If there are two roles that have served notice more blatantly, that Elijah Wood is more than Frodo, they would be Sin City’s serial-killing Kevin and Wilfred’s (FXX, Wednesdays, 10/9C) Ryan – and Ryan has been around for considerably longer, taking advice from a dog, so probably more influential.
Now having finishing shooting the show’s fourth and final season, Wood spent some time talking with a group of bloggers/journalists about Ryan’s progress, saying goodbye to the sow’s family of cast and crew and having gotten to take Bear home with him – also, the Basement lives on!
Hi, Elijah. Thanks for doing the call. It’s great to talk to you again.
Elijah Wood: You’re welcome. Hi, how are you?
Elijah: Great, thanks.
Well, last night’s episode was really, really crazy, but in the best way. Can you kind of just talk about that and also Ryan’s paranoia because what do you think, like what is Ryan thinking right now? I mean he’s really confused. And then I’m also curious when you first started this episode, before you had read through the whole script, what did you think was going on, just your own opinion?
Elijah: Oh, my God. Well, reading the script, it was honestly I think my favorite script that I’ve read, maybe in the entire show. It was so exciting. I read the season kind of in order and I read like one through three and then I read four and it just totally blew my mind.
And 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 sort of psychological things visually.
So, it’s one of my favorite episodes and I’m so glad that we were able to not only do it, but also one of the things, and I don’t know if this was clear, but we ended up shooting, once you get to really trippy we actually shot primarily all of that with anamorphic lenses, which was a real treat for us because typically we’re shooting on times with our DSLRs and to be able to utilize the anamorphic wide screen was really exciting on a nerdy level for all of us.
And it was kind of cool, actually, we got these amazing anamorphic lenses and then apparently when we were finished using them they ended up going off to Star Wars, which is kind of awesome. Yeah, it’s totally awesome. But I don’t know if I have an answer for what I think Ryan is thinking.
You know, the thing that kind of blew my mind about the particular episode is that we actually delve into so many things that I think we as viewers, and to a certain degree Ryan, is concerned with, which is like seeing Wilfred step out of his suit. Basically, articulating all these things that are sort of deep in Ryan’s psyche, seeing them actually play out and to be able to come back from that as just something that he imagined in the hallucination is totally incredible.
And I think ultimately what it is it’s a manifestation of his own psychological concerns and fears more than anything. It plays to his paranoia about what Wilfred is in its deepest sense really and allows us because it’s a mind trip, it’s a hallucination that allows us the ability to really delve into that and play with it, which was a blast.
So, what do you think five, six years down the road the legacy of Wilfred will be and do you think that’s contingent on how the series finale is received?
Elijah: Ooh, good question, man. Honestly, I’ve not given much thought to that, but yeah, I think to a certain degree, I think Wilfred is a show that in some ways was always 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, if you will. So, 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.
But then there are also people that watch it because they want answers and I think they enjoy watching the process of ultimately the development of Ryan’s character, as it pertains to Wilfred. 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 I think it has a sense of being definitive whilst still plays with ambiguity, which I think is really important. I think, to a certain degree, answering, to me in some ways it’s not even about answering questions.
It’s really interesting how that has become a focal point for a lot of people and, obviously, it is for Ryan, too, to understand what Wilfred is to have a better understanding of himself. But in some ways, the answers are sort of irrelevant. It’s about one’s own development and also about the beauty of what that relationship is, regardless of what the manifestation is or what Wilfred is.
I think, at the end of the day, at least I feel this way and I’m happy with it, regardless of what Wilfred is, it doesn’t really matter. What’s important is the relationship and I think Ryan’s own personal journey. So, yeah, to extrapolate, that was a long answer. But I think will it have bearing? Maybe not, maybe not. And I think five, six years down the road I’ve honestly not thought about it, but I think it is a show that people seem to enjoy watching again, episodes again.
Like I said, I feel like as much as we are concerned about the whole in regards to a development of character and a story that we’re trying to tell, I also think that the show is enjoyable as individual pieces and I think, hopefully, people will like to come back to that. I certainly love that relationship and I would be interested in watching it again. So, I’m curious. I don’t know, time will tell I suppose.
