Dominic Monaghan is passionate about animals — the weirder, the rarer, the deadlier the better. “I relate to the underdog animals. Even though I do like horses and dogs and cats, lions, tigers and elephants, I know those stories have been told before. For me, it’s about what I’m passionate about seeing and the story I’m passionate about telling,” says the “Lost” and “Lord of the Rings” star, who has found the perfect outlet to do that in “Wild Things,” returning for its second season on BBC America on March 25.
“The thing that turns me on is educating people to learn about their world,” says Monaghan, who remembers watching nature TV shows as a boy. “I’d learn something I never knew before or see an animal I never knew existed. I’m hoping we can do that as well.”
Monaghan, also the series’ executive producer, solicited feedback from fans about what they liked, what they didn’t, and what they wanted to see, and held a few focus groups for that purpose. “Some of the things we found out were that they liked my cameraman, Frank, and wanted to see more of him, so he’s in the show a bit more this year. A lot of the animals in the first season were invertebrates, either insects or related to them, because I like those things, but this year there will be more mammals. And there’s more jeopardy because the animals have the ability to hurt me. They’re a little more dangerous.”
The close creature encounters kick off in Episode 1 with Monaghan trekking to Kenya in search of the deadly giant spitting cobra (he also nearly gets trampled by a charging elephant that awakes too soon from a medical procedure). Subsequently, he remains in Africa to seek out the poisonous Gaboon viper, heads to Thailand to find the most venomous primate, the slow loris, and swims with sharks on Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, hoping to encounter the lethal box jellyfish.
Photo: Mike Reid/Cream Productions Inc.
Bats, beetles, and the tiny, endangered lemur leaf frog are also on this season’s roster. But one of Monaghan’s most memorable expeditions was returning to the New Zealand locations where he filmed “The Lord of the Rings” in search of the wetapunga, a giant insect, accompanied by “Rings” co-star Billy Boyd. They’re still close friends and they see each other often, but being back in their old haunts was “quite emotional,” says Monaghan. “Neither one of us needed to say much to the other. We both knew what we were feeling and experiencing. It was a special thing to go through.”
While he wants to keep specifics secret, Monaghan admits he had “a few scrapes” and close calls, “moments where I do have to receive medical attention” from the doctor that travels with the show. “I got bitten by quite a few different types of animals, on my hands, fingers, arms. Frank got hurt a few times too. I tore a rib out in Japan doing ninja training, climbing walls. It was extremely painful for a couple of months,” he notes, adding that he and the crew were besieged by mosquitoes, and crewmembers became sick from eating local delicacies. Monaghan did not. “I have a cast-iron stomach,” he declares. “I can eat anything.”
Besides deadliness and rarity, “The vast majority of animals that we go looking for are in some way threatened,” says Monaghan. “The slow loris is vulnerable. The wetapunga, which is a cave-dwelling cricket, only exists in tiny breeding pockets and on offshore islands in New Zealand. We try to show people that just because animals are dangerous doesn’t mean you should kill them. You have to be respectful of their strength and keep a safe distance. Just because and animal is dangerous doesn’t make it less important or significant. We are the most dangerous animal on the planet,” he reminds.
Monaghan has several other projects coming up, including the thriller “Deep Burial” and a children’s movie, “Molly Moon: The Incredible Hypnotist,” in which he plays “a lunatic” and “the bad guy” respectively. He’ll soon head to Sweden to film “The Hundred Code,” playing “an American cop who helps solve a serial killer case. I end up working with a bunch of uptight Swedes.”
Until then, he’s promoting “Wild Things” and encouraging people to be as interested in the natural world as he is. “I walk around with stickers that say 'Be Curious' and hand them out to people in the hope they might spark a sense of curiosity. It’s important in terms of how we conduct ourselves on this planet,” Monaghan believes. “We’ve lost a sense of the things we should be curious about. We seem to be much more connected to our technology than our plants and animals.” His mission with “Wild Things” is to change that. “I’m hoping people will go out and be curious about the world they live in.”
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