Most people have a healthy hate-hate relationship with bugs, especially if one were to make an unwelcome appearance in their home. Not Dominic Monaghan. The former “Lost” star reveres insects so much that he refuses to let even a mosquito die at his hands.
“I’ll control them but I don’t kill them,” he tells XfinityTV.com in an exclusive interview. “I wouldn’t do anything that would hurt an animal.” He even offers this handy anti-Raid tip: pour lemon juice on any surface where you have ants and they’ll be so repelled by the odor that they’ll vacate the premises.
It’s this kind of appreciation and knowledge of what he refers to as the “misunderstood” members of the animal kingdom that Monaghan brings to his new BBC America docu-series, “Wild Things with Dominic Monaghan,” premiering tonight at 10/9c.
The show — part travelogue, part animal adventure — drops Monaghan in a different far-flung locale each week in search of exotic, often dangerous creatures. The first episode finds Monaghan in Vietnam seeking an elusive giant water bug. In Episode 2, he travels to Laos for a cave-dwelling giant huntsman spider.
The inspiration for the series traces back to Monaghan’s childhood in Germany and England, where he grew up watching wildlife programs with his family.
“I can’t remember not being interested in animals,” he admits. “I was brought up in a household where we would watch nature shows whenever they were on TV.” He cites Sir David Attenborough (“he broke the mold”); Jacques Cousteau (he made underwater adventure “seem so magical”); and Steve Irwin (“he was really leading from enthusiasm with his front foot”) as major influences.
Because of a fur allergy, Monaghan was exposed early on to a variety of “alternative” pets ranging from lizards, ants, slugs, worms, birds, and even bees and wasps, which he kept in his pencil cases at school — a handy distraction device during a boring math class, he says.
“The more that I came to read about reptiles and insects the more I came to understand that they were vilified for no reason,” he says. Read he did – and does. Although he has no formal scientific training and readily admits he’s “not an expert,” he regularly reads biology books, and devours magazines like National Geographic and Discover. But it was his fondness for Steve Irwin that finally pushed him to take his knowledge to the small screen.
“I was drawn to his personality and his love of life and his complete disregard for his safety. I just thought he was an incredible human being,” he says of Irwin, whom he unfortunately never got the chance to meet.
“I was floored by his death,” he says, recalling exactly where he was when a friend texted him about the tragedy in 2006. “I was in the LA airport,” he says. “Apart from my family members who have died, this was the death that really shook me.” After emerging from “the fog” of Irwin’s untimely end, Monaghan decided to push forward with the show.
“[I thought] If I do it off the back of Steve Irwin’s death, maybe I take that incredibly negative thing that happened to him and turn it into something positive,” he admits.
Ultimately Monaghan hopes that through the series, viewers will gain a new understanding of the incredible world that’s around us. “It’s a show in which I attempt to change people’s ideas about a lot of things that people find intimidating: wild animals, travel, not knowing a certain language, street food, crazy climates, crazy conditions, and weird places,” he says. “If you have any sense of adventure or escapism or weird culinary delight or strange animals that you’ve never seen before, and if you’re at all curious about life, then this is a good show for you to watch because guaranteed you’re going to see something you’ve never seen before.”
Tune in to the series premiere of “Wild Things” on Tuesday, Jan. 22 at 10/9c on BBC America.