On paper I can see how actors would look at the concept for Wilfred as involving a man and guy in a dog costume and think oh, this isn’t for me. What is it that first attracted you to the role? And looking back, what do you think has made the show so endearing over the seasons?
Elijah: Gosh, you guys are killing me with your questions! Good questions. Well, I think the pilot is the first thing that I read. There was only the pilot and it was the strangest thing I’d ever read and also the funniest. But I’d certainly never seen anything like it or read anything like it. So, that in and of itself was a real appeal.
But it also reminded me of Harvey, a little bit. I’m a real fan of Harvey and Jimmy Stewart’s performance and the sort of notion of what that film is about that it’s sort of up for interpretation what Harvey is. And I kind of felt the same way about Wilfred. It could be about a man’s break from reality by choice. As it pertains to Harvey you could say that Jimmy Stewart’s character was an alcoholic. There are so many different ways that you could interpret it and that was something that really fascinated me.
And I also just on a very simple kind of level, the idea of the absurdity of a man in a cheap dog suit talking to another man, whilst everyone else sees a dog was just something that really appealed to me. So, I just totally fell in love with it and then ultimately consequently having conversations with David Zuckerman about where he wanted the show to go excited me even further.
And what was the other part of your question, I’m sorry?
Just what do you think has made it so endearing, that this worked out so well, as it has over the season?
Elijah: Well, I think central to the story and to the show is that relationship and I think that that has connected with people. And a large part of that is what Jason [Gann] does and what the characterization of Wilfred and what he brings to that is always so extraordinary and as the actor who works opposite him I’m constantly challenged and surprised by what he brings to the table and I think that that relationship is sort of core.
I think it’s also, the scope of the show is beyond simply being about focusing on the absurdity of a man in a dog suit and this guy and I think that appeals to people, too, I would imagine. That there’s depth to it. I think what I’m most proud of the show and where I feel like the show is at its best is when it’s balancing the absurd comedy with real drama and kind of a pathos and doing that really deftly.
There are so many episodes throughout each season that I think really achieve that in a beautiful way that doesn’t feel that the scales are tipped too much in either direction and I think, I would hope that people love that. It’s certainly what I love most about the show.
There’s so many interesting supporting characters in Wilfred, I’m wondering if there was a story line with one particular character you wish would have been explored more throughout the seasons.
Elijah: Oh, man. I don’t know if there’s anything that we didn’t explore enough of. I mean, I love, that’s a good question. I think the roommate from last season played by Kristin Schaal, that was, just because I absolutely adore Kristin Schaal, I really wanted her to come back this season. And I thought what she did with that character was so brilliant and so funny and it was an absolute joy for all of us to work with her.
She was actually an actress starting from season one I would tell the writers and David and everyone else who would listen that we need to get Kristin Schaal on the show just because I think she’s wonderful. So, to finally have cast her and get her on the show was really wonderful.
And I thought the dynamic that she brought was really exciting. So, that just for personal reasons because I think she’s wonderful, I kind of wanted her to come back because I would love to have seen that character more. And as far as the other, I mean I love the Bruce character, I love how, you know, if you kind of take a step away, if you think about the fact that all of this might be manifest in Ryan’s mind, the fact that Ryan would manifest a sort of villainous character that is an antagonist to Wilfred is so absurd and so strange and kind of wonderful.
So, I’ve always loved the Bruce episodes for how truly strange they get and, again, taking a step back and looking at it, it’s so complex, the manifestations. Those are some of my favorites. I always loved those episodes.
What’s it been like being a part of the FX family over the past few years and was there anyone, in particular, behind the scenes or as far as the network that you think did an awesome job?
Elijah: It’s been great. It’s been really great and it’s been a joy to watch the network really grow in the last four years as well. I think what was really initially very much a pleasure for us and continued to be in regards to that relationship was that we had something that was quite strange and a little outside of the box or a lot outside of the box and we always had full support from them to make the kind of creative decisions that we wanted to make, which was an extraordinary thing.
They were never afraid of where we would go with the show and so we always felt supported. And to make something that is not all together common and to feel like you’ve got the support, the genuine support of the network, was really wonderful.
