It was this quest for unusual material that led Wood to his latest endeavor, the shaggy-dog series Wilfred. Based on an Australian TV comedy, the show features original star and creator Jason Gann as a pooch who appears, only to his beautiful owner’s hapless neurotic neighbor, to be a pot-smoking human in a dog costume. In short, it’s a canine and, admittedly, asinine version of Jimmy Stewart’s classic bunny comedy Harvey with a Gen-Y sensibility. (Wood often refers to the show as “ridiculous,” but he means it in a good way.)
Why would a movie actor at the top of his game move to TV? “Television has become much more interesting,” says Wood, a huge AMC and HBO fan who last year asked his manager to scope out current availabilities on cable. When the pilot for Wilfred surfaced, he was sold. “It was unlike anything I’d ever seen before, and I jumped at the chance to be part of it,” he says. “After watching the Australian version, I fell in love with it even more and thought, ‘Wow, if we do anything as surreal as this, it would really push boundaries.’ ”
Gann notes that the neighbor in the original version was boring and bland, while Wood brought reality and depth to the character. “There’s this whole world going on behind Elijah’s eyes that you believe,” Gann says. “The key to good comedy is the same as drama: It’s finding the truth. And Elijah plays the truth while doing some really funny stuff. We couldn’t have an actor that went ‘Nudge, nudge, wink, wink. Look at us being funny.’ It wouldn’t work. There’s so much happening on the show that’s heavy, yet hilarious at the same time — so many different layers of emotion.”
But Wilfred is just one of many irons Wood has in the fire. This year, he returns to New Zealand to reprise his famous role in The Hobbit, though with far less screen time than in the predecessor films — ?possibly even just bookending the two-part prequel. He also hopes to start producing films, mostly? smart horror pictures. Another priority is restructuring his small music label to reflect the current realities of the declining record business.
Obviously, Wood is hopeful Wilfred will succeed, and he seems to be enjoying himself while filming the series. When not performing in front of cameras, he enjoys getting behind one, shooting blur-art photos of landscapes, food and friends with his Lomo, a cheap Russian export that’s become quite the hipster cam. He’s also an avid surfer, though admittedly he hasn’t picked up his board in a while. As for his love life? He is currently single.
“I don’t know that I have a type, but maybe I do,” he says, laughing. “I’m attracted to women who have a personal strength, who are involved in some type of artistic venture and who don’t rely on others for their happiness — simple things, but not necessarily easy to find. I’m really attracted to a woman who is at once extremely feminine and also a guy’s girl. There’s something amazing about someone who is a woman in her entirety but who can also go out for beer with dudes. There’s a lack of preciousness in that. It’s very cool.” For now, however, he doesn’t seem overly concerned with finding true love. Instead, he’s quite content to keep busy with his work as well as spending time with man’s best friend — in this case, his music.