Dominic Monaghan is best known for playing Charlie Pace on Lost and Meriadoc Brandybuck in the Lord of the Rings trilogy—two jobs that made use of grandiose settings in the great outdoors. This week, he's channeling the adventurous spirit into his own nature-meets-travelogue show, Wild Things with Dominic Monaghan on BBC America. His goal: To seek out some of the world's rarest creepy-crawlies, like the black, hairy, thick-tailed scorpion and the giant, white goliath beetle. In the process, of course, he gets to visit remote sites in places such as Laos, Vietnam, Cameroon, and Ecuador.
Yes, there are moments that are hard to stomach and even flat out gross. No surprise there. Details caught up with Monaghan, 36, while he was in New York City to talk about his love of bugs, raising chameleons on the set of Lost, and that time he had to turn down a fan's request to kiss him on the mouth.
DETAILS: On Wild Things, you highlight bugs and reptiles, parts of the animal kingdom usually greeted with hostility. Will this change people's perceptions?
DOMINIC MONAGHAN: What I'm attempting to do is to show people that if I can spend some time with very dangerous spiders and snakes and scorpions, then maybe they'll feel different about the spiders and snakes they find around their areas. I don't need people to keep them as pets. I just like them to be respectful and see that everything in nature has its place. We don't need to kill it or destroy it to live alongside it.
DETAILS: Why are people afraid of bugs? What's happened in the evolutionary process?
DOMINIC MONAGHAN: People have a fear of the unknown. Insects have different senses than us, different amount of limbs and their body structure is very different. It's hard for us to really relate to them and understand them. The animals that we are drawn to have characteristics that we like. Dogs are loyal. Dolphins look like they're smiling. Elephants take care of their young. Chimpanzees sort of look like us.
DETAILS: What's the best way to dress when exploring the wild?
DOMINIC MONAGHAN: I wanted to make sure that I wasn't dressing like the Crocodile Hunter. I didn't want to be in "safari clothes" because that's not me. I wear comfy combat trousers and a T-shirt and supportive sneakers—Nike or New Balance, something like that. Robust combat trousers like Carhartt or G-Star. Stuff that you don't mind getting beaten up. I wear Electric Sunglasses a lot. You can bash them around a lot, and they'll still look good.
DETAILS: In the first episode you come across a large python in a tree and you wrap it around yourself. Have you ever been bitten?
DOMINIC MONAGHAN: No, I've not been bitten yet. I've had a fair amount of experience with snakes, and I find them to be pretty honest in terms of how you read their body language and emotions. They'll tell you when they're grumpy. They'll tell you when they're okay. When I'm in Laos, I find a python that's slightly smaller, and it's trying to bite me all the time; it's very angry and pissed off at me. You always try to gauge each individual snake's personality.
DETAILS: Are you a vegetarian?
DOMINIC MONAGHAN: No, I'm not.
DETAILS: Have you ever eaten bugs before?
DOMINIC MONAGHAN: No...not really. In the show, I ate a couple things. I wasn't crazy about the idea, but we'd eat some of the things that were offered to us. Every so often, we had to do it to maintain a good relationship with our guides. When we were in Ecuador we ate beetle larvae, and it didn't taste fantastic, and I didn't feel that great afterwards. It tasted like old peanut butter.
DETAILS: Lost was filmed on Hawaii. Did you go on bug jaunts when you weren't shooting?
DOMINIC MONAGHAN: I did, yeah. I kept chameleons and I had to go into the jungle to find animals that they would eat. I would constantly go grab grasshoppers and moths. Hawaii is an amazing island like that, so I was never struggling to find something for my chameleons.
DETAILS: Did you ever rope any of the cast members into going on grasshopper hunts with you?
DOMINIC MONAGHAN: That's not really their thing...it's more kind of a geeky obsession of mine. But a lot of the supporting artists that worked on Lost would present me with a pot of animals when I turned up on set. If we were filming in the jungle, and instead of being there first thing, maybe I'd turn up at 9 or 10 or 11, depending on my call. I'd walk into the jungle to do the third scene of the day, and they'd been there since 6 A.M. catching grasshoppers for me. I was always touched by that.
DETAILS: Recently on Twitter, you mentioned a stranger requested that you kiss them on the mouth. Is this typical?
DOMINIC MONAGHAN: No, no, if it was typical I wouldn't post it up on Twitter. I got on a plane to New York for this particular trip, and when I was grabbing my gear—pulling down my iPod, my book, magazines, and stuff—there was some lady, and I felt like she was there with her mom. The lady said to me, "Will you give me a kiss?" I kinda smiled and said, "Oh, that's funny." And then she said, "No, will you kiss me on the mouth?" And I said, "Oh, no," and I sat down and tried to ignore it. I thought it was funny and quite daring.
DETAILS: Is that one of the more over-the-top fan requests you've gotten?
DOMINIC MONAGHAN: It definitely stuck out. I've had a few people in or around my house or my hotel room that can make strange requests sometimes. You just try as hard as you can to ignore that stuff because it doesn't come from a very healthy place, you know?
DETAILS: You dabble in a lot of other arts: tattoos, photography, writing. What are you working on now?
DOMINIC MONAGHAN: There's a chance I'll do a book associated with Wild Things, which I would love to do. I'm constantly exposing myself to art and that inspires me. There are avenues that I'm exploring and other tales I'd like to tell outside the world of animals, but right now my main priority is to establish that I can host a show about animals and show I know a little bit about that.
Wild Things with Dominic Monaghan *premieres on January 22 at 10 P.M. on BBC America.
Mike Ayers is a New York City–based arts and entertainment writer.*
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