|Occupation||Unemployed (See Below)/Dog Sitter/Lawyer|
Ryan Newman is the main character of the show Wilfred, mainly the "hero" somewhat of the series. He is portrayed by Elijah Wood, while younger Ryan is portrayed by Jared Gilmore in "Anger" and Shane Roney in "Questions".
Ryan Newman is an introvert who is extremely troubled; he is struggling with trying to find his way in life. Prior to the events of Wilfred, Ryan had worked as a lawyer for his father's firm, which he hated. He describes constantly how Henry forced them to be a lawyer, forcing him to attend law school and work at the firm.
In the first episode (Happiness), Ryan tries to commit suicide by overdosing on pills he had gotten from his sister; however, she had actually given him sugar pills, knowing that giving out pills to family members was unethical. After spending all night waiting to die from the pills, Ryan encounters his neighbor Jenna, who asks him to take care of Wilfred, who appears to Ryan to be an Australian man in a dog costume, while appearing to everyone else as a normal dog. Ryan and Wilfred become friends, despite Wilfred's manipulative behavior and his disapproval of Ryan's crush on Jenna.
Ryan is 5'6", with somewhat curly brown hair, has pale skin, a light beard, and big blue eyes. He often allows Wilfred to pull Ryan into hare-brained schemes that usually involve nearly hurting himself or others. Ryan also tends to get nervous easily, but when called for, he can lie quickly (but still embarrasses himself at points) and act like he's better than he really is. Also, when under pressure or pushed to the limit of stress, Ryan snaps and gets very temperamental, seeing as he is one to keep his feelings bottled up inside him. He can be loyal when it's almost too late to save Wilfred life's from the episode (Now) for example.
As we see in the episode "Anger", Ryan had a pet Jack Russel Terrier subsequently named "Sneakers" that he loved dearly when he was a kid. However, Sneakers drowned in the pool, and Ryan believed it was his fault for his faithful dog's death. However, it was really Ryan's older sister Kristen who left the gate open that allowed Sneakers to reach the water.
It is revealed in the final episode of the series (Happiness) that Ryan is very mentally ill (as a product of two mentally unstable parents) which is the reason that he sees Wilfred (a completely normal dog) the way that he does. After discovering this fact, he decides that Wilfred was the part of himself that was trying to help him find true happiness and decides to keep his vision of Wilfred (who as a dog has now passed away) alive to help him navigate through the rest of his life.
Ryan's mother, Catherine, was married to Henry Newman. The two had a single child, a girl named Kristen. After her birth, the two hit a rocky start, so Catherine took her and left, joining the Flock of the Grey Shepherd for three years. In this time, she started an affair with the cult's leader, Charles Smith, which resulted in Ryan's conception. Ryan ended up spending several years living in the community with his mother, sister, and the cult. After Ryan's birth, Charles proclaimed him the chosen one and restricted Catherine and Kristen's access to him. Catherine called Henry and the police, worried that he would never let them leave. Charles and Henry eventually worked out a deal; Henry would adopt Ryan and never tell him the secret of his birth, and in exchange for not having to pay for tax evasion debts, Charles would give up all parental rights and be no part of Ryan's life. Henry told Catherine Charles died in prison and Ryan didn't learn the truth until later in life.
Ryan, as the result of a bad childhood, a manipulative father, and an unstable mother, became mentally ill. Many of the members of the cult became part of his mental personifications. The cult member Richard, who dressed as the righteous Mataman and told others how to live their lives, became Wilfred, the troublemaker Shane who dressed as the trickster Krungel became Bruce McCombs, Wilfred's nemesis, the historian Theo became one of his spirit guides PT, who in Questions, attempted to help him discover why he panicked whenever his nephew Joffrey cried, and Bill, who grew the best kush, became Red Wolf, Ryan's stereotypical Indian chief spirit guide, who tried to help him before being shot in the head with an arrow by a mental version of Wilfred. However, because Ryan was so young, he didn't remember any of this.
Throughout his youth he showed interest in art, chemistry, cooking, and ping pong. Throughout the series Ryan often talks about his childhood experiences, which were usually traumatic. As a little kid, Ryan masterbated to Cheryl from Who's the Boss by pressing his penis to the TV whc Catherine witnessed. Ryan is shown to generally dislike his father due to several experiences during his childhood. When Ryan asked for a magic set for his birthday and Christmas, Henry would instead give him other, undesirable gifts such as a suitcase and an engraved pen. Henry also forced him to become a lawyer and Ryan describes how he was stricter with him than with Kristen.
