Young Dominic Monaghan hated arithmetic. So much so that the former Lost and Lord of the Rings star would hide bees and wasps in his pencil case to keep him company. “Whenever I was in a shitty math lesson, I would open up my case and let them fly around the classroom, in hope that my teacher wouldn’t ask me any Pythagoras questions,” Monaghan recalls. “I’ve always liked lizards and snakes and spiders and worms,” he says. “I was that kid.”
And now he is that adult. Monaghan hosts a new BBC America show called Wild Things that sets out to find flesh-eating ants in Ecuador; a venomous, dinner-plate-size spider in Laos; and the world’s largest centipede in Venezuela, among other things. An affinity for the animal kingdom seems to be ingrained in Monaghan’s DNA, especially since he had always looked up to such wildlife pioneers as David Attenborough, Jane Goodall, and the late Steve Irwin.
“I was in Hawaii [shooting Lost] when Steve Irwin died,” Monaghan says. “I was pretty devastated. But I used that as inspiration to make my own nature show.” Monaghan has been vocal about shows like Swamp People that center around hunting animals. “I’m very respectful of the animals I encounter,” he says. “I’m constantly gauging their personalities. How far can I push them before they lose their shit?”
And when you’re globetrotting like Monaghan does, you have to get your fitness in where you can. “I bring a soccer ball with me everywhere I go,” he says. So “football,” yoga, and long hikes are the actor’s workouts of choice. (It’s no surprise, then, that he goes on vacation to places “where I can be active, whether it’s surfing or rock climbing,” he says.)
“Wild Things inspires and energizes me,” he says. “I’ve always been curious about things in life in general—how things work, why things are the way they are. And the natural world gives you an infinite amount of things to explore. For me, it’s a love letter to the natural world. There are so many incredible, beautiful, complex animals that we tend to disregard because you can’t carry them around in your purse.”
We asked Monaghan about the most bizarre things he’s ever seen while on the road.
The wildest thing he’s ever witnessed in person:
“I was in Thailand when I saw two 10-year-olds fighting in Muay Thai kickboxing. I was horrified that they were getting in the ring!”
The wildest, most life-threatening thing he’s ever done:
“I’ve been pretty close to death a few times. But if I had to pick one… I did the biggest bungee jump in the world in New Zealand. I felt my heart in my chest the entire time.”
The wildest thing he’s ever eaten:
“Beetles and baby bees in Thailand.”
The wildest thing that’s happened on Wild Things:
“I managed to wrestle a cobra that raced toward me in Vietnam. I encountered a rattlesnake in Guatemala that I couldn’t calm down. There was also this huge 230-pound python, maybe 12 to 14 feet long that I had a minitussle with until it got tired and fell asleep on me—snoring.”