Like many of us, Dominic Monaghan was profoundly affected by Steve Irwin's tragic passing in 2006 while filming one of his iconic nature documentaries. A lifelong lover of animals, Monaghan channeled his grief into continuing his hero's legacy and created Wild Things, a new BBC America nature series that would make Irwin proud.
Not only did ETonline score an exclusive clip from Tuesday's all-new episode, but I sat down with Monaghan at The Television Critics Association Press Tour to talk about this exciting and informative new series (did you know that every third animal on Earth is an insect?), while also learning that the actor's animal attraction is infectious.
ETonline: Your passion for insects is apparent judging from episode one, so how much was Wild Things born from asking yourself, "How can I get someone to pay me to do something I want to do anyway?"
Dominic Monaghan: [laughs] A little bit. There's some truth to that. But I think when we're doing the right thing, whatever that means, we're following our bliss. The natural world has always been such a positive force in my life, I've always just had fun with animals -- they're like kids, they will not allow you not to be in the moment, and I think when you're in the moment, that's when you're the happiest. So this show was my way of trying to be in the moment as much as possible.
ETonline: Betty White, one of our greatest animal activists, once told me that she loves all animals as long as they have four legs. You almost seem to be the inverse -- you love creatures with no legs or a thousand legs. Where does that come from?
Monaghan: I like the things that are misunderstood. I like the underdog. I was the underdog at school. I wasn't the jock, I was the class clown. I wasn't the biggest, I was the smallest. I wasn't the natural ladies' man, I had to make a big noise about it. So I respond to the underdog. I also enjoy breaking myths and there are lots of myths attached to these animals. I like to show people that bats don't suck your blood, that spiders won't lay eggs in your ears. And don't get me wrong, I like dogs, I like cats, I like bears; but there's always going to be dogs and cats and bears. We'll never get to a point where there are only seven dogs left in the world. But we might get to that point with a lot of animals that most people just don't really care about. I would like to champion some of the insects that are on the brink of becoming endangered. I would like to change people's ideas about them because not only are they not disgusting or scary, but they're incredibly important to the way our world works.
ETonline: Given your lifelong passion for nature documentaries, what was day one of filming like, when you were saying the words you'd seen Steve Irwin say a million times?
Monaghan: Even thinking about it now, I get a little emotional. It felt like the culmination of a lot of years of dreaming, and a lot of standing in front of the TV and wishing and hoping. I was moved by the shock of Steve Irwin's death, but I think in some ways that finally getting on set and talking about these animals, brought me full circle in dealing with his death. When he died, I thought that this needed to be the reason I make this show. And while I feel that I did what I set out to do, I'd like to continue to make Wild Things for years ... but one thing at a time.
Wild Things airs Tuesdays at 10 p.m. on BBC America.