And it was also really wonderful to sort of see them really expand and grow and do such great creative things and to sort of be on the sidelines in support of them as the network expanded with really beautiful, great, creative content.
So, it’s been a really wonderful relationship and I hope to keep those relationships and maybe eventually work with them again. But it was fantastic. I honestly don’t know that we could have done the show anywhere else ultimately.
And when you look back on your experience over the years with the show, what do you think you’ll remember the most behind the scenes?
Elijah: Honestly, it would be the family that we created or that was created as a result of making the show on set. I think in a way the hardest thing to let go of when it all came to an end was the crew and the family that had been created over the years, because it was really the same group of people for the most part for the majority of the episodes over the course of four years.
So, when I think about the show, I really think about that. I think about Randall Einhorn directing every episode, except for I think two in the first season and that’s kind of out of the norm, it’s not common, and certainly not for a comedy for a single director to direct every single episode. And so in that we were really fortunate and he had an incredible vision for the show.
And everything kind of descended from him. Our direct family and the sort of atmosphere on the set really changed from Randall. As it often does it comes from the top. And that’s really the kind of resounding memory I have. We got to go to work every day and have a laugh and what a gift that was, to work with people that you love, to work with material that was constantly hilarious. It was genuinely something I would look forward to every year, that for three months I got to go to work with these great people and have a laugh. And I’ll definitely miss that.
When I spoke to Jason a couple of weeks ago we talked about how the show, the end, reflects his life even when he wasn’t involved in the show anymore, he talked about how Kristen had a baby in the show and he had a baby, Wilfred got married and then he got married. And so, I’m kind of curious to know have you noticed any kind of interesting parallels between the show and your own life.
Elijah: Not really, nothing directly. I haven’t developed any kind of psychosis, thankfully. I think if there were to be anything that would reflect on my life it would probably not be good if it’s coming from Ryan. No, not necessarily, no direct correlation. But the sort of benefit of having made lifelong friends that resonate and will continue to resonate as the show comes to an end.
Did you have an imaginary friend growing up and if you were someone else’s imaginary friend, what would you do or make them do?
Elijah: Oh, man. No, I didn’t have an imaginary friend. I was always fascinated by people who did and kind of fascinated by the notion because it is sort of a phenomena. A lot of kids it seems between the age of three and six tend to have a friend that they communicate with and I’ve always found that kind of amazing. But, no, I didn’t have that experience.
And if I were someone’s imaginary friend, I don’t know, I would be far less manipulative than Wilfred. I would really try and look out for the well-being of the individual I think. I would be a kinder imaginary friend.
Great. Is there anything that you would want to do, since you were imaginary, that you could get away with?
Elijah: Oh, man. No. I mean, I suppose if you were imaginary you could sort of do anything, right?
Elijah: I don’t know, time travel, travel through time would be the first thing I would want to do, if there was absolutely any possibility, time travel.
So, the imaginary Doctor. Thank you so much.
Elijah: Yeah, you’re welcome.
A number of people have described where we are with TV today as kind of a golden age, particular around cable. And I’m wondering if you agree with that and, if so, if there are any particular shows that you like to watch.
Elijah: Yeah, I do. I think it’s important to indicate that that is for cable because I think there was a golden age of network television a very long time ago, but I don’t think that’s necessarily the case for network television. Although I think the beautiful thing about the expansion of great storytelling and the embracing of great storytelling on cable has inspired network television.
And I think we’re seeing really exciting things come out on network television as well. But I do agree. I have never been so aware of television in my life. HBO really set the standard for quality many, many years ago with The Sopranos and Six Feet Under and I think that’s when I really started paying attention to television was with those particular shows.
And then consequently we have seen AMC and other networks follow suite with incredible television as well. And, yeah, it’s almost overwhelming now, there is so much good content and so many wonderful actors and writers and directors are coming to television that it’s actually kind of hard to keep up at this point because there are so many good shows and spread out over so many different networks.
I watch a lot. Again, I’ve never watched so much TV in my life, between Game of Thrones, obviously I was a huge Breaking Bad fan, the True Detective I thought was extraordinary. I watched all of Fargo as well. I’m excited about The Killing coming back, yeah, there’s a lot that I watch.
