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Interview: Dominic Monaghan talks BBC America's 'Wild Things' and the lizard he wants next
What makes a good or bad nature show for the 'Lost' star?
HitFix: What is your degree of control in the editing room and over what the final product that's going to air is going to look like?
Dominic Monaghan: I sat through every single edit. I'm not the editor. I'm one of the producers and creators of the show, myself and Paul Kilback would sit with the editors. I went to Toronto I think six times. We'll come back after filming, I'll be in LA and Paul will call me after a week or so of going through the cut and say, "I think you should come up now. We've really shaved off some of the fat and it's ready for you to look at it." I'll look at a rough cut, I'll say what I don't think should be in there, what should be in there, what's working, what's not, music ideas. We'll go away, the editor will keep working and we'll go back in a day or so later and see how they're going. And they'll constantly send me rough notes and I'll just email them back like, "I like this. This is too long. This is too short. Where did this scene go?" You know? So I think I had a certain amount of influence on it. Like I said, I'm not the editor, so I don't want to slow up the procedure, but they were constantly asking me my opinion about the show and I wanted it to have a slightly surf-movie feel to it, slightly drifting, slightly undisciplined quality. We don't know where I'm going. We don't know if I'm going to get there. If I get distracted and meet someone new, that's cool. If I go off the beaten track, that's cool, too. The music was key for me. I wanted the animals to be shot beautifully. I didn't want them to attach any weird, strange sounds or effects to anything. I wanted it to be real. I didn't want any bulls*** with me. I didn't want them to be wiping my brow or making my hair look good or brushing my t-shirt off with dirty. I wanted it to be as real as possible.
HitFix: At least in the two episodes I watched, it seemed like you pretty much just rolled out of bed into the shot.
Dominic Monaghan: Yeah. There's no vanity on this project.
HitFix: What is the different sensation of watching yourself as yourself on-screen, as opposed to watching yourself acting and in-character?
Dominic Monaghan: I'm OK with it. I'm a little nervous about how the audience feels en masse, because I have to come to terms with the fact that if they don't like this show, maybe they just don't like me. That's different from me saying, "Ah, well they just didn't like that character in 'Wolverine'" or "They just didn't like that character in 'Lord of the Rings.'" I'm OK with it. I've been called enough names now that nothing really bothers me, but we'll see! Maybe they'll come up with something new and it'll kill me. It's something that I'm alright with. I watch what I do and then I forget about it. I don't obsess about it? As long as I can be satisfied with it, then I don't micro-examine it.
HitFix: But there weren't any specific traits that you noticed when watching Season 1 that you're going to steer away from in a hypothetical Season 2?
Dominic Monaghan: Not necessarily steer away from... There's a lot of things that I say that have become almost catchphrases now. I say "ginormous" a lot. I say "enormous" a lot. I say "amazing" a lot. I say "wow" a lot. I say "check this out" a lot. So "check this out" became a catchphrase. Paul would say to me, "You've not said 'Check this out' yet," and I'm like, "Well, I've not seen anything yet. It's seven in the morning!" But it's just natural for me. As soon as I see something I say to the camera, "Awww.. Check this out! Check this out!" I want people to get excited. So that's become something that's become a little trademark-y. I don't think I'd avoid anything yet. I wasn't super into me getting in a wetsuit on the show? But if you're going to get into a crocodile-infested lake, you've got to get into something.
HitFix: One of the things I enjoyed about the Vietnam episode was how personal it was to you because of your appreciation of "Apocalypse Now," how the pop culture informed everything you were doing... How much do you want to be using that sort of thing as a filter?
Dominic Monaghan: I do use it, because I'm such a film nut and I'm a comic book nut and a music nut and all those kinds of things. I reference "Star Wars" throughout the entire show. I reference "Apocalypse Now" certainly in Asia. I reference Manchester United. I reference "Lord of the Rings." I reference "Lost." These are things that have had deep effects on my life and things that I'm interested in, so I think people can giggle along with me like, "Oh, I see what he did there... He was in 'Lord of the Rings.' He just walked past a big tree. He mentioned that it looked like Treebeard. We can make that connection and we can share that joke with him." So I think it's fun. I never want to be frivolous about the subject matter. I always want to say, "Look, this is an important show in which we're teaching a sense of rudimentary science," but I also think it's important to laugh and blow off steam sometimes and I always like to have fun and when I travel, it's always light-hearted, so that's why I have fun.
HitFix: How pleased where you, going around the world, that no matter the languages being spoken, Manchester United is kinda a universal language?
Dominic Monaghan: I've known that for a long time. I've been lucky enough to travel since the 17, when I started traveling on my own, and Manchester United, you can compare it with brands like Coca-Cola and McDonalds in terms of just people knowing it, especially in places like Asia and Africa and India. I would wear Manchester United shirts a lot, because it's just a way for people to talk to you, you know? So it's exciting to know that they're a brand that people recognize, but that's all based around their success. They're a successful football team. If they stopped winning games, people would forget them pretty quickly.
HitFix: But you're also, at least somewhat, a brand people recognize. You're out there in the episodes and people are wanting to get their pictures taken with you. How frequent was that and what were people recognizing you from most specifically?
Dominic Monaghan: It was really dependent on where I was. Africa, it didn't happen at all. Cameroon? I didn't get recognized once in Cameroon. Namibia? Maybe in the capital city, but apart from that, not really. Asia, in Vietnam and Laos, it was kinda crazy. When we were in busy places, we had to make sure that we kept moving and stuff. Ecuador, we were so remote that it didn't matter. Venezuela, Guatemala, a little bit. Mainly, in Asia it was "Lord of the Rings." In South America, it was a combination of "Lord of the Rings" and "Lost." Then there's little pockets here and there that'll just know me from something freaky, where you're like, "Oh s***! You're the person who watched that? I had no idea."
HitFix: What was the weirdest thing that anybody recognized you from?
Dominic Monaghan: Well, I get recognized quite a bit from this TV show I did when I was 18 in England, tiny little detective show called "Hetty Wainthropp Investigates," tiny BBC-One show, I get recognized for that a lot. In LA, there are certain pockets of LA that I go to to play soccer or pick up friends or to grab food, where people won't know me from anything else apart from this Eminem video that I did. So they won't recognize me from "Lord of the Rings," this two billion dollar smash hit franchise. They'll be like, "Dude. You're the guy in that Eminem video." So it's interesting what people recognize you from.
HitFix: This is somewhat a DIY series and you also did that Crackle series that you were a producer on. How much are these things a model for where you ideally see your career going forward? Things where you're pushing the projects forward and steering them and whatnot?
Dominic Monaghan: I like to educate myself about being a producer. When I got the opportunity to make "Wild Things," obviously I was instrumental in creating it and coming up with the ideas as to where we were gonna go, how we were gonna treat the animals, how we were gonna shoot the animals, so being a producer was kinda a given at that point. With some of these film projects that I've worked on, I will connect myself with that project relatively early on, so then we're able to establish me as a producer so that I can kinda give some advice or lend some help for the casting, scheduling the film, how the film's gonna work in terms of where we're gonna go and things like that. It's just another way of learning new stuff about the project. The good thing about being a producer is that you then form real relationships with the other producers on the show, because they come to talk to you about things and you have a rapport with them. It's not as if I can walk into a project at Warners Brothers or at Paramount and produce it, like Tom Cruise can. But I can do it on independents that might lean on me for a little bit more help and advice.
HitFix: Are you happy with that as your position? You've done big studio movies and you've done major network TV shows and you could presumably go down that path again. Do you feel like you're missing out on something when you commit to a small independent just to get in there and be involved?
Dominic Monaghan: No, no. I don't. I only do projects based on the material and if I like them or not. It would be fantastic if every single independent that I did was a monster hit, but that isn't always the case. I did a tiny little film called "I Sell The Dead," which hardly anyone saw, but I love it. I think it's a great little film. I did a film called "The Day" last year, which not that many people saw either, for WWE Studios. I loved it. I thought it was a really dark thriller. I just did a film in Seattle called "Deep Burial," with Tom Sizemore, another tiny, microbudget film. It's all based on the material. If people see it? Brilliant. I'd love everyone to see it and love it and it blows up at a festival and gets bought by Miramax or by Warner Brothers. And if people don't see it? I had a great time on it. I learned some stuff. I played a fun role. I got paid. On to the next one.
HitFix: Have you felt like there are certain genres or certain worlds in which your name has the cache to get things moving and maybe others in which not so much?
Dominic Monaghan: There's certainly places in which me getting involved with something helps them get the movie made. I don't think... The big studios are not struggling to say, "We really need Dom to come on-board 'Avatar 2,' because that's gonna greenlight the project." They don't have any problems with that at this point. I'll continue to do studio projects when it makes sense and in-between that time, I'm not gonna be idle. I made "Wild Things." I'll make other TV shows. I'll make independent films. It just gives me a little bit more freedom. Ultimately I like working.
HitFix: And, going back to "Wild Things," what's the dream animal for Season 2?
Dominic Monaghan: The dream animal? Probably a reptile from New Zealand called the tuatara, which looks just like a lizard, but it's not a lizard. It can live in very, very cold temperatures. It can live to over 100. It has a rudimentary third eye. It has very strange behavioral patterns. It's relatively rare. I'd like to go to New Zealand, tell the story of my journey through New Zealand and then find that beautiful animal. That's one of the ones on the map for Season 2, for sure.
"Wild Things with Dominic Monaghan" airs on Tuesday nights at 10 p.m. on BBC America.