By Laura Drucker
In the hit show Wilfred on FX, Australian actor and comedian Jason Gann plays a foul-mouthed, marijuana smoking version of man’s best friend who acts as both friend and foe to Elijah Wood’s character Ryan. To the world, Wilfred looks just like any other dog, but to Ryan he appears as a man in a dog suit. The central mystery (just what is Wilfred exactly?) is twisted up in humor that’s as wickedly funny and dangerously dark as the character himself.
Gann is more than just the man in the furry suit, he’s also the creator of the series. We sat down with him to talk about pets, the inspiration behind Wilfred, and whether or not that dog suit is as uncomfortable as it looks.
TAILS: Did you grow up with any pets?
Jason Gann: Yeah, I had a Corgi/Blue Heeler Australian Cattle Dog mix named Nugget. She looked like a Cattle Dog but with stumpy legs and big ears, and she could run. I also had a bunch of half-feral cats and some guinea pigs. And two mice who I kept in the lining of my jacket so mum couldn’t find them…Not gross at all.
Do you currently have a pet?
I have two cats right now, Sydney and Tokyo. They are sister and brother. But people think they are more like dogs. Sydney fetches and Tokes growls at the postman.
You are an outspoken advocate for animal welfare—are you actively involved with any organizations?
Yeah, the Los Angeles Stray Cat Alliance, and the Lort Smith Animal Hospital in Australia. I’m [also] anti-fur. I pretty much jump on board any animal cause. I need to start caring more for people, I guess.
Are there any human causes you work with?
I do support The Wounded Warrior Project. In Australia, wounded veterans are rare. I came to the States and was amazed by the magnitude of wounded veterans. I want to support them any way I can. Animals and veterans are my people.
I was smoking marijuana for medicinal purposes in late 2001 and a mate of mine told me about a disaster date he had with [a woman who lived with] a dog. The dog basically blocked my pal from getting any, and I thought it was a great idea for a character. So I just started improvising in the dog’s voice, interrogating him like [Robert] De Niro in Meet the Parents. We wrote down the short film script straight away, then shot the seven-minute short that weekend. The short film was a massive hit worldwide, including six screenings at Sundance in 2003. That led to the Australian TV series, and the success of that led me here to FX. So I’ve been in and out of that suit for more than ten years. It needs a wash.
Is it a pain wearing the dog suit all the time?
In a word—very much so. Thankfully it’s only for three months a year. I’m sure I’ll miss it one day when it’s all over. But not really.
Are we ever going to see Wilfred as a real dog? What do you think he’d be like in real life?
We’d love to have a recap of all the highlights of the series and insert a real dog. But finding the “real” Wilfred would be the greatest challenge. How many real dogs can smoke bongs?
Check your local listings and don’t miss the third season of Wilfred, premiering June 20 on FX.