The only thing that I fear is ultimately that there are so many platforms now between Hulu doing original content and Netflix doing original content and now Amazon, in addition to actual cable networks, I feel like it has to reach a breaking point in terms of how anyone can digest that much television. There are so many channels now, so it’s really hard to keep up. But it’s certainly never been more exciting and I think in some ways it’s also kind of an answer to what’s happening with the film industry.
I feel like there’s, the major studios to a certain degree aren’t really making movies per se as much as they’re making, kind of taking pre-existing kind of [indiscernible] that people already have a connection to or they’re making remakes or they’re doing sequels. So, I think what’s happening with television to a large degree is an answer to that where it’s either the actors and the directors and the writers are moving to television because that’s where they’re being allowed to tell the kind of story they want to tell.
I think it’s fascinating, it’s sort of a sea change and I’m curious to see where it’s going to go and I’ll remain an avid watcher for sure.
I’m curious. Now that the show is ending is there anything that either you were given or you asked for to take from the set?
Elijah: Yes. I have “Bear” in my possession. And I have the Gatorade bong. There’s one of two, I think Jason has the other one. And actually a good friend of mine has a good portion of the basement. I was most sad to see the basement go. I think all of us felt a really strong connection to the space.
We spent, obviously, a lot of time over the years in that set and I kind of was trying to advocate that someone literally take the whole set and build it on their property. But no one did. I was trying to get Randall to do it because he’s got a bit of land.
But a friend of mine actually took a lot of the furniture and it’s a replica in the basement in his house, which is pretty awesome. So, I can actually go to my friend’s house and sit in the basement. But I think that’s it. I don’t think I have anything else.
But Bear, I was actually really scared to take Bear home. I was primarily worried about where Bear was going to go and I didn’t want it to fall in the wrong hands or to be sold or anything, so I felt like I had to save it. And I drove Bear home and put him in my house and sat him in a chair and it just felt so right. I was sitting there on my couch looking over at Bear.
That’s funny. And then I’m curious. Do you have anything else planned, like any new roles coming up that you want to talk a bit about?
Elijah: Sure. There’s a film that I did earlier this year that just played the Edinburgh Film Festival called Set Fire to the Stars, which is a movie about Dylan Thomas’s first trip to the U.S. and the poet professor that brought him over to the U.S. That should be coming out sometime before the end of the year.
And then there’s a film called Cooties my production company produced that played at Sundance. That should be coming out also, hopefully, before the end of the year that Lionsgate is going to distribute. 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 written and directed by Ana Lily Amirpour, who is an extraordinary filmmaker. It’s her directorial debut as a feature film.
It’s an Iranian Vampire Western in black and white that comes out in October. And I’m really excited about people getting a chance to see that.
I just want to start out before I ask my question for giving you a virtual high five for mentioning The Killing a minute ago. It’s one of my favorite shows and it’s so underrated.
Elijah: It really is.
I know. But my question is when I think of all of my favorite TV characters, Ryan is pretty high up there because I think he’s been on a real journey of discovery these past four seasons and I would love to know how you feel about the Ryan we met in the premiere versus the Ryan we’re seeing now as his journey is coming to a close?
Elijah: Well, I think the Ryan we met initially was kind of, in general, he had really kind of hit an impasse in his life where he didn’t know where to go and he was sort of ready to end it and the character that he is now I think has developed a sense of strength and an understanding of what he needs to be happy and in some ways that it’s not about being happy, which I think is probably the greatest thing that he can learn.
He also, in the earlier seasons, the way that he interacts with Wilfred is really to be easily manipulated and the sort of wool being pulled over his eyes quite simply. And now I think he’s far wiser to Wilfred’s methods. And I think, ultimately, when you see the resolution of the show I think he really comes to an understanding of his place in the world and who he is and, more importantly, I think to be okay with not knowing.
I think that’s probably one of the greatest lessons of the show and for him in his life is that you can’t necessarily have all the answers. The sort of seeking for happiness and the pursuit of that and the pursuit of sort of clarity is ultimately futile. That is, it’s kind of about progressing through life and not knowing and the unknown being really good.
