LOTR Star Dominic Monaghan’s New TV Show!
By: Lynn Barker
Later this month on BBC America you can catch cute and funny Dominic Monaghan (Merry Brandybuck the hobbit in The Lord of the Rings movies and rocker Charlie Pace in the popular TV series “Lost”) on his travel adventures around the world checking out really badass and weird-looking insects and reptiles. In Ecuador, Laos, Namibia, he’s there interacting with critters that could kill him!
We wanted to find out why Dom is passionate about well… bugs and other weird animals. Check it out and watch the new show January 22nd on BBC America.
Q: So, Dom, how much of an adrenalin junkie are you? Are you thrilled in dangerous situations?
- Dom: No, not really. I wasn’t the kid who was rock climbing. I wasn’t the person who would eat anything. I wasn’t the person who would fight anyone. I just really enjoy animals, and I’ll do that kind of stuff for the rest of my life in terms of going to different parts of the world and getting as close as I can to charismatic animals. But, I’m not known in my group of friends as being the person who is willing to take the dare unless it comes to something that I’m comfortable with, and one of those things is animals.
Q: Did you ever watch the Australian guy Steve Irwin, the “Crocodile Hunter”. He loved animals too.
- Dom: Steve Irwin is one of the major reasons why I made the show. I was in Hawaii shooting “Lost” and was pretty devastated by his death, and I had said for a long time to a lot of people that I was going to make a nature show. And after I got over the initial shock of him dying, I just thought, “If this is not a reason for me to really pick up the pieces now and make the show, I don’t know what is” because he meant a lot to me. I never got a chance to meet him or tell him that. I think he was a superb human being across the board. So there are elements of the show that, in my way, is a love letter to Steve Irwin, to what he achieved.
Q: How is your show different from other “guys vs. the wild” shows where guys come face to face with animal danger?
- Dom: What (we’re trying to do) with the show was to show that you can have these experiences and it doesn’t have to be something that is impossible to achieve or overwhelming. I like what Bear Grylls does. I think that’s really interesting. But one of the messages that Bear Grylls puts across is “I’m trained. I have a lot of knowledge. I bring a lot of equipment with me. This is something that you should not do.”
- What I’m trying to say in this show is “It’s fine traveling to countries where you don’t speak their language. It’s okay going somewhere and eating food that you might not have had before, having experiences with animals that you might not know a huge amount about. As long as you are respectful and have a smile on your face, fingers crossed, you’ll survive.” Up until now, that’s been the case.
Q: But why aren’t you afraid or grossed out when you see a huge insect with pinchers? It looks dangerous! Do you come from a family that is just into weird animals?
- Dom: (Humans) are not naturally afraid of spiders and snakes and things like that. We watch our parents, or we watch our peers be scared of them for good reasons. They can hurt you. They can damage you. They can kill you. But I wasn’t brought up with that. I was brought up in a family with a biologist father who became a teacher. He knows a rudimentary amount about animals and physics and chemistry, a mom that liked frogs and lizards and stuff like that.
- We had them in our house. My brain waves connected in positive ways towards animal experiences. We made this show very specifically for families, so that maybe a father or a mother or a brother or a sister can sit down and be scared of these animals but watch it with their family and not be scares and maybe they can learn to have a different relationship with that type of animal.
Q: Cool! Can you talk a little bit about dealing with the poisonous snakes and things like that? Most of us tend to run far away from those things. Have you ever been bitten?
- Dom: I’ve been bitten by snakes before. I have not been bitten by venomous snakes before because, you know, that would be something a little bit more serious. We are all very, very conscious of a way to behave when we encounter venomous snakes. I spend a little bit of time trying to gauge its temperature, trying to work out what his reaction is going to be if I get too close to it. What I attempt to do is control its head. You basically hold onto its tail and stay as far away from its head as possible. But we take every precaution possible safety wise to not get bit, and we have medics.
Q: Do you warn kids and teens not to just go up and touch?
- Dom: Yeah. We always talk about the idea that these animals are dangerous, and if you are going to encounter a venomous snake, the last thing that you should be doing is touching it. But, you know, the show also is an encouragement, is a call to people, though watching it, to go and explore, to go and look in your garden, to lift up rocks, to check things out, to be curious. Being curious keeps us alive. It’s something that I think you should do. I’ve benefited hugely in my life from being a fan of the natural world, and I have a really hard time when I hear people say “I don’t like animals”. (That might be) stopping them from exploring something that’s really fascinating.
Q: Okay, if most animals don’t scare you, what does?
- Dom: I’m a little scared of heights, and that happened because my mom is scared of heights. I wasn’t scared of heights until I witnessed my mom being scared and looking very vulnerable and freaky and pulling faces I had never seen her pull before. Suddenly, I was scared of heights overnight. So we’d done a few things with heights making “Wild Things” but nothing too epic.
- We went to Malaysia for an episode, looking for the giant honey bee and (the director) told me that I was going to have to go about 120 feet into a tree to get close to them because they live in the highest trees in the jungle. So the day before we went up there, we did a little minor test run, which we filmed, of me being hoisted 30 feet into a tree, and I am just terrified. I couldn’t relax. I was gripping the tree. He talked me through it the best he could. I just expose myself to what I’m scared of. If you are scared of some animals, over this eight-week course, maybe you’ll expose yourself slightly to some degree to those animals, and then, when you see a little innocuous spider on your ceiling of your bathroom, instead of freaking out and losing your mind, you might think, I’ll let him live out his days there and catch mosquitoes for me, catch flies for me, and maybe I’ll feel a little bit better about life.