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CCI: FX’s Wilfred Panel

by  in TV News Comment
CCI: FX’s <i>Wilfred</i> Panel
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Many fans eagerly shared a line Thursday at Comic-Con International with legions of Beavis and Butt-Head enthusiasts on Thursday for a chance to see not only unreleased clips from Wilfred but also an in-depth discussion with the cast and creators of FX’s offbeat new comedy.

TV critic Alan Sepinwall moderated this colorful panel, which included stars Elijah Wood, Jason Gann, Dorian Brown and Fiona Gubelmann, Executive Producer David Zuckerman and Co-Executive Producer Randall Einhorn.

Based on the Australian show of the same name, Wilfred marks the series TV debut of Wood (The Lord of the Rings), who plays Ryan, a suicidal introvert struggling to make his way in the world until he meets his neighbor’s pet Wilfred (Gann), whom only he sees as a man dressed in a dog suit. The series premiered last month on FX.

Gann, who co-created and starred in the original version of the show, explained that Wilfred’s roots date back to November 2001, when he was inspired by a friend’s account of his date’s jealous and suspicious dog. The idea was transformed into a short film, screened at the Sundance Film Festival in 2003, before being expanded into a television series in 2007.

The spotlight then moved from Gann to Wood, who recalled receiving the pilot script from Zuckerman. “I fell in love with it!” Wood exclaimed, describing how he hunted down episodes of the Australian comedy on YouTube to get a better feel for the series. He explained that, as a black comedy, Wilfred required a decidedly different approach from his dramatic roles. Although his character is in no way “slapstick,” he needs to react to Gann’s performance as Wilfred in a way that’s amusing to the viewer.

Even more challenging to Wood was the sheer amount of screen time he had to endure in the first season. Because his character is the focus, virtually every scene involves him and is shot from his point of view.

All of the actors brought up the challenges that arise in interacting with one another, and the methods they use to emulate their characters. Gann said he tends to think of Wilfred as a human mind trapped in a dog’s body. Gubelmann and Brown recalled the baby talk they use when “conversing” with their pets; it’s their way of conveying to the audience that Wilfred can only talk in Ryan’s mind.

The audience’s reaction to the screening was overwhelmingly positive, with the room filling with laughter at Ryan’s awkward moments and Wilfred’s cringe-inducing physical relationships with stuffed bears and giraffes.

Most of the audience Q&A was focused on Zuckerman’s plans for the characters in the Season 2. While he wouldn’t reveal too much, beyond confirming that there will be a second season, he said fans can expect more on Wilfred and why he has an Australian accent. More importantly, the show may delve deeper into the reasons for Ryan’s suicidal behavior.

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