On Wild Things with Dominic Monaghan, actor and wildlife enthusiast Dominic Monaghan faces giant spitting cobras that can kill 20 men with one bite, massive six-ton charging elephants and vipers with two-inch fangs that most people run from. He travels across four continents, in search of the largest, weirdest and most intense creatures alive, all to both educate and show respect for these often misunderstood animals.
During this recent exclusive phone interview with Collider, Dominic Monaghan talked about what a cool experience it is to make this show, how people love watching the show but think he’s a little mental for doing it, why he’s so drawn to nature and the natural world, why he was inspired to do this show, how challenging it was to get the show going in the first place, the places he wants to go but hasn’t gotten to yet, the stand-out moments, that he’d like to continue doing some form of this show for the rest of his career, and how, even though fans will always want to talk to him about Lost and The Lord of the Rings, people also talk to him about Wild Things, as well. He also talked about his next acting gig, the 12-episode crime drama 100 Code, in which he plays an NYPD detective advising on a string of strange deaths in Sweden. Check out our Dominic Monaghan interview after the jump.
DOMINIC MONAGHAN: It’s a very, very cool experience. I’m super lucky to be able to do a show where I’m basically having adventure holidays that I would be hoping to take when I wasn’t working. It’s fantastic.
Do people think that you’re completely insane to be out there, doing this show so hands-on, or do you find that people are really digging it and getting it now?
MONAGHAN: It’s a perfect combination of people. People think that what I’m doing is a little mental, and they don’t understand why I would choose to do it or how I do it, but they really enjoy the show and are fascinated by it. A perfect example of that is my agent, who’s constantly saying, “I can’t believe you do that! You have to be really careful.” And then, in the next minute it’s like, “But, it’s such a fantastic show to watch. It’s so exciting!” That’s what we’re hoping to do. We’re hoping to build drama and excitement.
Have you always been drawn to nature and the things around us, in this way, or was there something that made you such an admirer of the natural world?
MONAGHAN: For as long as I can remember, I’ve always been excited about animals. I think that comes from a my parents. I grew up in a house where there were books about the Galapagos Islands and David Attenborough and Charles Darwin, and stuff like that. We wanted a lot of nature shows, when we were kids. Some of my earliest memories are of my brother and I on holiday in places like France, Italy, Spain and Greece, and we’d pick up lizards and catch bees and wasps in jars. I have a natural curiosity about things, in general. I’m constantly trying to find out how things work and how I can put them back together again, and why they work that way. The natural world is all around us.
There’s an educational side of this that gives a respect and admiration to things that we don’t normally see, in that way. What was it that made you want to do a show? Was it just from watching other shows like this?
MONAGHAN: I’ve watched shows like this. I’ve definitely watched pretty much all of the work of David Attenborough, who touched upon some of the more ignored animals on our planet. I got myself into a position in my life where I wanted to show that I have other interests and that there are other things that drive me. I also wanted to contribute to that medium. Especially when Steve Irwin died, I thought there was a big gap in the medium. He was so enthusiastic and fascinating and brilliant, and when he died, it really shook me. I wanted to have that traumatic experience for a lot of people, including myself, be turned into something positive. That was one of the main driving forces of putting together the show.
Actors often talk about how they feel stuck in a rut because they get caught up in the work and they don’t take the time to rejuvenate and feel that creative spark again. Does this show really help with that?
MONAGHAN: We’ll see. I hope so. I’ve been busy doing Wild Things, but I’m going to go do this acting job in Sweden, playing a New York cop, which is very different from stuff that I’ve done. Traveling, meeting people, eating street food, chatting with kids and hanging out with animals is really inspiring. It keeps you happy and makes you more interested in the world, which is a positive thing.
What drew you to 100 Code and doing a 12-episode drama series in Sweden?
MONAGHAN: I’m turned on by diversity. I’m turned on by things that are different. I like different animals, I like different ways of travel, and I like different people. I don’t tend to do it the normal way. My agent and I sit down and talk about what we want to achieve and, outside of just picking up jobs, what we want my career to be defined by. And the number one thing for me is diversity. I always want to ensure that people can’t put me in a box. I can play a bad guy, I can play a good guy, I can play a good bad guy, I can be the host of a show, I can be serious, and I can be funny. This cop show is ticking off more of those lists. It’s a modern show, funded by foreign money in a different country, and I’m playing a guy from the States. I just want new challenges. Life is all about finding challenges for yourself that you want to try to achieve.
How challenging was it to actually get Wild Things going, once you decided you wanted to do something like this? Was it difficult to convince people that you actually wanted to be the one out there, doing this yourself?
