“At its core, the show is a metaphor for love being an absolute mess in every way”: Josh Gad on Wolf Like Me
Wolf Like Me is a brand-new six-episode series about to land on Amazon Prime Video, starring Josh Gad and Aussie actress Isla Fisher (Wedding Crashers, Confessions of a Shopaholic) – equally lovable in their roles. Gad plays Gary, the single parent of 11-year-old Emma (Ariel Donoghue), both struggling to come to terms with the death of Emma’s mother seven years prior. He then meets – and continues to coincidentally bump into – the charming, high-energy Mary (Fisher), who bonds naturally with his hard-to-reach daughter. However, it becomes apparent Mary is harbouring a dark secret that threatens to upset their burgeoning romance. Abe Forsythe’s genre-blending show also brings a unique mix of dark comedy, horror tropes, classic drama and romance to re-energise a well-trodden premise.
The Upcoming had the chance to chat with Gad, whose wide-ranging acting credits include voicing Olaf in the runaway success that was animated movie Frozen, Le Fou in the live-action remake of Beauty and the Beast and a Tony Award-nominated turn on stage in The Book of Mormon. He shared why he admires Fisher so much, the highs and lows of filming in the Australian outback during a pandemic and how, at its heart, the series deals with love in all its messiness.
Hi Josh, a pleasure to be able to speak to you. For people who don’t know anything about Wolf Like Me, can you give us a brief introduction?
Yeah, absolutely. The show really is a metaphor at its core for love being an absolute mess in every way. You know, it’s one of those things that, when we enter into a relationship, it’s always scary. What Abe Forsythe, our brilliant director and writer (who I also worked with on Little Monsters with Lupita Nyong’o a couple of years ago) has done is he’s found a way to take this theme that’s definitely been explored ad nauseam before – but he’s done it in a way that blends genre and tonality that feels so unique. And that feels so unbelievably vital. Whether it’s borrowing from, you know, the horror genre, whether it’s borrowing from rom-coms, it sort of mixes and slams together all these various tones and genres in a way that I think makes for a very unique viewing experience. At the end of the day, it’s a story about a guy who falls in love with a woman who has a very dark secret. And I’m sure the audience can put the pieces together! But should they not be able to, all will be revealed over the course of the six episodes…
To come to Isla Fisher – she’s one of these actors who continues to surprise people. What do you think is so great about her? And what was it like working with her?
Isla is one of the most extraordinary talents I’ve ever had the pleasure of working with. I’ve been a fan of hers, for me, going back to Wedding Crashers, which was my first experience. The two of us were coincidentally circling a project over quarantine that was a rom-com we were going to do in Canada. And then this sort of fell into both of our laps and we were both kind of blown away by it. I think what makes her so unique and so charismatic is she’s unpredictable on-screen. Everything she does it’s always unexpected. It always feels so charged with an energy that is unique to Isla Fisher – there is no other person who does it quite like her. And what I thought was so beautiful about her performance in this is that it just hits every decibel. There isn’t a moment in it that feels familiar; there isn’t a part of the journey that doesn’t feel fully realised and every single twist and turn, as extraordinary and off the rails as they can be, she lands with such grace and keeps you invested in Mary. And that’s a very tough job to achieve, considering how insane some of the storytelling can get.
Can you tell us what the shoot in Australia was like? There must have been some fantastic moments but perhaps also some challenges and hiccups along the way?
100%, all of the above, A through Z. I arrived in Australia and they were still in the midst of a pretty severe quarantine that forced me to basically be locked in a hotel room for two weeks upon arrival. So that was the beginning of my journey. And coming out of it, obviously, you feel like, “Oh God, what is this experience going to be like? Is it going to be this intense every step of the way?”. And it was just the opposite. There was this incredible freedom once I got out, because the country had done a beautiful job up until that point of keeping Covid-19 out. So it allowed us to feel free, it allowed us to feel safe and it allowed us to really go on this journey together. And, obviously, Isla is an Aussie, so she was a great tour guide and a great, great host. Shooting throughout Sydney – I have a little bit of experience in having shot there before but also having gone to the National Institute of Dramatic Arts out there – I got to see new wrinkles and new parts of the city that I had never known. And then, of course, we went to Broken Hill, which was such a unique experience. I’d never, frankly, been to the Outback. And when I arrived there, Isla seemed to know it very well. There were a couple of hairy days by that point: Covid-19 had started to spread, the Delta variant. So even getting to Broken Hill was a minor miracle. And when we got there, we were basically all secluded for safety to protect, frankly, everyone in town from us, and vice versa. And there were a couple of days where we were shooting in the middle of nowhere in the most extreme weather circumstances you could ever imagine. There was a day where I want to say the windchill was like, 50 miles an hour, at the least up on this mountaintop. I almost got blown down the hill! Isla Fisher, in her slight frame, literally saved my ass! And every day was was a trust exercise metaphorically: it was basically a three-hander with me, her and our brilliant daughter, played by the incredible Ariel Donahue. So, yeah, it was a spectacular experience.
