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Characters / Wilfred

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A character page for the cast of the American sitcom Wilfred. Mark spoilers concerning character identities please.

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    Ryan Newman
Played by: Elijah Wood

"Hey Wilfred, how's this gonna end?"

Ryan is a troubled 30-something former lawyer living alone in LA. In the first episode of the series, Ryan attempts and fails at committing suicide, but finds a reason to live the next morning when he forms a bond with his neighbor's dog, Wilfred. While everybody treats Wilfred like a normal dog, Ryan sees him as a man in a dog suit, whom he spends a majority of his time with shirking career-related responsibilities and getting high in his basement.

  • Ambiguous Disorder: It's not specified what's wrong with Ryan, though he's obviously anxious and depressed. He's also probably schizophrenic as well. Eventually, it's confirmed that he inherited his insanity from his mother Catherine, and his biological father Charles, as all of them hallucinated that animals were talking to them.
  • Amoral Attorney: He earned the nickname "The Archaeologist" at his old firm, due to his ability to dig up dirt on the opposition and blackmail them. Having to act like this was one of the reasons why he hated his job and ended up quitting.
  • Beware the Nice Ones: Downplayed. It's a good thing he's usually capable of sustaining his morals, but the guy sure knows how to manipulate people.
    • Considering that Wilfred is basically a split personality of Ryan's, that means that most of Wilfred's mean antics and manipulations are actually Ryan's own fault (including the actions directed against Ryan himself).
  • Bungled Suicide: The opener to the show, when he tried (and failed) to overdose on prescription drugs, which were actually placebos.
  • Butt-Monkey: He's often on the receiving end of Wilfred's antics, among many other problems that life throws at him.
  • The Chosen One: Was believed to be this by the Flock of the Grey Shepherd cult. But it's subverted when the cult's founder (who is Ryan's real father) admits that it's all just a bunch of crazy bullshit.
  • Cloudcuckoolander: Other people see Ryan as a crazy guy. Not surprisingly, given that he talks to and interacts with a dog as if he were like a human being.
  • Did Not Get the Girl:
    • Ryan ultimately fails a relationship with his secondary love interest Amanda, as he has to have her institutionalized for committing financial crimes (apparently she had done so under the advice of Wilfred).
    • He spends the whole series in love with Jenna, only to realize in the second-to-last episode that he was Loving a Shadow the entire time and Jenna ultimately chooses the safe route with Drew instead of risking a chance to find true happiness with Ryan.
  • Dogged Nice Guy: Towards Jenna, though he does acknowledge that he should move on and attempts to find happiness in several other love interests before ultimately coming back to her every time.
  • Freudian Excuse: He's got a lot of issues stemming from his unhappy childhood and dysfunctional family.
  • Grew a Spine: Part of his Character Development throughout the series, and especially evident in his outrage speech towards Jenna in the end.
  • Heroes Want Redheads: When he was with Amanda.
  • His Own Worst Enemy: Has more than a few shades of this with regards to his own health and love life.
  • It Runs in the Family:
    • Ryan's mother Catherine was declared mentally insane, and was sent to a sanitarium by his father when he was a kid, so Ryan obviously sees it as a concern not to end up like her. Funny enough, his mother sees her cat Mittens in the same personified way as Ryan sees Wilfred.
    • Ryan and his father Henry. They both entered relationships with mentally unstable women that ended poorly on both their parts.
    • It's later revealed that Ryan's real father Charles was also crazy like Catherine and experienced hallucinations, until he started taking medicine. He even implies that he used to have conversations with his dog.
  • Ivy League for Everyone: He went to Stanford Law School.
  • Jerkass Ball: Sometimes Ryan does something nasty, although he will feel a lot of remorse about it, and he always tries to fix his mess afterwards.
  • Like an Old Married Couple: With his sister, Kristen.
  • Loners Are Freaks: In "Isolation", Ryan tries to befriend his neighbors when he realizes that he's considered an outcast among them. But he runs into trouble when he's falsely accused of stealing their property.
  • Loving a Shadow: Ultimately comes to the conclusion that he was in love with the idea of the cute, bubbly Girl Next Door instead of Jenna herself.
  • Manipulative Bastard: Used to be one, which causes a lot of pain for everyone around him in the Season 1 finale, when he briefly reverts back to his old ways.
  • My Greatest Failure: Feels this way towards the death of his childhood dog Sneakers, who drowned in the pool when he left the gate open. Of course, the guilt is lifted when Kristen reveals that she was the one who left the gate open.
  • Nice Guy: Most of the time, Ryan means well and tries to do the right thing, especially whenever Wilfred tries doing something outrageous.
  • Sensitive Guy and Manly Man: Sensitive Guy to Wilfred's Manly Man (in a dog suit).
  • The Stoner: Spends a majority of his time getting high in his basement, though in his defense he does have a medical marijuana recommendation.
  • The Unfavorite: Presently, though reversed with Kristen during their childhood.
  • "Well Done, Son!" Guy: A complicated example. Ryan feels that his father forced him into a law field, but went along with it for fear of being abandoned like his mother. He grows up to resent his dad for being what he considers "controlling".

