Dominic Monaghan

Wild Thing, I Think I Love You

Jan 22, 2013 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share


Over 10 years ago, the first thing Dominic Monaghan brought up in conversation was the fact that he had a pet tarantula. The actor, who portrayed the hobbit Meriadoc Brandybuck in the blockbuster Lord of the Rings trilogy and the addict rock star Charlie Pace on Lost, has been vying for his own nature show all along. Now, with Wild Things with Dominic Monaghan, his dreams have become reality.

Wild Things will air on BBC America, following Monaghan to remote locales while he searches for insects, invertebrates, and reptiles. Along the way, Monaghan gives insight into pockets of the local culture, including ordering goat's penis in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, but drawing the line at eating blackened scorpion. While each episode is structured around a particular species, Monaghan doesn't shy away from any other creatures that cross his path. In the Wild Things pilot, his quest to find the giant water bug deep in Vietnam's Mekong River is interrupted by a make-out session with a python, as well as playing like a cowboy with a cobra lasso, and swimming with crocodiles. Monaghan's naturally ebullient personality and lifelong love of nature comes through on Wild Things, making him an engaging and informative host.

Lily Moayeri (Under the Radar): How did you convince BBC America, OLN, and Channel 5 to give you a nature show, considering you are not a scientist, but rather a layperson who is an enthusiast?

Dominic Monaghan: I think my enthusiasm was one of the major things that got people. This is the way I travel, whether or not I was making a TV show about it. People quiz me about animals and what my favorite animals were and where this passion came from and I think I sound authentic to them.

Even though you are a layperson, it still comes across as you speaking with genuine knowledge and authority.

That's nice.

You're not showing off and pretending that you're an authority, but there is a personal touch to the way you're explaining and talking that is very convincing. Where are you getting your information?

I'm getting my information from a certain amount of general knowledge that I have. Then we have about three weeks before each episode where we know where we're going and we can make plans. In that time, I'm online, researching the key species we're looking for. We work with biologists and field researchers, so I'll be inundated with packs of information with things for me to know and learn about. It may not be about the target species, but it's about animals that predate on that species or animals that my target species eat. I do as much due diligence as I can before I head to that country and hope that I can make people think I know what I'm talking about to a certain extent.

How do you decide what you're going to go searching for?

It is a combination of some of my ideas and some ideas brought to me by my production team. We want to tell dynamic stories. We wanted to look for the world's largest spider. I love ants, so we went to Ecuador to find the world's most dangerous ant. I love bees, so we went to Malaysia. We had a great story about the world's most dangerous scorpion in Namibia. We wanted to tell a story about a rare insect because I think a lot of people think that insects are everywhere, but obviously some insects are rare as well. 

Is your focus strictly going to be on insects?

We wanted to sell the show. You need something that makes it unique. If we chose insects or invertebrates, it makes it a little easier to sell. It's a little cooler, it makes it a little more gross and scarier for people—but that's a good way to sell the show.

The final episode deals with one of the world's most venomous lizards—obviously that's a reptile. I wanted to make sure we did a show specifically about reptiles. Especially if we do a second season, we can do more stuff about reptiles and branch out a little bit more.

The show's called Wild Things. That also encapsulates travel and food and football and stuff like that. As we move into a second season, we'll continue to include insects, but also I want to tell stories about fish, birds, bears, different types of animals all over the place.

Was there a particular experience during the filming of season one that stood out for you?

I saw a sloth on my birthday—that was pretty fun. I'm a big fan of those animals. I saw a trapdoor spider in Ecuador that was a pretty fascinating animal. I got my hands on the world's largest spider in Laos, which was pretty cool. I got to abseil into a cave full of vampire bats and cockroaches. Weird centipedes and stuff like that in Venezuela. I got to see a lot of stuff that was really exciting to do and eat some crazy street food and play soccer with people in far-flung places of the world, so for me, it was all a really fun experience.

You mentioned that your target audience is not necessarily the nature show enthusiast, but rather the opposite. What's your intention with Wild Things?

My hope is that in watching me do stuff that you potentially might not do—handling venomous snakes, seeing large spiders, and getting quite close to dangerous animals—that possibly you might feel a little bit differently about the spider that lives in your bathroom or bedroom or the honeybee humming around your garden. If I can do something at the very edge of danger and show that I can be okay and the experience can be something I can enjoy, maybe you'll feel a little differently about the animals a little closer to home.

You were raised in Germany and the U.K. What is your experience with animals growing up?

