Henry Rollins hosts 'Animal Underworld'
He explores strange rites and rituals in Nat Geo Wild specials.
Wed, May 23, 2012 at 05:37 PM
Photo © NGT/Ryan Lobo
Last year, musician, author, actor and activist Henry Rollins took viewers inside "Snake Underworld" for Nat Geo Wild, and now he's expanded his exploration of unusual practices and rituals involving snakes and other creatures in three back-to-back specials for Wild, premiering May 28. From "Fatal Obsession," in which he handles a cobra and wrestles an alligator; to "Beast Worship," in which he visits Pentecostal snake handlers and a Hindu temple overrun with rats, believed to be reincarnated humans by the locals; to "Wild Hunger" in which he bravely eats raw snake and drinks its blood and bile — it's a fascinating trip.
"I have always thought it was interesting that animals in some cultures are eaten, like snakes, and in other cultures they are feared. Also, growing up on the east coast of the United States, there wasn't much on the animal wildlife front so seeing lots of animals in other places was very interesting to me. It still interests me," says Rollins. "I was one of those boys who thought snakes were really cool. I got a job at a local pet store and started working with them and a lot of different animals but it was the snakes I really liked," he explains his fascination.
As for some of the sequences many will find cringe-worthy, "Nothing we did really grossed me out. Some of the things I ate, like the rats, that was a little much at first," he admits. "But ultimately, it's just meat, so if you're going to eat a cow, then the other stuff is pretty much the same," he reasons, adding that "what passes for food in some places has always been interesting to me. None of it struck me as gross."
For Rollins, "the most difficult part was seeing a bunch of bears in cages at a place where their bile is extracted illegally. The animals were miserable and we all had a hard time with that one." Going into it, he did a bit of research "to get a basic understanding of what the bile business was all about, as well as learn the history of its use, and a little bit of work on the Pentecostal snake handling, but past that, I was just there to experience it all."
Whether or not he does more of these specials is "up to the mighty powers at National Geographic," he says. Meanwhile, "I am in the middle of some speaking dates, and I'm working on a new book for release later this year." He continues to be conscious of water and energy conservation and buys carbon offsets to compensate for his travels. He believes that "these small measures, when added up by millions of people being a bit more considerate, can go a very long way."