Played by: Jason Gann

"I'm feeling playful! No more questions! Stop thinking and throw the damn ball!"

Wilfred is Jenna's dog, whom Ryan talks to and sees as a man in a dog suit. He and Ryan spend a majority of their time getting high in Ryan's basement, though whenever they're dealing with life's problems, Wilfred will almost assuredly make things much worse than necessary for his human companion. Despite this, Wilfred gives Ryan decent advice about how he should be living his life, which Ryan usually ends up giving into following by the end of each episode.

  • Adaptational Heroism: In the original Australian sitcom, Wilfred was implied to be a malevolent being who leads men to their doom. Here, while he retains a lot of his Manipulative Bastard quirks, Wilfred really does have Ryan's best interests at heart and works to teach him important life lessons during their escapades.
  • Animalistic Abomination: Later in the series, when Ryan is questioning the true nature of Wilfred, both of them speculate that Wilfred may be something far more than just a dog or dog-man, perhaps even a supernatural being.
    • It turns out that a short-lived cult believed in two canine deities named Mataman and Krungle, and Wilfred is the former. But this is subverted, as Wilfred is just a hallucination based on a man dressed as the so-called Mataman.
  • Animal Stereotypes: Played for Laughs. Despite being very anthropomorphic, Wilfred still displays many cliched dog behaviors on a regular basis.
  • Artistic License – Biology: Wilfred only sees in black and white, despite dogs being able to see blue and yellow as well. Of course, Wilfred just being a figment of Ryan's imagination, Ryan must just believe the myth that dogs only see black and white.
  • Attention Whore: Not surprising considering he's a dog. This often leads to disastrous results for Ryan.
  • Berserk Button: Hitting him on the head with a newspaper.
  • Black Comedy Rape: When he and Ryan are discussing the first time they ever had sex, Wilfred fondly remembers a time when he raped a dog who couldn't defend herself, as she had just been hit by a car.
  • Blue-and-Orange Morality: Wilfred thinks that his bizarre and morally questionable behavior is a very justified way to solve his or Ryan's problems. Ironically, it will usually lead to Ryan learning a more conventional moral in the end.
  • Comedic Sociopathy: Quite possibly the motivation for a majority of his shenanigans.
  • Companion Cube: Wilfred has a teddy bear named Bear, which he has sex with a lot (not surprisingly, as dogs are known for humping stuffed animals). Ironically, Wilfred talks to Bear in the same way that Ryan talks to Wilfred. Wilfred even sees Bear as a female bodybuilder wearing a teddy bear costume.
  • Composite Character: In-universe example; as "Wilfred" is a creation of Ryan's mind, he is actually based on a few different characters:
    • His appearance is based on a man named Richard, a Flock cultist who dressed up in a dog costume to role-play as their god Mataman. He was also described as a preachy guy who told others how to live their lives; not unlike how Wilfred gives Ryan advice in a passive-aggressive manner.
    • Most of his personality is actually an alter-ego of Ryan, his secret dark side who says and does things that Ryan wishes he could get away with. But also doubling as a sort of conscience to reflect on his life choices.
    • Finally, Ryan projects the image of Richard wearing a dog suit on the real Wilfred, who is actually a completely ordinary dog.