And I think that’s ultimately where he will come to and I think that’s important.
When I think of the name Elijah Wood the first thing that pops up in my mind is Frodo. And you have now Ryan with Wilfred. You’re an actor, you’re a DJ, you do voiceover work, the recording label, the charity work that you do is amazing. Who is Elijah Wood to you?
Elijah: Wow, that’s intense.
So, often we place that name like Frodo onto you and we project that that’s who you are to us. And so, I’m just curious what is it to you?
Elijah: Thank you. Well, yeah, I don’t behoove people from drawing those very easy, quick, kind of comparisons of 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, look, I’m a human being who has a lot of interests. In some ways the expressions that I get when I DJ 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. Or I go to record stores and I buy records. So, if anything, DJing is almost a more direct, clear expression of who I am. But I don’t know, I believe that life is a multi-faceted experience and I’ve always been fascinated by so many different vocations and so many different arts and I’ve always believed that it’s important to pursue kind of all of those things.
I don’t know that I could simply be satisfied or happy as just an actor. I think that’s why I’ve done the production company because I love filmmaking and I particularly love genre filmmaking and I wanted to be a part of producing films that I really believe in and supporting filmmakers that I really believe in.
So, that’s also a huge extension of who I am. So, it’s so weird to self-define. I don’t know how to encapsulate that, but I suppose I’m just a human being who loves to try a lot of different things. And I want to constantly grow as a person and as an artist and constantly be challenged and sort of have new experiences.
So, if that defines me, then I guess that’s what it is. But I don’t know. I think it’s easier to look back and sort of define yourself after a period of time. I don’t know if that answers your question.
No, I just wanted to get a, because we place so much onto you, I was just curious, turning it back on to you, so that was a great answer.
Elijah: Oh, cool, thanks. I appreciate it.
You know, I wanted to ask you, 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?
Elijah: Yes, we finished about a month ago.
Okay. So, I was just wondering for the finale do you have any special plans or are you guys going to get back together for a big party or how do you plan to celebrate the final episode?
Elijah: I don’t know. That’s a good question. We haven’t actually talked about it, but it would be kind of nice to have a little gathering. I don’t know. I had some friends that went to a friend of mine’s house, the owner of the new basement, if you will, and then a bunch of them watched the premiere sitting on the couch from the basement, which was kind of amazing.
And I was actually abroad so I couldn’t join them. I don’t know, I think 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 and I haven’t seen the episode yet, but it definitely was, it’s an emotional evolution.
So, yeah, I don’t know. We don’t have any specific plans, but I think that would be great. Maybe your question will have sparked something.
There you go. I was just going to ask you, do you have any special connection with animals, like your pets or your neighbor’s pets or anything in real life?
Elijah: I’ve always loved animals, yes, always. My family have always had dogs and cats, so I grew up with animals my whole life. And I have many friends who have dogs and cats really connected to their lives and their animals. So, yeah, 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.
How much, especially now with the final season, even though it’s now over, how much of the show was scripted versus improv and were there any scenes that ended up on the cutting room floor every time?
Elijah: Oh, good question. Well, almost all of it, I would say 99% of the show is scripted probably for a couple of reasons. One of them is that we kind of didn’t have enough time to play around too much. Everything is relatively specific, so yeah, there wasn’t a lot of impro. I can’t even really think about specific lines that may have been improved.
We were doing six to eight pages of dialogue a day so it was tough, it was tough to actually find the time to sort of play around because we were moving at such a pace. But, yeah, every episode has a number of things that ended up on the cutting room floor.
A lot of what ends up going because we only have 20 some odd minutes of actual show time, a lot of what ends up going are actually jokes most of the time because the story is, each episode is encapsulating some kind of dramatic or story element and so each episode has to be in the service of that first before the jokes can work or exist.
So, a lot of what ends up going are jokes and in a way it would be kind of amazing to see all of that because there were some really great ideas and some great moments that ultimately didn’t make it because of having to have, just sort of the screen time for the story. So, there’s plenty. I feel like every episode has a few moments here and there that are really funny that just didn’t work for the story.
