As Wildscreen draws to a close, realscreen talks to actor Dominic Monaghan (pictured) about his forthcoming series Wild Things, as well as his natural history heroes and his problem with History’s Swamp People.
After making a name starring in the Lord of the Rings trilogy and TV phenomenon LOST, actor Dominic Monaghan is taking on the natural history genre in Wild Things with Dominic Monaghan, a coproduction between UK broadcaster Channel 5, Canadian cable net OLN and BBC America.
The eight-part series, which looks at the world of exotic creatures and creepy crawlies, was made by Cream Productions and Wildfire Television and launches in the UK later this year, following in North American in January. Here, Monaghan talks to realscreen about his love for spiders, snakes and scorpions, as well as his heroes and villains.
How did the show come about?
Wild Things happened due to the way I usually holiday, which is that I’ll think about a particular animal that I’d like to see in the wild, and then orchestrate a holiday around finding that animal. I’d been talking to different people about filming that holiday expedition type of thing, and I was contacted by Cream, who were thinking about a show along the same lines – adventure travel.
Myself, [co-exec producer] Jenn Kuzmyk Ruch, [series producer] Paul Kilback and [exec producer] Dave Brady sat down in LA over the course of a weekend and just blocked out what a pilot episode might look like.
What can we expect from the series?
We go to some pretty far-flung, interesting places in the first season: three countries in South America, two countries in Africa, and three countries in Asia, and it’s kind of a holiday-meets-expedition, filled with color and personalities, and animals that most people are scared of. I’m hoping that this show will change people’s ideas about that.
What kind of creatures?
In the first season we look for the world’s largest, most dangerous centipede; the world’s most dangerous ant; the world’s largest venomous scorpion; the world’s largest spider; a giant honeybee; the giant water bug, which is one of the most dangerous aquatic insects; and the beaded lizard, which is one of only two venomous lizards in the world.
So most of the animals have an element of danger to them, and also a huge element of misunderstanding, misconceptions and myths built up against them.
Have you always wanted to do a travelogue or a nature program?
Since I was probably 11. I’m a huge fan and collector of the work of Sir David Attenborough, who is kind of the king of that domain. And then Jacques Cousteau in the ocean, his son – Philippe Cousteau – did a lot of really stellar work. I was a big admirer of the personality, enthusiasm and work of Steve Irwin, and I like what Simon King does as well.
This isn’t your first non-fiction project – you narrated a doc called Ringers and also a Nat Geo title called Devil’s Bible. Is documentary a genre you want to explore further?
Documentary is probably my favorite film genre. I’d love to have a career that’s a combination of acting – which is my first love and something which I’m still very passionate about – and documentary. I was educated by David Attenborough, Charles Darwin and Richard Dawkins, and what I hope this show will do is get people excited about animals which they don’t think are very charismatic.
Instead of squishing, killing, spraying, dismembering or stamping on those creatures, they’ll let them be or let them out of the house. It’s happened already on Twitter, people say, ‘I now think differently about that animal.’
You’ve been quite vocal about a number of issues on Twitter of late, including calling for History’s Swamp People to be taken off air…
I said a few months ago that if Steve Irwin was alive, I didn’t think a show as irresponsible as Swamp People would be allowed to be on TV, since they are shooting alligators in the face in that show. And I received probably about 85% to 90% support on Twitter, and then obviously the trolls came out and a few people gave me hassle.
But my stance on that show is that if human beings need to control a population of alligators based on the fact that we have moved into their home, then I can see why you might need to cull those animals, although I don’t necessarily agree with it. But marketing it as entertainment, I think it’s disgusting.
Death is not entertaining for me – certainly not the death of an animal as beautiful and charismatic as an alligator.
- Wild Things launches on Channel 5 in the UK later this year. The international distributor is ITV Studios Global Entertainment.