  • Cuteness Proximity: Uses it to his advantage quite often.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Many of his offhand jabs at Ryan.
  • Dogs Are Dumb: Zig-zagged. While Wilfred tends to be quite clever when speaking to Ryan or manipulating people, he still has some canine simple-mindedness. For example, he thinks that Jenna is temporarily "dead" whenever she leaves her house.
  • Fanboy: He loves watching Matt Damon's movies.
    • Also a bit of foreshadowing"Matt Damon" happens to sound a lot like "Mataman", an old name that Wilfred used to go by.
  • Harmless Villain: He attempts to poison Ryan with chocolate.
  • Imaginary Friend: The skeptical theory given by most people is that Ryan is crazy, and the talking dog-man is all in his head. As of the series finale, it seems to be confirmed that Wilfred is indeed a hallucination.
  • Invisible to Normals: Ryan is the only one who notices anything different about Wilfred, with a few exceptions. The human side of Wilfred, however, is only a figment of Ryan's imagination, and any other human interaction with Wilfred is another hallucination of Ryan's, such as Bruce.
  • Jerkass: He's an extremely rude, selfish, obnoxious, and destructive prick.
    • Jerkass Has a Point: His advice usually actually holds the answers to Ryan's problems, but due to Wilfred's personality, it usually ends up ignored.
    • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Despite this, he genuinely cares for Jenna, and has Ryan's best interests in mind when he screws with him (most of the time).
  • Mailman vs. Dog: Wilfred despises postal workers with a passion. By extension he also hates Santa Claus, whom he considers to be the ultimate mailman.
  • Manipulative Bastard: His schemes usually end with Ryan having no choice but to give in to whatever Wilfred wants — usually for the best, however.
  • Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane: The biggest question of the series is what Wilfred's identity and nature really is. Is he real or an illusion? It's even teased that Wilfred might be some kind of "magical being", such as a god or demon. All dog-god hype aside, Wilfred truly was just a hallucination of Ryan's the whole time.
  • Münchausen Syndrome: Must be the one to provide emotional support to everyone experiencing problems.
  • Not Me This Time: Wilfred is certainly responsible for much of the crazy crap that happens. But occasionally, Ryan (wrongly) accuses him of doing something bad, so Wilfred has to defend himself from these allegations.
  • Ping-Pong Naïveté: Extremely insightful in one instance, yet cripplingly ignorant the next.
  • Red Herring: Later episodes start dwelling on the possibility that Wilfred may be some kind of supernatural entity, only for the finale to rather definitively confirm that he truly is just a hallucination.
  • Sensitive Guy and Manly Man: Manly Man (in a dog suit) to Ryan's Sensitive Guy.
  • The Stoner: Gets high just as much as Ryan, but doesn't fit the rest of the archetype as well due to being a colossal asshole.
  • To Serve Man: In one episode, he eats Kristen's placenta, and earlier the splattered brains of Ryan's dead boss! Though of course, dogs are scavengers after all.
  • Trickster Mentor: So much that Ryan briefly believes that Wilfred is the evil trickster god Krungle that the Flock of the Grey Shepherd preached of.
  • Vitriolic Best Buds: His chaotic friendship with Ryan is a great example of this.

    Jenna Mueller
Played by: Fiona Gubelmann

Jenna is Ryan's next door neighbor and Wilfred's owner. She spends a lot of her time on the job, covering the news, so it's Ryan's responsibility to look after Wilfred while she's gone.