Okay, thank you.
Elijah: You’re welcome. For everyone to know, there’s like I think maybe 20 scripts for Couch Beats that we never filmed, which kind of breaks my heart a little bit, because we loved shooting those Couch Beats and they’re some of my favorite moments in the show where you kind of just sit with Ryan and Wilfred and it doesn’t necessarily have anything to do or pertain to anything in regards to the story of each individual episode.
They’re just sort of these stand-alone Ryan and Wilfred getting high moments that are sort of some of my favorite. And I was told this season that there were up to 15 to 20 scripts that had been written for these kind of moments that we just couldn’t get to, which is kind of a shame.
I wanted to ask live tweeting and being able to get that reaction from the fans has been kind of a part of Wilfred. Looking back, which episodes or maybe which season did you have kind of the most fun, either hearing incorrect theories or maybe amusing reactions? What were kind of your most memorable moments watching live with fans?
Elijah: A lot of the live tweeting I’ve not been able to take part in because it’s just so happens that almost every season that there have been those kind, that there has been live tweeting with cast I’ve been traveling or couldn’t watch the episode at the time, so I don’t have many memories of it.
I certainly have enjoyed reading Twitter responses and sometimes, I read all of The Onion A.V. review because I think they’re really astute. I’ve always really appreciated the writing and their perspective on the show I think has been pretty spot on. And I think the people who read The Onion also have really interesting ideas and I think are really smart.
So, I oftentimes will read their comments and I find that really entertaining in terms of people’s perspective of the show and also how in depth people really think about it. I think more than anything, I suppose, that’s what’s been gratifying and surprising over the years is that people really invest time and thought into what we’re doing.
When you work on a show or when you make anything, a film or a television show you exist and create within a bubble. It’s with your creative team and your creative world and to a certain degree you can only sort of imagine or barely imagine how people will then take that on or how they will think about it and what their perspective is going to be.
So, that’s been really gratifying to see that the sort weird show that we’re making not only do people enjoy it, but it sort of resonates with them and they really think about what Wilfred is to Ryan and what’s going on with Ryan in his various relationships in his life. So, that has been really fascinating and gratifying.
That’s great. And then how has the four years of Wilfred, like what artistically do you kind of take from it, whether it be considering your next TV role or maybe putting your own TV show or next production together of your own, whether it’s behind the scenes or maybe some of the elements that you think were standouts within Wilfred?
Elijah: Man, right. I don’t know if doing the show, if I immediately; look, it’s been really gratifying and prior to doing Wilfred I had never done television and so it was a completely new experience for me and it was filled with new challenges, the pace, working within the context of comedy was very new to me and challenging and exciting.
And I will certainly take all of those experiences with me and I think 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. I don’t know that it’s my immediate response to having the four year is to siphon it into another television show right away.
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 I think 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.
But I definitely would be open to doing television again. It was an experience that I loved and I think that we were all very lucky to have the group of people that we have working with us. So, yeah, I think there are definitely ideas I have for television, probably more in the non-fiction rather than the fiction. And I’m curious about exploring some of those ideas. But I think for now my feeling is to sort of step away from television to a certain degree and leave the future and that horizon a little bit open. And I’m sort of open to anything I suppose.
You have an amazing body of work and I’m wondering if there is a specific type of role or a genre that you’ve wanted to play, but haven’t had the chance to yet? And can you explain a little bit of your process for choosing roles?
Elijah: Yeah, it’s pretty organic. I don’t have ideas in my head about specifically what I want to do, nor do I look ahead and think about what I want to fill the next five years with. It really is far more organic than that. It’s as simple in some ways as reading things that I respond to on a gut level and jump at the chance to participate and that can be anything.
There are genres that I love, but there’s sort of no genre that I love more than any other for the most part. And I think in some ways what attracts me most to projects, more often than not, are filmmakers and their vision for the given film and wanting to be a part of that, wanting to be a part of that creative process.
