Ten years on, TV viewers still can’t seem to get enough of actor Jason Gann in a floppy dog suit.
Which is just fine with the Aussie star of Wilfred, a short film that became an Australian TV series, only to be reinvented recently as an American sitcom.
“It’s not like I’ve been wearing the suit for all 10 years. There have been long gaps,” laughs Gann, who was in Toronto Wednesday to promote Wilfred’s debut on the new FX-Canada.
“But I could easily do it another 10 years. As long as people find the character funny and interesting.”
In its American incarnation, Wilfred centres on a suicidal lawyer (Elijah Wood) who meets a comely neighbour and her dog Wilfred (Gann). Except Ryan sees Wilfred as an angry, pot-smoking man in a shabby dog suit. What ensue are odd adventures in which Wilfred shows Ryan how to overcome his fears and embrace life.
Gann — who also co-created the series — says fans of the original Aussie version shouldn’t worry that the show has been sanitized for North American audiences.
“I never saw the two versions as all that different. To me, it just feels like the show and the character have evolved.”
The American version has already proven a hit, with a second season already confirmed.
“When I first read it, I laughed my ass off,” says American actress Fiona Gubelmann, who plays Wilfred’s owner Jenna.
“There are so many lines you just don’t forget easily.”
She says the most difficult thing is keeping a straight face during filming with a man-sized dog in your ear.
“I’d be having a serious conversation with Elijah and all I hear behind me is ‘Ball! Ball! Ball!’. You really have to learn to block it out.”
One element the American version does lack is some of the original’s swearing and nudity.
“We had to work harder to keep it dark,” says Gann. “But I think we were so successful, we made the show even darker.”
Audiences will get a sneak peek at Wilfred Monday at 10 p.m. (ET) on Citytv, followed by its FX-Canada premiere Oct. 31 at 11 p.m. (ET).