And was it like working with Ariel? It’s always so impressive when younger people can take on roles like that.
When I was coming up, I had the distinct pleasure of working with a young girl on a movie called The Rocker, and I remember turning to my co-star at the time, Rainn Wilson, and I said, “This girl is going to be a superstar”. That was Emma Stone. And I think what I would say about Ariel is that it’s the only other time I’ve ever truly felt that way – when I looked at this girl and I said, “This kid could be the next Jodie Foster”. She’s just so unbelievably grounded, so wise beyond her years. And instantly, every time, you know, I got to do a scene with her, I was just blown away by her skills at the tender age of 11. It was mind-blowing to work with somebody like that. So she has a very bright future indeed. And I think she’s the primary reason the show works so well.
As you mentioned, the show mixes a lot of different genres from comedy to horror, but also touches on some universal themes such as how we deal with love and loss. What do you think ultimately people will take away?
I think you just said it beautifully. I mean, I think that what this show seems to be doing, for those who have had the fortune of seeing it so far in the States and abroad, and what I hope audiences in the UK and beyond experience similarly, is that this is a show that’s a-thrill-a-minute; it’s a show that will entertain the hell out of you – it is truly the essence of a binge-worthy experience. You have six half-hour episodes and the criticism I keep hearing is, “Dammit, it’s not long enough!”, which is exactly what you want to hear. And the takeaway seems to be, universally, that everybody gets the same sort of feeling about it. That, yes, as crazy as it is, it’s exactly what it means to be in love. It’s exactly what it means to sort of trust the universe, despite the hardships that it sends your way, and allow yourself to welcome in something, as challenging as it may appear to be, as scary as it is. And, you know, it’s all wrapped in a bubble of perfect entertainment and insanity in only the way someone as I think brilliant as Abe Forsythe can deliver.
And what about a second season? Can you give us any hints about that?
I can only speak to ambitions right now. I’ve had the pleasure of hearing where Abe would like to take things and I can truly say that it is going to blow season one away. My jaw was on the floor reading the treatment. I don’t know how his mind operates, but it is a beautiful mind. And I think for those who invest in series one, get ready, buckle up, because, should we be so fortunate to get a series two, you ain’t seen nothing yet.
To come more broadly to your own career: you’ve taken on such a variety of roles, from stage to film to working in animation as well. What have been some of the highlights for you? And where would you like to go next?
I’ve been so fortunate. I’ve gotten to achieve enormous success on stage, on the big screen and on the small screen, I feel like a kid in a candy store, where the candy supply is endless. Do I have ambitions beyond what I’ve achieved? Of course, you know, I’d like to dabble in directing. I am looking for opportunities to challenge myself. Every role I take, I really ask myself, “Is this going to, in some way, provide me with the artistic satisfaction that will allow me to grow?”. And if it satisfies that goal, then great. And, you know, right now I’m just reading the best material I can find, seeing sort of what speaks to me. And at the end of the day, really more than anything, enjoying this miracle of a thing called a break that I have right now, where I get to spend time with my family! I was shooting back-to-back away from them in Australia and London last year, and that takes a toll. So I’m also just enjoying the calm before the storm.
And just very quickly – any news on Beauty and the Beast prequel?
Sadly, we had to press the pause button. We were meant to start shooting in about two months. And what became glaringly apparent to, I think, to the studio and everyone involved, is it was just tough to get that big of a production up and running so quickly, with all the music and all the big ideas that we had. I feel very confident we’re going to do it. I just think that the timing needs to be right. And I think when we can sort of do it the right way, you know, I think you’ll see something spectacular on screen. And, frankly, the same thing I think happened with Obi-Wan Kenobi – it had to pause for a year and, at the end of the day, it’s not a bad thing. You don’t want to rush anything into production. You want to make sure that it’s all ready to go; and our schedules were such that we had this one window and unless we could shoot it in that window, we just couldn’t do it. And I think everyone decided, “Okay, let’s pause. Let come back to this when when we know we can nail it.”
Well it’s been absolutely brilliant speaking to you. Thank you so much for sharing all that with us.
Yeah, lovely speaking to you. Thanks a lot.
Wolf Like Me is released on Amazon Prime Video on 25th February 2022.
Watch the trailer for Wolf Like Me here: