And you thought Middle-Earth was wild! Lord Of The Rings star Dominic Monaghan tracks down the world's deadliest creatures in his new show
21:30 GMT, 26 October 2012
He may have done battle on Middle-Earth in Lord Of The Rings and shared a supernaturally charged island with a host of scheming plane crash survivors in Lost, but actor Dominic Monaghan's latest adventure is wilder than either of his best known roles.
As creator and presenter of the new travel adventure series Wild Things With Dominic Monaghan, he gets to meet some of the most 'unique, amazing, dynamic and charismatic creatures on the planet' – and there isn't a hobbit or smoke monster in sight.
It's a fascinating show and as an avowed animal lover, it's a subject close to Dominic's heart.
Dominic Monaghan in his new nature show, Wild Things With Dominic Monaghan, left, and as Merry in Lord Of The Rings in 2001, right
'When I go on holiday, I go to places that have animals I'm interested in,' he explains, 'so I'll go to Thailand to see the sun bears [the world's smallest bear] or Australia to see certain snakes.
'I pitched the idea to networks and said, “Why don't you film me going on holiday” and they said yes!'
While most people's idea of a relaxing jaunt wouldn't involve facing lethal army ants or a Venezuelan flesh-eating centipede as Dominic does in the series, he insists: 'I admire these creatures.
'We feature snakes, crocodiles, buffalo, fish – a whole bunch of animals – and even though some are very dangerous, none of them are aggressive until you threaten them. If you're respectful towards them, they're not going to attack you for no reason.'
Dominic Monaghan, left, as Merry in Lord Of The Rings: The Return Of The King, in 2003, with Billy Boyd as Pippin
That's not to say Dominic, 35, didn't have some hairy moments while filming the series, including being attacked by leeches, which is a tough one as they have an anticoagulant in their bite so you bleed all over your clothes for a couple of days.
'But I don't mind giving a little bit of blood to these animals,' he says cheerfully. 'I don't want to give my life to them though, so I was much more careful around the bigger animals. I had a lot of snakes such as vipers, cobras and pythons trying to bite me, but I have a couple of snakes myself and know when to leave them alone.'
His love of exotic creatures (he owns two snakes, a couple of lizards and tarantulas and black widow spiders) goes back to his older brother Matthew's childhood allergies to cats and dogs.
Dominic Monaghan and Lost co-star Evangeline Lilly, with whom he had a relationship for five years
'We weren't allowed to have them as pets,' says Dominic, 'but then we much preferred lizards and snakes and ants anyway, so I guess that just stuck. But a lot of people's fear of these animals stems from ignorance and myth, and I'm a big fan of breaking down myths.'
He was, of course, practically swamped by myths in the Emmy Award-winning Lost and Peter Jackson's Oscar-winning Lord Of The Rings trilogy, in which he played Merry the hobbit.
Dominic was just 21, fresh-faced and with only a couple of acting credits to his name when he travelled from his hometown of Manchester to New Zealand to film alongside Elijah Wood and Orlando Bloom.
The cast of JJ Abrams' Lost, Dominic Monaghan third from the left
'We were living in the centre of Wellington and because we were all single, we'd be out around town having fun,' he says. 'We even got Ian McKellen to come out with us a few times. Ian took us to a gay club one night and we were very much embraced – Orlando and I were even on stage dancing at one point,' laughs Dominic.
'Making those films was just an incredible experience.' After filming had finished Dominic moved out to Los Angeles at 23, 'to be where the action was', and has been there ever since.
Though he struggled for a year to find a decent project, eventually one came up in the form of Lost. As the heroin addict rock star Charlie Pace, Dominic built up a huge following until his character's surprising death in season three.
He also had fell in love with his costar Evangeline Lilly, who played Kate Austen in the show, and though their relationship ended after five years, she and Dominic remain friends.
Second from the left in FlashForward, the TV series adapted from Robert J Sawyer's science fiction novel
'There were a bunch of reasons it didn't work out,' he says, 'but that's what happens in life. You hang out with different people, but ultimately only one ever works out.
'I like relationships and being in love, but I also like being single – you have to embrace all those different things. But I'd love to have kids one day.'
For now though, Dominic has his hands full with a different kind of Wild Thing.
'I'm curious about the natural world and I hope that people respond to the show,' he says. 'I can stop anyone from being scared of animals – it's one of the things I'm good at.'
Wild Things With Dominic Monaghan, Monday 5 November, 9pm, Channel 5.