A Q&A with ‘Wilfred’ Star Fiona Gubelmann

Even though it was a remake of a successful Australian show, Jason Gann’s “Wilfred,” which premiered last June on FX, kind of sneaked up on everyone. No one could have expected for it to get so good so quick, to the point where it’s not become must-see TV. To quote Matt’s review of the premiere, “Wilfred” might be “the strangest show on television,” and its this unique oddness — and dark, dark jokes — that it makes so endearing.

“Wilfred” returns with a sneak preview TONIGHT at 10:30 p.m. (the official season two premiere happens next Thursday at 10 p.m.), and Warming Glow was lucky enough to snag an interview with Wilfred’s cheerful, optimistic owner, Jenna, played by Fiona Gubelmann, a delightful ball of sunshine in an otherwise dark universe. We spoke to her – you can do the same via Twitter at @FionaGubelmann – last week about the upcoming season, working with a man dressed as a dog, and, yes, corgis.

Does it feel any differently coming into season two, when you’re a successful, critically admired show, rather than season one, when you were an unknown remake?

It’s really fun doing press, doing interviews, and talking to people when they’re familiar with the show, especially when they’re fans of the show. In general, when speaking with anyone who’s familiar with “Wilfred,” it’s a really fun feeling because I’ve loved the show since the beginning and to share that feeling with people, it’s always fun. But shooting the second season felt different. We all have a lot more fun on the set. We all know people who enjoyed the show, so it was just a different feeling. You’re curious if people are going to get the show and react to it the same way you do, and now that we know there are people who love the show, it’s more exciting.

Are you more comfortable on set with one another, too?

Yeah, definitely. Even last season, we had a really fun set; it’s been my favorite show to work on. We’re kind of like a family, we all get along really well. But this season, it felt like a reunion because we had the same crew. It was so much fun to get together again.

Coming into the season, did you know what was going to happen to your character?

Sort of. The showrunner [David Zuckerman] would tell us what our overall arc was going to be. We shoot differently than a lot of other shows. We do block shooting, which means we’ll shoot out of order and on location. So, we kind of have an idea where our characters are going, but we don’t have all the scripts. Especially this season, Jenna, she has a lot going on for her, a lot of challenges, which is great.

Were you always interested in acting in comedies?

It’s funny, when I first started acting, I wanted to do dramas. I wanted to be a dramatic ACT-TRESS. But I kept booking comedies and had a lot of fun with it, so I’ve focused my energy on comedy.

You’re often playing the chipper, optimistic character opposite Elijah and Jason’s dark, twisted grimness. Do you ever want to be the one who tells the messed up lines?

Oh, definitely. I mean, I love that kind of humor and whenever the writers give it to me, I’m always really excited. What’s good about “Wilfred” is that you’re able to have these really funny comedic scenes, but you’re also given these incredibly beautiful deep moments where I get to actually act and have real experiences. I’m so lucky to be able to play both parts. If Jenna was totally crazy and weird all the time, it wouldn’t fit into the world. She’s an effervescent, joy-filled character in this world that is dark. But it’s fun when they give it to me in little moments.

How do you get such a believable owner-pet dynamic with a dude dressed as a dog?

I’ve grown up with pets all my life — I have three cats right now — so having pets definitely plays a role in that. I remember once I went to a “Wilfred” makeup artist and I saw her dog and started playing with it and talking with it. She walked in and started laughing and said, “Oh my God, you are really like that.” I’m a big animal lover. Also, Jason and I have a brother-sister relationship, which certainly helps.

When did you stop being startled by Jason walking onto the set in the costume?

We did a network test. I did it with Elijah and Jason, and Jason was in the dog costume. We shot an actual scene, and when I realized it was going to be like that, I couldn’t stop laughing. It was really hard. I had to practice a lot on my own before the network test to make sure I didn’t crack up. Now I just expect it. Every once in awhile, I’ll step back and see him in the costume and it’ll crack me up, but one of the reasons why I think the show’s so good is because we’re playing everything for real. If I’m already in that head space, it makes it easy to work with Jason in the costume, like he is my dog.

How much of the show is improv, or do you stick closely to the script?

In season one, we stuck to it. But this season, we definitely played a little more. We shoot pretty quickly, so we don’t have a lot of time for improv. Right before we shoot a scene, we’ll throw out different ideas, but once we’re going, we’re not changing much.

Is FX as great as everyone says they are?

I adore FX. It’s an incredible network with amazing people. I love going to the FX offices and talking with everybody. It’s very different than other environments. They let everyone who’s involved with their shows create what they want to create. They’re very hands off. I feel kind of spoiled because it may not always be like that.

Plus, you’re on right before “Louie.”

When I saw that we were paired up with “Louie,” I kind of flipped out. He’s always been one of my favorite comedians and performers. To be paired up with him is an honor. Whenever he’s at an FX event, I get so excited. He’s a genius and so kind. But yeah, FX isn’t afraid to push the limits and be brave and bold with their programming. It’s cool being on a show on a network where you watch and love their other shows. Like being at an FX event, and “Oh my God, there’s Adam Reed from ‘Archer.’ And “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia,” and “Justified” is one of my favorite shows. It’s really great.

You mentioned earlier that you’re a big animal fan. Every Friday on Warming Glow, we run a feature called Corgi Friday, which is just an excuse to run pictures of corgis. I have to ask: what’s your opinion of corgis?

I think corgis are adorable. They’re so cute.

Do you have any dogs?

I want to, but I’m not home enough, and unlike Jenna, I couldn’t leave a dog for 15 hours a day. I’d feel very bad about it. But I’ll tell you: the first time I saw a corgi, I couldn’t stop laughing. They have the cutest little faces.

I think that’s a perfect end quote. I’ll include a corgi picture in the post, too.