryan doesn't have deep questions. The first episode of the season opens up with him still analyzing that drawing that we saw at the end of the last season. That drawing really does play a major role in the context of the whole season. It keeps getting revisited. There still has to be some level of questioning. I think there is also acceptance in there as well. You can have a lot of fun with that.
As a viewer, you're watching it, you love Ryan and Wilfred, and their friendship, but you can never really ignore that, "Hey, this is a man in a dog suit." Is that something you have to address while you're playing Ryan?
I think I, like the character, have just accepted it. It's funny, but I see Jason (Gann, the actor in the Wilfred suit) just as an actor. I see Jason in that suit all the time, so I see it as really normal. I think [Ryan] feels the same way. It's a comfortable thing to recognize. I don't often, when we're making it, think outside of that context, what could be actually happening, what could be perceived from an outside perspective. I sort of see it from the character's eyes for the most part.
Have you ever envied the dog suit? Jason has talked about how hot it is inside the suit, especially on hot L.A. days, but it also seems very liberating in terms of the things he can do in that suit.
Oh, yeah. I actually tried on the suit for the first time this year. It is warm. I don't know if I entirely envy him, but there is a freedom to it. You speak to it being liberating, and I think in some ways, it is. I have different costumes and wardrobe changes and things. Jason very simply comes into work every day. He wears a sweat suit and then he puts on the dog suit. It's so simple and in that way, I think, the simplicity must be very liberating as well.
I think the challenge for him, and when he rises to the occasion so beautifully with that character, is because the character is just simply in a dog suit all the time, there's not a lot exteriorly to change the perception of Wilfred. He does so much incredible work with making a malleable character … Wilfred changes. Even in [the season premiere], for instance, with the other dog, Stinky. He gets to try on all these different hats and put a lot of different characters into the same character. That's where he really shines. He's really extraordinary in that regard.
I think this new season, more than any season, he's made me laugh more. I don't know if that's indicative of the season being really funny or funnier than the others, but I certainly laughed more this year.
NEXT: Wood previews the third episode of "Wilfred" and his adventure in Africa...
The show also continues to go places that make you say, "I can't believe they just did that!" Not to spoil anything, but viewers will know when they see it, the ants in the third episode of the new season …
Oh, my God. The ants! (Laughing). Well, that's part of the fun of the show, too, is that we tend to go to these ridiculous places, and places that often times, we can't believe we're allowed to go. That's a real credit to FX, to allow us the freedom to make the kind of show that we want and to go to some very weird, strange, sometimes dark places.
It's funny, that whole thing with [the ants]. That was actually an idea that Jason had two seasons ago, and he kept pushing it on the writers, and the writers were like, "Well … no. What's funny about that? That's weird." Finally, he managed to get it into an episode. My hat's off to Jason for his perseverance.
Again, not to spoil anything, but there's a phone conversation between Ryan and his dad at the end of "Suspicion," the third episode. Is it safe to assume that's not the end of that storyline for the season?
That's a relatively fair assumption (laughing). I mean, I can't really speak to the father and where it's going, but we've had a conversation. For a character that we've been talking about for two seasons, that's the first time that we actually hear the father and make the character come to life. So it will definitely be explored. For sure.
Having done the series now for three seasons, and this being your first starring TV role, what is your thought about it at this point? Do you like the pace of television? Do you like the routine of it?
I love it. I'm lucky enough to work on a show that I really believe in. It's artistically satisfying. But it's also really fun to go back to work every year for three months with the same group of people. The routine of it is really nice. When we first got picked up for a second season, I remember feeling that feeling of like, "Wow, job security." (Laughing)
I love the pace. And it's an interesting experience being on something that is in people's living rooms from week to week. That's very different for me, too. I remember feeling that the first season. Because when you work on a film, the film comes out in the theaters, it's in the theaters for X amount of time and then it's gone. But to be in people's living rooms over the course of the summer is a totally different experience. It's cool.
You're very active on Twitter. Do you check out what people are saying about the show?
Oh, yeah. It's cool to see people respond. I think Season 2 just came out on DVD, so I've lately been getting a lot of tweets about watching Season 2 and people's enthusiasm for the show. It's cool.
This is a big week for you, with the "Wilfred" season premiere on Thursday, and then your horror movie remake, "Maniac," finally debuting in America on Friday …
Yeah, it's two polar opposites.
We're certainly not used to seeing you play a role like the serial killer you play in "Maniac," but it's been getting great reviews, particularly your performance.
I'm really surprised by the response. Not because I don't believe in it, but it's always a nice surprise when you work on something and then it gets received so well. Especially since the horror movie audience is pretty massive, and it's a smart audience. As much as a horror film fan will watch anything, their taste is relatively honed for what's good and what's bad. I think, with this, the expectation is obviously that much greater because it's a remake of a movie that's relatively beloved. For it to have the response that it has [drawn] is really wonderful, because if they didn't like it, they would be very open and honest about the fact that they don't like it.
We just watched a clip of you on Jack Osbourne's reality series "Adrenaline Junkie," where you became the first person to cross Victoria Falls by rope. Do you do these kinds of things a lot?
I don't do those things a lot. I definitely wouldn't classify myself as an adrenaline junkie. I think I possess a sense of maybe foolish fearlessness (laughing). In that particular instance, it was just putting faith in the people that have rigged the lines that they have rigged it safely, and that we were going to get across safely. I believed that, so I wasn't afraid, I guess. It's crazy (laughing). It was so beautiful though, because pulling myself out to the center of the gorge, the view from that standpoint was extraordinary and a relatively unique view. Not a lot of people can hang out in the middle of that gorge with that perspective. It was really special.
"Wilfred" Season 3 airs on FX Thursdays at 10 PM.
The "Wilfred: The Complete Season 2" Blu-ray boxed set, with deleted scenes, a blooper reel, and an exclusive short, is now available from Fox Home Entertainment.