I have been working as a film journalist since 2010, dividing the first four years between radio broadcasting and entertainment writing in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex. In 2014, I entered Fresh Fiction (FreshFiction.tv) as the features editor. The following year, I stepped into the film critic position at the Denton Record-Chronicle, a daily North Texas print publication. My time is dedicated to writing theatrical film reviews, at-home entertainment columns, and conducting interviews with on-screen talent and filmmakers, as well as hosting a podcast devoted to genre filmmaking (called My Bloody Podcast). I've been married for seven happy years, and I have one son who is all about dinosaurs just like his dad.
Preston Barta // Film Critic
WILFRED | 30 min. | TV-MA | Creator: Jason Gann, Adam Zwar | Stars: Elijah Wood, Jason Gann, Fiona Gubelmann, Dorian Brown, Chris Klein, James Remar, Nestor Carbonell and Harriet Sansom Harris
Next week’s episode of WILFRED marks the halfway point of the fourth and final season of the series. Things are beginning to get heat up as we approach the end. If you caught Wednesday night’s episode, which is one of the best episodes of the entire series, you would know how crazy things have gotten lately.
Throughout the series, we’ve all developed theories of WILFRED: Is Wilfred just a human being in a dog suit? Is Ryan crazy? Is Wilfred a magical being, or some kind of dog god?
The really cool thing about this show is that it plays with all those questions. It shows us how it could be one way, but then it plays with our mind again and shows us that we were wrong for thinking that the show could end that way.
So what’s really going on? We’ll find out in the coming weeks. However, until then, see what Elijah Wood had to say about this week’s episode, the ending of the series, what he took with him after stepping off the set and who he thinks Elijah Wood is to him?
Well, this week’s episode (Episode 4) was really crazy, but in the best way. What can you tell us about doing that particular episode and about Ryan’s paranoia? 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 Wood: “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.”
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?
Wood: “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.”
There are so many interesting supporting characters in WILFRED. Is there a storyline with one particular character you wish would have been explored more throughout the seasons?
Wood: “Oh, man. I don’t know if there’s anything that we didn’t explore enough of. 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 [Zuckerman] 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.”
When I spoke to Jason a couple of weeks ago we talked about how the show reflected his life even when he wasn’t involved in the writing process 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.
Wood: “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.”
Now that the show is ending, is there anything that either you were given or you asked for to take from the set?
Wood: “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 [Einhorn] 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 replicate 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.”
Do you have anything else planned, like any new roles coming up that you want to talk a bit about
Wood: “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.”
Lastly, 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?
Wood: “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?
Wood: “Well, thank you. 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? 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. 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. I want to constantly grow as a person and as an artist and constantly be challenged and sort of have new experiences.”
WILFRED airs on Wednesday nights only on FXX.