I was consumed with interest with the natural world: what animal lived where and how they all behaved with each other and what they ate and who is at the top of the food chain. I watched a lot of nature shows, read a lot of books about nature, and as part of the experience, I kept a lot of different animals growing up. I was constantly in my garden tipping over stones and looking over the logs for animals to try and understand. I was curious and fascinated by it all.

What animals do you own now?

I have a python snake, a tarantula, a black widow, and a chameleon.

What do you do with them while you're traveling?

A lot of them live in tropical environments, or certainly hot environments, so they need a light on them on all times to keep them warm, to replicate the sun. As long as they're warm and they have fresh water, they'll just relax and be okay for a week or so. They don't need human help on a daily basis.

People tend to be friendlier when they're traveling. Are you finding that people in different countries are receptive to speaking with you? 

When we're traveling we want to experience something new and make connections and stuff because we're so far from things we're connected to. I find that when I'm traveling people are much more keen to talk. I'm pretty approachable as a person. People tend to come up to me relatively often.

Are you getting recognized?

When I was in Cameroon, no one recognized me. When I was in Asia, lots of people recognized me. When I was in South America, some people recognized me and some people didn't. It depends on where you are and where you are going. If you're in airports, hotels, and restaurants, then people recognize you a little bit more, but out in the middle of the countryside, it doesn't really happen too much.

How much time does it take to film Wild Things? Are you shooting the episodes all in a row?

We do them in a row of sorts. We have a little bit of a break so we can come back and drop gear and go to the doctor to make sure that we're all right. We're going to places where the equipment can get compromised, so we need to come back and make sure that it's all safe before going back out again. With little breaks in between, it took us probably the best part of round about five months to shoot the show.

You must need extensive immunization for the show.

Everything. I went to the doctor last time and he said you have everything. You're set for life. We've given you absolutely every inoculation you could need.

Is doing Wild Things going to conflict with other acting opportunities?

I don't work nearly as much as I could. I could be on set all the time, working, but that would change the quality of what I've been lucky enough to be involved with up until this point. I've always been pretty picky, and alongside my agent, we have plans for things we will and won't do. That stops me from working as much as I would like to, but that's helpful. Ideally, I would like to do Wild Things every year and then maybe do a film or a TV show and that would be it, that would fill up my year. I think in this business you're only as good as the last thing that you did, and if the last thing that you did is kind of rubbish, then you dilute everything that's come before. Being picky is a good thing.

When you were first doing Lost, did you think it was going to be as huge as it ended up being?

I thought everything was in place for it to be a good show—J.J. Abrams' involvement and Damon Lindelof's involvement and the actors that were in it. It was written really well and acted really well, but you never know what's going to hit. Great shows have been canceled and rubbish shows have been on TV for a long time, so we were hoping for it, but I'm not sure you could predict it was going to be worldwide piece of pop culture.

Your photography is something that runs alongside your various projects.

I always bring a camera with me, so I'm always taking pictures. Because I've been lucky enough to be in some crazy places, sometimes the pictures make people curious. I can take pictures of people or events that I'm on the inside of and people think that's interesting. Obviously with my fascination with nature, a lot of those pictures tend to be pictures of the natural world and pictures of animals. I did a show a few of years ago with some of the pictures I had taken. On my trips this year, I'll probably do another show in the not too distant future.

The photography exhibit you diddid the photos on display focus on a particular topic?

The show was called Happy Accidents. All the photos in that exhibition were me trying to take a picture of something, but what is captured on the frame actually dictates a little bit more about what I'm trying to shoot than what I thought I was going to capture. It could have been just a simple shot of an insect, just the way that it's shot there's something about that insect's particular behavior at that point or what's happening in the picture. It wasn't just animals, it was people too, but hopefully the photos said a little bit more than the frames.

Outside of Wild Things, how do you like to holiday?

That is how I like to holiday. I like to go to places to find an animal, land in a major city, ask the local people about the best way to find that animal, take a bus or a train or a boat a little closer to where that animal might be and then again, gain some local knowledge and maybe make friends with people and go out for dinner and bend their ear about the best way to have that experience with that animal. As I get towards the end of my trip, get as close to that animal, to having that particular experience.

Pretty much the same thing you're doing on the show, but now you've got someone else footing the bill?

Pretty much. It's good when people pay for your flights.

[Wild Things with Dominic Monaghan premieres tonight (January 22, 2013) on BBC America at 10/9 central.]

www.bbcamerica.com/wild-things



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jhon
December 12th 2013
7:00am

Thanks for sharing this nice info expect some more in near future.