  • Blatant Lies: In "Isolation", she tells Ryan that everyone at the neighborhood party is happy he made it, despite that they all hate him since Wilfred made it look like Ryan broke into all of their cars.
  • Girl Next Door: Jenna debatably falls into this role, which Ryan states verbatim in the second to last episode when he realizes he was in love with the idea of the good girl next door instead of Jenna herself.
  • Hair of Gold, Heart of Gold: Beautiful blonde hair and a sweet personality to go with it. Subverted in that her sweetness is more on the surface. She treats Ryan rather poorly throughout the entirety of the series, if indirectly.
  • The Immodest Orgasm: Ryan (and probably half the neighborhood) can hear her yelling pleasurably when she and Drew have sex in "Conscience."
  • The Lad-ette: Jenna enjoys drinking beer and yelling at sports on TV.
  • Memetic Mutation: Happens in-universe with the "Squishy Tits" viral video, which almost destroys her career.
    • To elaborate: One morning, Jenna was hungry and unwittingly ate a piece of pot-laced candy that Ryan left lying around. While doing a live newscast, Jenna was stoned out of her mind and began fondling her breasts, saying "My tits are so squishy!". This embarrassing video clip went viral on the Internet, and was even remixed into a song.
  • Oblivious to Love: Subverted. After Ryan informs her of how he was at fault for the "Squishy Tits" incident, she admits that she was aware of his crush on her when they met, and took advantage of him by getting him to watch Wilfred.

    Kristen Newman
Played by: Dorian Brown

"You've had a rough morning? Try prying twin boys out of a tight little Asian gal— she wasn't Asian-American, Ryan! She was real Asian!''"

Kristen is Ryan's older sister who resents his responsibility-free lifestyle. Her crass personality comes from her general unhappiness with her job and failed marriage.

  • Good Parents: In spite of her many flaws, she loves her son Joffrey dearly and strives to be as good a mother as she can be.
  • It Runs in the Family:
    • She inherited her father's fetish for black people.
    • Also she commits adultery and conceives a son out of wedlock, just like her mother.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Despite how she's constantly heckling her brother, she genuinely loves him and the rest of her family. This is especially evident in her attempts to get Ryan to reconcile with Henry.
  • Like an Old Married Couple: Her and Ryan.
  • Race Fetish: Her thing for black men.
  • Tall Poppy Syndrome: Has a habit of wanting to drag people down to her level of sorrow when she's in a bad mood. This is especially prominent in "Responsibility," where she wants to have her mother recommitted to the sanitarium when she finds love with her doctor — not because of suspicion of ethics violations, but because Kristen's own life is a mess, and it upsets her to see her mother so happy.
  • Took a Level in Kindness: In "Stagnation", where she and Ryan spend leisure time together while simultaneously refusing to move forward with their lives. It may be unhealthy, but at least they're getting along.
  • The Unfavorite: During childhood. Her parents essentially saw her as the root of their marital problems, though her mother acknowledges that Kristen herself didn't do anything wrong.

Played by: Chris Klein

Drew is Jenna's boyfriend and later husband.

  • Bigger Is Better in Bed:
    Ryan: What's the one thing Jenna hates most about Drew?
    Wilfred: Vaginal tearing from his huge cock?
  • Flipping the Table: Drew is so insanely competitive that he flips a lawn chair after beating Ryan at a game of ping-pong.
  • Fratbro: Acts a lot like one despite being well into his thirties.
  • Hidden Depths: Despite his usual enthusiastically superficial personality, Drew expresses in "Consequences" through guitar how it hurts him that Ryan pays him so little attention.
  • The Nicknamer: Lampshaded by Wilfred
  • Jerkass: Borders on this. He's never seen doing anything worse than getting overly-enthusiastic at competitions, but the things he's claimed to do would put him in this territory. For example, he once explained to Ryan that when he encountered a person from a rival beer company at a bar who had been fired thanks to Drew stealing his clients, Drew bought him a Sheboygan Lager (his company's brand). Later he admitted that he actually bought the beer for himself and told the other guy to lick his nuts.
  • Kick Them While They're Down: As stated above, Drew's not above acting dickish towards his rival company's former employees.
  • Manchild: Throws tantrums at losing competitions, and flipped a lawn chair in Ryan's yard to rub it in after beating him in ping-pong.
  • Romantic False Lead: It's pretty clear that Jenna would be happier in a relationship with Ryan, a guy who actually caters to her needs, than Drew. However, at the end, she chooses to play it safe with Drew rather than take a risk with Ryan.
  • Sore Loser: Threw a Wii-mote out the window after losing to Jenna's dad at Wii Golf.
  • Verbal Tic: "Bro."
  • Unsportsmanlike Gloating: His overly competitive nature leads to this.

