On screen, Dominic Monaghan has survived run-ins with Smoke Monsters and Witch Kings, orcs and The Others. But the Lost and Lord of the Rings star has tangled with an equally impressive roster of creatures in real-life. On his reality series, Wild Things with Dominic Monaghan, the 39-year-old actor travels the globe befriending locals and searching for the most dangerous animals on the planet. He tangos with tarantulas. He gets cozy with snakes. He pursues a colony of army ants (you know, the kind that eat flesh).
The third season of Wild Things recently debuted on the Travel Channel, and Monaghan kicked it off in Mozambique in search of the whale shark, the largest fish in the world. In honor of the show’s third season, Monaghan, still alive to tell the tale, chatted with Van Winkle’s about his obsession with animals, that time he was forced to sleep in a brothel and the importance of dreams.
What can we expect this season?
The show this year is much bigger, much more adventurous, and we were able to go some places that we weren’t able to go in the first couple of seasons, like Madagascar, Peru, Brazil. The animals are harder to find, and everything’s just a little bit more ambitious.
One of the biggest reasons people love Wild Things is because you’re so energetic and upbeat. What’s your trick to staying so enthusiastic?
I’m pretty stoked around animals. It’s one of my favorite things to talk about, and anyone who knows me would say I probably bore the hell out of them when we get onto the subject of animals because I just go off.
And, you know, I like exploring new cities, I love markets, I love festivals, I love large groups of people, I like making new friends, and the great thing about Wild Things is it speaks to all of those things. I don’t necessarily need to be excited, I just am naturally.
Do you worry that a lot of the animals we see on the show won’t be around much longer?
Yeah, I have these worries all the time. That’s one of the reasons why I do the show.
You know, we are inclined to the cute and cuddly animals. I mean, we’ve done great stuff for animals like pandas and we’re working on trying to help polar bears and gorillas. But there are tens of thousands of animals that are going on extinct on a daily basis that we don’t care enough about, ones that aren’t cute or cuddly or charismatic, you know? All animals are important.
It’s interesting how you don’t back down from showing how animals really are. Like in the second episode of Season 3, we see a male spectacled bear almost kill a female bear. It’s awful, but it’s real.
Yeah, you’re right on the edge of those moments. That bear really could’ve made a mess of that female bear.
You spend a lot of time sleeping in the wild. How do you manage to sleep comfortably
I travel with a mosquito net, but sometimes we’re in places where we can’t actually put one up, so then we try to find somewhere flat and cover up our extremities.
In some of these places, you’re obviously being attacked by different types of insects throughout the night, so you always want to try and limit the amount of skin space that they have at their disposal. So, I’ll wear socks at night and hoodies over my head.
Where is the toughest place you’ve ever had to sleep?
In Season 1, we were in Laos and we all had to sleep in a brothel which was pretty interesting. The upper floor of the building was a working brothel, and the lower floor was just rooms. They didn’t really have beds or showers or sheets or stuff like that, so we all kind of had to make do. Meanwhile, obviously, it was busy at night with comings-and-goings, so that was probably one of the more distracted sleeps we’ve had.
What are your own sleeping habits like?
They’re not fantastic. I don’t tend to go to sleep until past midnight, sometimes past 1 a.m. I’ve been trying to teach myself to sleep on my back. I know it’s probably the best way for me to sleep in terms of breathing and your neck and spine all being in the right place, but it’s not easy for me.
I go through different dreaming periods. Like right now, I’m in a period where I remember all my dreams and they tend to be quite vivid. Right now, it’s kinda fun, because I know that in the morning I’m going to wake up and remember things about the dreams from the night before.
What kinds of things do you dream about?
I dream a lot about animals, I dream a lot about my parents, I dream a lot about my brother, I dream a lot about people who I miss. I’ve had a lot of Star Wars dreams, I’ve had dreams about being in World of Warcraft and Grand Theft Auto, dreams about being in Fight Club. I’ve dreamt that I was Paul McCartney a couple of times.
I haven’t been eating meat for about two years now, but every so often I’ll feel like I need a big hankering of it. So the other day I went to a Thai restaurant and had a really nice Thai beef salad, and I had really troubling anxiety dreams that night, just struggling to breathe and relax and I think a lot of that was based on the meat that I had eaten.
Any other strange dreams come to mind?
I had a dream once, while the cast of Lord of the Rings was in France just hanging out. In the dream, I was visited by a female entity. I couldn’t really see her, but she was telling me things about my life. My 25th birthday was coming up, and she was saying stuff like “Don’t worry so much. Don’t worry about your life. You’ll be okay. Just try to enjoy these moments.”
And I was lying there, obviously in sleep paralysis, but feeling as if I was saying, “OK, that’s a bit weird, but thank you.” And then as the dream was coming to a close she said, “Oh, the phone’s going to start ringing.” And then the phone started ringing and I picked it up and it was Elijah [Wood].
I was like, “Elijah! I just had this insane dream! This lady was telling me stuff and she told me the phone was going to ring, and I picked up the phone and it was you!” And Elijah was like “Holy shit, that’s amazing!”
That’s a pretty surreal experience.
The magic of dreams, you know? There’s some real magic in there. I listen to my dreams. I think they’re important. I mean, we are our brains more than our bodies, and when the brain hits autopilot, I think it’s important to listen to where it goes.
What kind of geeky stuff did you have in your childhood bedroom?
I had a massive Lord of the Rings poster when I was a kid, even before I did Lord of the Rings. It was a very-old looking Bilbo, a very old-looking Gandalf and a young-looking Frodo sitting on top of the mountain looking at the person who has the poster. Now as an adult? I have a big poster on the life cycle of ants.