Get to Know Wilfred’s Fiona Gubelmann

One of the summer’s surprise hits has definitely been Wilfred. Just before its premiere, we brought you a feature on series stars Jason Gann and Elijah Wood. Now that we’ve had a chance to see Wilfred – and in my case, fall in love with it – let’s get to know Fiona Gubelmann, who plays Jenna, Wilfred’s owner, and the object of Ryan’s affection on the series.

How has your experience been so far working with Jason Gann?

Jason is a very fascinating person. He’s a creative genius and a complete goofball. When I first met him, we instantly hit it off. We have a lot in common … we both work with a cat rescue and we both have a dark sense of humor, so we quickly became good friends and instantly felt comfortable. There’s a lot of banter between us and he’s very witty. He’s constantly being silly and making jokes, but at the same time he’s a really, really good person. He’s got a great heart and he cares a lot about people, so it’s so much fun getting to work with him and just getting to hang out with him, too.

I think our chemistry really shows in the relationship between Jenna and Wilfred. You know, he calls me his older little sister, and I think we definitely have fun messing with each other on set. And between him, me, and Elijah, there’s a lot of banter on set. I never had brothers growing up, but I feel like Jason and Elijah are my brothers.

Do you have any tricks to get into the right headspace to see Wilfred as a dog and not a human in a dog suit?

When working with Jason sometimes I really have to avoid looking him in the eyes – because we’ve become such good friends, sometimes I’ll look at him and I’ll start cracking up or I’ll start relating to him like my friend. Whenever I get the script and I have interactions with Wilfred what I do is I think, “Okay, in this situation, what’s going to work best?  Do I hear Wilfred? Is he barking? Is he panting? Is he whining? What is he doing when he’s speaking?” Because I have to know what I see in the reality first and foremost, and what’s going to help with the scene that’s not going to kill the timing. Whenever I’m not sure I can easily ask Randall, our director, or sometimes I’ll talk to Jason about it and we’ll kind of play around.

The other thing I do is I look at each situation and I think about how do I really interact with my own pets? How am I with my cats, my family’s dogs, in those situations? And I just try to find truth in those moments and then bring that to how I interact with Wilfred.  And yes, I really do sing to my animals and talk to them and have conversations with them.

Do you think a romantic relationship could develop between Jenna and Ryan?

You definitely will see a relationship forming between Ryan and Jenna. There’s definitely chemistry there, but I think part of Jenna’s journey throughout the series is she has everything together in her professional life – she’s very focused on what she wants – but when it comes to her personal life, she has some growing to do and she really has some decisions to make and things to figure out.

A bit of a love triangle forms once we met Jenna’s boyfriend, Drew. Will this continue throughout the season?

Without giving too much away, I can say that there’s going to be a lot of funny interactions between Drew and Ryan.  There’s definitely going to be some competition going on and some fun things that are going to happen as a result of that. I think you’re also going to see Jenna realizing that she doesn’t quite know what she wants; she doesn’t quite have as good of a grasp on her personal life as she thought she had and she’s going to have to make some tough decisions. Whether or not she makes the right decisions is really yet to be seen.

Were you worried before the series premiered that people might not respond well to it, given its concept?

I was very excited and anxious to see how people would react to Wilfred. When I first read the script I thought it was amazing. I thought it was hilarious and brilliant, unique, unlike anything out there. I was drawn to it, and I was very curious to see how people reacted to it because I love it. When I saw the pilot I couldn’t stop laughing and I knew we had created something incredible, but at the same time how that would be received was something that I definitely had some anxiety about. When you love something so much you want to see it do well, and sometimes the most incredible shows don’t do well because they’re ahead of their time or people just don’t get into it quickly enough. Arrested Development was one of my favorite shows and that only lasted three seasons, and so I was definitely a little nervous about that.

But it’s also been really exciting. I love seeing how people react to the show, love seeing their excitement and their curiosity. It’s so much fun relating to people on Twitter because I get to really interact with people right as they’re watching it and I get to see the lines and the moments that they find funny, and it’s also interesting when people are like, “I don’t get it.”

How do you maintain the balance between the comedy and the dark places that the show can go?

If you look at a really well written drama – a play by Chekhov – when it’s done right, three quarters of it is funny. Then when you have the dark moments and the hard times, they’re even more powerful. Jenna is a perfect foil to Ryan. She’s pursuing her passions, she’s excited, she’s effervescent, she’s full of life. And in terms of certain aspects she really knows what she wants. I think that that really helps add a lightness to the show because otherwise it would be too dark. There’s darkness in the humor but there’s also darkness in the depths of what people are going through, and I think that the balance between the humor and the darkness is just brilliantly crafted by our writers. We are so lucky to have such talented and brilliant writers on staff.

For a dark comedy, there are some inspirational moments in every episode. What do you think viewers will take from this?

What’s really incredible about the show is that at first glance you see … a silly comedy. There is a guy in a dog suit with witty lines being thrown about. But what’s really neat is every episode has its own lesson. I love how at the beginning of each episode there is the quote, and then it fades away (to) one word that the episode kind of focuses on.  I think the overall lesson or thing that can be learned from the show is just about pursuing what you love in life, pursuing your dreams and really living life to the fullest, and that’s something that I strongly live my life by. I was raised to pursue my passions and pursue the things that I love and to live life to the fullest, and I think that that is a very prominent message throughout the show and throughout the season.

Catch Fiona Gubelmann in Wilfred, Thursday nights at 10pm on FX.

Photo Courtesy of FX

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