And that can be with a significant role or even sometimes something really small just so I can be a part of something that I really believe in and am excited by. So, more often than not I think I don’t necessarily always think from an acting perspective or from a character perspective. Examples of that would be like, you know, Grand Piano, for instance, was something that came into my life. That happened to be that I knew the filmmaker and I was really excited about the kind of movie he wanted to make.
And I wanted to be a part of facilitating that, this sort of idea of making a really cinematic thriller utilizing the language of cinema in a way that I hadn’t seen in a long time. Like that gets me going. I really sort of on a gut level really respond to that. So, I don’t really think about roles that I haven’t played so much. Moreover I think I look to new challenges and new experiences.
Look, there are so many roles that I’ve never played. I’ve never sort of been a romantic lead, there’s all kinds of things. But I feel like I’m always just drawn to a project on a gut level. And I supposed that can be any variety of elements that come together to make me respond to something. And so I’m kind of constantly running on heart and instinct I suppose, but always I guess with a mind to do something I’ve never done before and to have new experiences and new challenges and that can manifest in so many different ways I guess.
Ryan and Wilfred have a relationship I think that has a lot of stories to tell and you mentioned that there are unfilmed Couch scenes. I feel like their relationship has a lot of stuff that can be played with, if not live action perhaps in some other medium like animation or, perhaps a book/graphic novel.
If anything like that were ever to come to fruition, would you want to be involved or would you rather sit back as a fan and just kind of enjoy those inclinations in a different medium?
Elijah: That’s a great question. I actually have often thought of it being animated because of the boundless, there are sort of no boundaries within the context of animation. There’s so much that you can do. And I’ve always actually really loved the little interstitial animated bits that they use for the logos on FX.
Those are great.
Elijah: I think they’re fantastic. I love them and I kind of love them so much that I sort of wish that there were whole episodes just with those characters because they’re kind of great. And I love the animation style as well. So, I don’t know, if there were an animated show of Wilfred and it was Ryan and Wilfred, I would definitely be interested. I think it would be a fun environment from which to tell their stories and I think that would be fantastic.
Look, I love the characters still and I particularly love the character of Wilfred, so just seeing that character or both of them in some other iteration I think would be really interesting.
Wilfred walks a fine line and I was curious as to if you did any research within the mental health industry? Since it’s kind of a real, like the show is a black comedy, but it also is super serious at times, but there are people that suffer with Ryan’s condition or affliction and I was wondering how sensitive, like was there a thought given to that and did you do any research about how to maybe play someone who sees creatures that are imaginary?
Elijah: Well, I think we were always aware that various symptoms that we were expressing were potentially real and linked to quite real mental afflictions. But it was always really important that it be undefined. So, I never did any research and part of that was because we are not actually seeing Ryan from the perspective of an outsider to see how crazy he actually is.
So, to a certain degree what he is experiencing for us, because we’re only seeing his perspective, we’re seeing it as real and, believe me, every absurd scenario that he would get himself involved in with Wilfred, we would say to him if you could actually see what is actually happening right now it would be really disturbing.
So, it was always on our minds and it was always on my mind, but I was never playing mentally disturbed because he was just experiencing Wilfred, so the reality that he’s in is that reality. The only way I think I would have had to play him slightly mentally handicapped would be if we were to break from that reality and actually see Ryan for what he really is, which is smoking a bong with a dog on a couch or sitting in a closet somewhere, do you know what I mean?
Because we never actually showed that I was to play it as what he’s really experiencing with us only afterwards questioning the reality of the world that he’s in and questioning his own sanity, as a sort of observational afterthought I think.
We were keenly aware and I think it was also important to us, and I’m sure David would speak to this as well, that we not, you know, we’re not necessarily poking fun at mental illness and I think for that we were also never trying to get at all specific with what that could be. We were really working within our own reality and a certain level of generalities as it pertains to what those symptoms were because we were never trying to make something accurate in regards to mental illness.
I mean also, at the end of the day, it is a comedy, so as dark as the show gets and, certainly, as some of those symptoms are reflective of real mental illnesses I think it was also important for us not to get too accurate or to poke fun too much I think.
Great. Thank you.
Elijah: Thank you all.
Photos by Frank Ockenfels, Michael Becker and Ray Mickshaw/Courtesy of FXX