TORONTO - Dominic Monaghan didn't have far to go to indulge his passion for creepy crawlies while shooting his mind-bending TV serial "Lost" or the epic fantasy franchise "The Lord of the Rings."
When the cameras weren't rolling, the inquisitive actor says he was on the lookout for any and all creatures that lived near the Hawaiian TV set as well as the New Zealand movie set.
"When I was on either one of those sets people knew that if they found a living creature that I would be interested in seeing it," Monaghan says in a recent phone interview from New York.
"On my weekends, I would kind of go into the jungle or go into the forest and check things out."
Bugs, reptiles and all sorts of critters have been lifelong passions, says Monaghan, who puts his knowledge of the natural world on display as host of the new OLN series "Wild Things with Dominic Monaghan."
He describes the hour-long show as part travelogue, part nature series, and very similar to the type of adventure-seeking vacation he would embark on himself.
"There's no kind of bells and whistles to it, they point the camera at me and ask me what's happening and I tell them," states Monaghan, whose personal pets include a python, black widow spider, tarantula and chameleon.
"We try and make it as guerilla as possible."
Each episode features Monaghan in a far flung part of the world in search of an elusive creature — among them a giant venomous centipede in the caves of Venezuela, the Giant Huntsman Spider in Laos, and the giant White Goliath Beetle in Cameroon.
Along the way, he's waylaid by encounters with the locals, visits to bustling night markets, and food stalls with incomprehensible menus.
In one segment from the pilot, Monaghan is momentarily distracted from his hunt for a Giant Water Bug by a python he spots in a tree along the Mekong River. He doesn't appear to hesitate as he urges his guide to pull alongside shore so he can scale the tree himself and lay the python along his torso.
Monaghan admits there was more to that scene than appeared.
"We're presenting a drama show so we have to make it look like it's probably a little more fraught than it is. Before I got into that tree and before we actually shot that sequence, we obviously did a little safety check. We did a little sail-by on the boat to make sure that that snake was not super-threatened by us or very aggressive," he says of his six-man crew, which includes a field researcher and a medic.
"You take a certain amount of calculated risks in the hope that you'll be OK. And we've had situations with animals where we thought we were going to film them and then by the time we actually try and do the scene they're not into it, you know."
There are close calls all the time, he notes.
An encounter with a deadly cobra later in that same episode has the venomous creature striking repeatedly at the camera lens.
Despite the risk involved, Monaghan encourages viewers to explore the world around them, noting that his nature knowledge is largely self-taught.
"We talked about the idea of putting something at the start of the show like: 'Please don't do this,'" says Monaghan.
"But I also didn't want to come across as someone who pretended to be a true expert when they weren't. I mean, I have a certain amount of knowledge in certain fields but I'm just an enthusiastic traveller and I love nature."
Monaghan admits his curiosity is piqued by things many other people might cringe at. During his downtime on "Lord of the Rings" he was drawn to all sorts of animals — dead or alive.
"In New Zealand I was interested in taking as much photography as I could of roadkill," he admits, noting that you can get close to an animal that normally wouldn't allow you to "because they're dead."
"I'm interested to see how the animal met its demise but also I'm interested to see whereabouts in the decomposition stage it was at, you know."
Although the first eight episodes of "Wild Things" — produced by the Toronto-based Cream Productions and the U.K.'s Wildfire Television — largely focus on insects, Monaghan says he'd like to track down mammals, fish and more reptiles for future episodes.
"You could tell the story of bears or the story of salmon. So I'd like to do some stuff in Canada," says Monaghan, whose upcoming film projects include the futuristic thriller "Deep Burial" with Tom Sizemore and the kids' film "Molly Moon: The Incredible Hypnotist."
"It's an amazing country, Canada, and it has fantastic outdoors so we're certainly exploring stories to tell in Canada."
"Wild Things with Dominic Monaghan" premieres Monday on OLN.