MONAGHAN: Yeah, it did take a little bit of time. It probably took 18 months of me sitting down with producers and telling them that I wanted to make a nature show. A few of them looked at me and thought, “Okay, this guy from Manchester, who’s clearly an actor, wants to go off and handle snakes. That sounds scary and irresponsible and silly.” I’m sure that’s why a lot of producers that I met were like, “Cool, good luck with that.” But, I knew what the show could be. I knew what I was capable of, and I knew what I wanted the show to look like. The first series was a challenge, in getting the shots right, editing it right, making it look cool and sexy, and making it look like edgy television. We continue to hopefully improve upon the look of the show and the intensity of it. I’m constantly talking to people on the street and asking, “What’s your favorite bit about the show? What’s your least favorite bit?” And then, I take that into account when we’re choosing animals or place to go.
Do you have moments, while you’re in the middle of an experience, where you think, “I can’t believe I’m actually doing this. This is so surreal.”? Did you especially feel that way when it came to having the experience with the elephant?
MONAGHAN: Yeah. The elephant incident was so fast that I don’t think any of us really had time to think about it. But afterwards, when we were all sitting around that night and talking about whether we got the footage and that everyone was okay, I’m sure we all thought, “Wow, this is a pretty radical way to get paid for a living.” We were in Arizona this year, and I spent the entire day on a horse, doing a cattle drive and bringing the cattle down from the hills to keep them safe from predators, that was just a perfect day with perfect weather. The people that we were hanging out with were really nice. I spent my entire day on an incredible horse, in the shrubs and hills of Arizona, bringing down these cattle. I had a few moments then that were surreal. I never thought I’d get paid to do that.
Was there anything that you set out to do with these new episodes, that you couldn’t do or get to?
MONAGHAN: There were a few things that we hoped to do, but we didn’t quite get there. We wanted to go to India, but that proved to be really quite complicated and difficult. We wanted to do the same with China, and that didn’t work out. There’s a whole bucket list of things that I constantly pitch to people. I wanted to go to Christmas Island and Easter Island, and I wanted to go to Madagascar and Guam. It depends on the season and the animals not being seen for awhile. We constantly come up against challenges and have to adapt the show.
MONAGHAN: It’s such an interesting world. People ask me where I’ve been this season, and I know the places that we’ve been, but I can’t tell you when I was there or how long. I know I was in Africa last year, but I don’t know the dates. I was in Costa Rica, Brazil and Australia, but I don’t know the dates. It does take on this one solid experience with these little moments of excitement. I got to find my favorite snake this year, in Zambia. I spent an entire week on a boat in Brazil, going down the Amazon River and deep into the jungles. That felt like I’d achieved a little ambition of mine. There were some things that really were on my bucket list. I went to New Zealand and got to hold this type of reptile that looks like a lizard, but it’s not a lizard. It’s called the Tuatara. It evolved at the same time that lizards did, but it’s a very bizarre animal. It can live to over 100 and it has a third eye. It can live in really cold temperatures. So, I got to spend time with that, and that was an animal that I’ve been wanting to see since I was 14 or 15 years old.
After spending so much time shooting in New Zealand for The Lord of the Rings movies, was it cool to go back and see it in a way that you didn’t get to see it, the first time?
MONAGHAN: Yeah, it is. We got to go back to a place that we fell in love with and had such a great experience in, and be there a little bit more like tourists this time. Instead of going there and being locked down into an amazing working schedule with The Lord of the Rings, we were able to carve out our own story there and do things that we wanted to do and see people that we wanted to see. New Zealand is an incredible country, and it’s probably a place that I’ll eventually live one day.
MONAGHAN: This is something I’ll probably do, in some regard, for the rest of my career, whether that’s me going to less crazy places, or maybe we find another presenter of another type of Wild Things show and I’ll produce or write the show. I’m always going to be interested in nature. Obviously, we do push our luck a little bit with animals, but we’re as safe as we can be. The safety of the animal, and of me and my crew, is the most important thing to all of us. We do have some scary-ish moments, but we’re as safe as we can be.
Fans probably always want to talk to you about Lost or The Lord of the Rings, but do you find more and more people wanting to talk to you about the experiences you have making Wild Things, as well?
MONAGHAN: Yeah, it’s about 50/50. People will always ask about Lost and The Lord of the Rings and X-Men because they have a very rabid fan base, but 50% of people now are asking me about the places that I go and ask my advice about places that they should go. People say, “Hey, we’re gonna go on safari. Where’s the best place to go?” or “We’re thinking of going to the jungle. What do you think about that?” I do get asked those questions. Or people will say, “I’m from Venezuela. I’m from Guatemala. I’m from Kenya,” and we can have those conversations, too. It’s great.
Wild Things with Dominic Monaghan airs on Tuesday nights on BBC America.