For one of Kristen's birthdays she had received a Jack Russell Terrier named Sneakers. Although he was technically Kristen's pet, Sneakers seemed to prefer Ryan, and the two became best friends. One day, the gate that led to the pool in their yard was left open. Ryan was looking for Sneakers when he went to the pool and, brokenhearted, discovered his friend floating in the pool. Ryan believed that it was he who had left the gate open, and continued to carry the guilt for it.
Ryan's mother was shown to have been less strict and as controlling as her husband, and there are many instances of Ryan and Catherine bonding throughout his upbringing. She taught him how to paint and belly dance and Ryan felt safer around her. However, when Ryan was 10, Henry had put Catherine into an institution due to her increasing psychosis, which included refusing to eat anything other than avocado and hiding in the chimney under pressure when Henry's partners came over for dinner. Catherine was free to leave after 72 hours, but she decided to stay. As a result, Ryan felt betrayed that she left him and being raised by his controlling, manipulating father.
Ryan was described as awkward and an anti-social outcast in high school. There were rumors he would draw on pubic hair as his hormones came in late. He also had a crush on a classmate named Kim who always started clubs. Ryan eventually found a girlfriend who he lost his virginity to after being study partners for a while. He then went to college at Stanford Law School and was forced to be a lawyer by his father. There he met and befriended his fellow classmate James who developed a crush on Kristen. As a lawyer, Ryan was well known as "The Archaeologist" as he would prepare two files. One file would be a legitimate and ethical strategy for cases, while the other, known as The Black File, had dirt on his opponents that he would resort to if need be.
Ryan and James thought about leaving and starting their own business but James betrayed him to keep working for Henry. Eventually, Ryan quit his dad's firm due to increasing levels of stress. At some point in his life he met and dated a girl named Paula for a year but dumped her after she stuck her finger in his anus while in bed together. While living in the suburbs he developed an interest in his new neighbor Jenna, not knowing that she had a boyfriend.
At the beginning of the series, Ryan attempts suicide by mixing a container of pills into a smoothie and drinking it while reading his suicide letter—third revised. The drugs do not seem to take into effect and Ryan begins panicking and doing multiple tasks in order to help the drugs kick in, but nothing seems to work. Ryan is alerted its morning when his neighbor shows up at the door. She introduces herself as Jenna and seems worried about Ryan's state, but he passes it off as lack of sleep. Jenna agrees, talking about their neighbor who keeps revving up his motorcycle and how it drives "Wilfred" crazy. Ryan laughs it off, saying Wilfred is only saying what they're all thinking, to which Jenna weakly laughs. She explains she needs someone to watch her dog, and Ryan agrees. In the distance, Ryan notices a bearded man dresses in a cheap dog costume appear and seems confused. Jenna then gives the man a nice rub down as if he's an actual dog and gives Ryan some of Wilfred's toys and other supplies to take care of him.
Wilfred enters the house and Jenna leaves. Ryan does not seem to question anything but does seem uncomfortable and even scared around Wilfred at first. Ryan receives a phone call from his sister demanding he goes into work soon, as she just got him the job at her hospital where she works as a doctor who delivers babies. Ryan then goes in the living room where Wilfred has situated himself. The two talk. Wilfred mentions his love for Matt Damon DVDs and tells Ryan his milks gone bad, and how he can smell fear and human shit. Ryan protests, only for Wilfred to explain how his nose is superior. Ryan smokes some pot with Wilfred out of Wilfred's homemade Gatorade bong and drifts off to sleep... lightweight. He awakes from another call from Kristen: Ryan was a no show for his job.
Ryan has bigger thoughts on his mind. He goes in the kitchen and grabs the carton of milk, looks out the kitchen window and sees a regular dog across the street and chuckles it off as he gulps into the milk and spits out. It's spoiled, he realizes, just as Wilfred pops out on the side of him. Wilfred shows Ryan some holes he's been digging in Ryan's backyard due to worrying that Jenna was a "goner". Ryan tells him otherwise and the two go for a walk. As the two are walking, Wilfred confesses he read Ryan's "snuff letter" and critiques it. Wilfred tells Ryan he knows his type, a goodie goodie who lets everyone walk all over him. Wilfred then attempts to give Ryan some advice but he rejects it, claiming he has enough people telling him what to do .As they walk home Spencer, the neighbor who continues to rev his motorcycle, drives by on it and Wilfred chases him only for Spencer to yell at Ryan. Wilfred calls Ryan a pussy and pulls out a ball, to which Ryan knocks it out of Wilfred's hands and into Spencer's yard, angering Wilfred. Jenna shows up and takes Wilfred away.