    Catherine Newman
Played by: Mary Steenburgen (seasons 1-3, pictured left) and Mimi Rogers (season 4, pictured right)

Catherine is the mother of Ryan and Kristen whom their father, Henry, had committed to a sanitarium when the kids were young. Ryan reconnects with her and visits her at least once a month.

  • Cloudcuckoolander: She was committed to a sanitarium, after all. Catherine acts more cuckoo if she's not taking her medicine.
  • It Runs in the Family:
    • Ryan is concerned with not becoming mentally unsound like her. The Stinger of her introductory episode reveals that she sees her cat Mittens in the same way Ryan sees Wilfred.
    • She and Kristen both committed adultery and conceived a son out of wedlock.

Played by: Allison Mack

"[...] Everyone in the office already knows I am a total sex addict. And see, I have this edgy sense of humor, which sometimes crosses the line — like right now for instance."

Amanda is Ryan's co-worker and girlfriend throughout season two. She worked as a biochemist for a company seeking to develop a cure for lung cancer.

  • Break the Cutie: About a year after being arrested and institutionalized, Amanda meets Ryan again, who learns that she now works at a school — as a janitor. She does not handle her and Ryan's breakup very well. She can't even walk back to her car without breaking down.
  • Cloudcuckoolander: She claims she can understand Wilfred too, but with a French accent nonetheless! She also sells the company's research so that she and Ryan can use the money to start a new life together, which leads to her getting institutionalized.
  • Hot Scientist: She's a biochemist with an edgy personality and a self-described addiction to sex.
  • Lovable Sex Maniac: Mentions in "Letting Go" that "everybody in the office knows she's addicted to sex."
  • Romantic False Lead: Averted — Amanda is treated as a legitimate love interest, and Ryan might have been happier when he was with her than at any other point in the series.

    Henry Newman
Played by: James Remar

"I'm not the bad guy, Ryan."

Henry is Ryan's stern father who pressured him into getting a job in law when he was young. Ryan believes he is controlling and uncaring, and resents him for what he considers forcing him into a job as a lawyer and putting his mother in a sanitarium when he was just a kid.

  • Abusive Parents: Ryan claims that Henry is psychologically abusive. He might be right to an extent, though his father turns out to be more aloof than abusive.
  • Amoral Attorney: He runs a local law firm. Ryan considered the way Henry did his job to be unethical, which is why he quit.
  • Archnemesis Dad: Kind of subverted. While Henry is somewhat antagonistic towards Ryan, he's not evil nor as bad as his son makes him out to be. Henry and Ryan just don't understand each other very well.
  • Disney Death: Henry dies by slipping on Wilfred's toy and falling down the stairs... only it turns out this was just a dream by Ryan. But then he dies for real in a car crash.
  • It Runs in the Family:
    • Kristen inherited his fetish for black people.
    • Henry and Ryan both entered relationships with crazy women that ended poorly.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: He may be stern, manipulative, and overbearing, but he only wanted what he thought was best for Ryan, and was gravely concerned about his son's declining mental health. He also feels guilty and remorseful about getting Catherine institutionalized.
  • Manipulative Bastard: Ryan constantly describes his father's controlling behavior when explaining why he doesn't want to talk to him anymore. Part of why Henry pressured Ryan into going to law school was so he would have a good, steady role in society instead of becoming an insane lunatic like Catherine.
    • Not all of his controlling behavior was just in Ryan's head, however, as it's revealed he asked Anne to spy on Ryan when he feared he was mentally unwell, and then set up hidden cameras in his house.
  • Men Don't Cry: When Ryan is undergoing progressive psychotherapy, he states that his dad never cried, but this is right when he witnesses Henry break down over the loss of his wife to the sanitarium.

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