Kristen then shows up at Ryan's house and begins scolding him. Ryan inquires about the pills she gave him, stating he thinks he took too much and that they are not working. She then scolds him on that, listing off the side effects. Hallucinations. Ryan's relieved up until she says they were sugar pills. He also notices Wilfred chilling in the backyard. Ryan excuses himself for a minute, only to head outside and help Wilfred get his ball back. The two then break into Spencer's house (well Wilfred does but Ryan follows his lead, reluctantly) and steal his marijuana plants and defecate in his boots. The two then escape just as Spencer is returning home. Ryan is laughing and smiling, the first time he seems to actually be happy. Wilfred teaches him a valuable lesson not to let people step all over his life, and Ryan regurgitates this back to Kristen and tells her he really just does not give a shit. As Kristen walks away she declares he's on his own, to which Ryan retorts he has Wilfred.
Later on Ryan inquires on how the two's friendship is going to end, and they are equally unsure. Ryan then tells Wilfred he's glad he has someone watching over him.
The next day, Ryan receives an email about his ex, Paula, and is disgusted. He's chilling in the backyard when randomly an ax swings and chops up his wooden fence, only for it to be revealed that it's Wilfred pulling these shenanigans. They talk a tad, specifically about how Wilfred thinks Ryan is a freak for dumping Paula because she stuck her finger up his butt during sex one day. The two are now toking it up in the basement as Ryan tries to get the deets on Jenna. Wilfred talks about how Ryan's not loyal nor trustful, and has Ryan prove otherwise by bringing him to a beach that did not allow dogs.
Wilfred tells a story about how he got thrown in the Chesapeake Bay with the rest of his litter (he says only he survives) and how it was such a thrill, and he wants to re-experience the ocean. Ryan agrees, only if he's discrete. Wilfred's not. He's yelling up over there and even kills a pelican and gifts the carcass to a mother with her child. Ryan's fined $300, an extra $100 for not having his ID. He swears he had his wallet the night before. Wilfred deems him a true, loyal friend. Then they partake in some shenanigans like Wilfred pushing a dude off his bike, snapping some pics of girls-who-are-tanning-braless' tits, Ryan buying pot from a dispensary and driving some bike-cart thing carrying Wilfred.
The two arrive back at their homes and Jenna is relieved to find Wilfred with him, but apologizes for him being a nuisance to Ryan. Ryan says it's all good and he actually likes spending time with Wilfred. Jenna then uses her charm on Ryan to take Wilfred to get his teeth cleaned. Ryan covers this up by telling Wilfred they're going to go to the movie theater and see Matt Damon's new movie. Even those guys Trent and Mofo from The Morning Zoo agreed it was a triumph.
Throughout the series, Ryan either remains unemployed or temporarily employed. At the beginning of Season 1, he quit his job as a lawyer at his father's firm, Goldsmith & Newman. Throughout the entirety of Season 1, he remains unemployed, thriving off of his savings and money from Kristen to survive. In Season 2, he gets a job as a legal consultant at a startup biotech company that is working on a cure for lung cancer. However, after his boss Jeremy kills himself in Service, he loses his job and remains unemployed for the rest of the season and Season 3. In Season 3, he accepts a roommate, Anne, in order to pay his bills using her rent. In the episode Regrets, it is revealed that Henry had Anne put cameras around Ryan's house so he can spy on him and discovers he talks to Wilfred. Henry ends up blackmailing him: either rejoin him at the firm or else Henry will force Ryan to get help because of the way he interacts with Wilfred. Ryan agrees, reluctantly. After his father dies in the next episode, Amends, Ryan ends up becoming the head of the firm and remains employed for the rest of the series.
- Because Catherine sees her cat Mittens the same way Ryan sees Wilfred, it is assumed he inherited this mental illness. It is eventually revealed that this is true, but Ryan doesn't care and keeps the mental version of Wilfred he created to help him through his life.
- Ryan's name is similar to Adam, the main character in Wilfred AU.
- Both Ryan and Wilfred are the only characters to appear in every episode. However, Wilfred only appeared in the dream sequences in Progress and not actually in real life, calling this into question.
- Ryan and Wilfred's love of pot could be based on how the people in the cult were shown to smoke weed.