You probably know Dominic Monaghan in one of two ways - either as Merry Brandybuck, fellow Hobbit and close friend of Frodo Baggins, in Peter Jackson's epic trilogy adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien's THE LORD OF THE RINGS, or as Charlie Pace, part-rock star, part-heroin addict and part survivor of Oceanic Flight 815 on ABC's hit television series LOST.
In Doug Aarniokoski's THE DAY, Monaghan shifts from peripheral member of the pack to the leader of it as Rick, the decision maker of a group of friends still managing to survive the odds in a post-apocalyptic world. The role suits Monaghan well, as the take-charge demeanor of his character seems to be a more natural fit for him than just walking around, taking care of a baby on a mysterious island.
I had the opportunity to chat with Dominic recently about THE DAY, and specifically some of the twists and turns that come up along the way regarding his character (so beware spoilers ahead), but we were also able to get into his feelings, or lack thereof, on the ending of LOST, the quick demise of FLASH FORWARD and his potential participation in THE HOBBIT, now that Peter Jackson is extending his two-part approach into a trilogy. Enjoy.
The Infamous Billy The Kidd: Dominic, how are you?
Dominic Monaghan: Good, man. How are you?
The Kidd: I’m doing all right. I’m sure you’re winding down nicely now.
Dominic Monaghan: Oh no, we’re still going. I’m now going to Santa Monica for some interview down there for a couple of hours, so no, we are in the zone.
The Kidd: Okay, well let me start off first... I want to ask you about LOST, because I was a huge fan of the show. You had six seasons of it and watching it kind of live as it went, I think. It was like lost for people who catch up with it on DVD, because you had that week in between to debate what was going on. It had this enormous fan-base that was incredibly devoted to the show. Are you satisfied with how the series ended up and do you think that the destination justified the journey?
Dominic Monaghan: I didn’t see the ending. I was working at the time and obviously I was filmed in it and I know how it ended, but I was working at the time. I was in New York making a film and I didn’t really want to watch the ending, because I didn’t want to get back into that “LOST world” if you pardon the pun, because I was already in a completely different world with a different character. So I didn’t see it.
The Kidd: So to this point are you still in the dark as to how it was received and how people took it along the way?
Dominic Monaghan: No, no... I know how it was received, because people would talk to me about it all of the time and I know what they shot, so I know how they shot the ending. I just didn’t personally expose myself to the ending.
The Kidd: Okay. Along the way with Charlie, when you kind of left the show there was a lull in his character for awhile and then ultimately he got to have this heroic redemption. Was that important for you to wrap up the character that way before you left LOST?
Dominic Monaghan: And that was the only way that I was going to be in any way satisfied with my contribution to that show. I found myself getting a little frustrated with holding the baby and relapsing into different drug situations and I sat down with Damon Lindelof, who is a fantastic writer, and he said “Look, we found a way to have you be in the show a little bit more, but it involves you leaving the show.” It kind of took me down that pathway and I thought “This is going to be the best opportunity that I’m going to get to really leave my mark on that show.” I was happy with how that transpired. It also got be a chance to go off and do stuff. I could never have done WOLVERINE if I hadn’t left LOST. I could never have ben in that Eminem music video if I had never left LOST, so sometimes you think “It would have been nice to stay,” but then if you stay other doors and opportunities close up.
The Kidd: It was a show that many now try to copy the model of. Every year you hear “This might be the next LOST” or “That might be the next LOST” and nobody has been able to duplicate what LOST did. FLASH FORWARD I thought was the closest in terms of this giant puzzle of genre television and it only lasted one season and a lot of people blame it on the scheduling and the hiatus that it had. Do you think the show got a fair shake and that it got enough time to find its footing for something so complex?
Dominic Monaghan: Well no, not really. I think it was written well and I think it at least deserved to have a second season. There were a lot of very mediocre shows on at that point that I don’t think were anywhere near as good or had as good a cast as FLASH FORWARD did, but there was a big shake up at ABC, the network that showed it, and a lot of shows were getting dropped and a lot of new shows were being made and I think that’s something unfortunately we were a casualty of at that particular time. I know a lot of people have a hard time with the fact that it only lasted one season. They wanted to see more and they are constantly asking me when it’s going to be back on TV. So it was a show that lasted a short amount of time, but burned kind of brightly, you know?
The Kidd: So let me talk to you about THE DAY. One of the scenes that really struck me was the conversation between you and Shawn where you’re just sitting around the table wondering about the people that you used to know and what happened to them. I’m wondering how you felt. Is it that nostalgia and those memories that help drive a person faced with the scenario and the settings of THE DAY to get to a life like that once again?
Dominic Monaghan: Yeah, I mean that’s my favorite thing that I shot in THE DAY. It was a very intimate scene driven by the actor’s performances and the director, Doug, said to Shawn and I “just ask that question at some point. I don’t really mind how you get there or what happens afterwards, but just ask if you think that person, Susan McKunis is still alive.” And Shawn is a great actor and we played off each other well I think. What happens in those survival moments is as long as you feel safe in that moment, as long as you are protected in that moment, you revert back to some of those conversations that you might have at high school or at college or driving to a friend’s house and the director wanted to show that people revert back to those normal questions of “Do you think that girl is still around? What do you think she is doing if she is around? Do you miss her?” Those are questions that normal people ask, even if they face an extraordinary circumstances.
The Kidd: Hope and faith is a very big part of THE DAY and a lot of that is driven by Rick. These are characters that have been faced with circumstances for about ten years, but at what point do you think hope and faith cease to exist when you are seeing these things every day? It’s just a matter of trying to live, because that’s all you know how to do anymore.
Dominic Monaghan: Yeah, I mean faith occurs based around hope. Faith and hope are almost the same thing. I think one of the saddest things is hope and when you believe in something that you are hanging on to, that’s quite sad. Certainly it’s poignant to have hope in something, because it means you’ve invested a certain amount of yourself in it and I think Rick has these seeds symbolizes and I think he kind of keeps the group together. He has this dream that he’s putting out and “sooner or later we will get to a place where we feel safe and we will plant these seeds and we will watch them grow and we will eat nice food and we will be safe and warm. That’s where we are heading to. That’s the thing that keeps us alive. That’s the thing that makes us get up in the morning instead of giving up.” The human spirit and animals in general are great at surviving, great at just continuing on and enduring.
The Kidd: It’s weird, because ultimately the character with the most hope and the most faith is the one who leaves first and I’m wondering if you took that as a subtle message in the story that really there is no place for hope and faith when things get really this bad.
Dominic Monaghan: Well certainly you can argue that for sure and when the directors and producers said to me “We are interested in killing our lead,” it’s almost like in PSYCHO. We want to establish our lead and believe in the film and then kill him at a point where the audience wont expect and I was turned on by that. I like shocking the audience. I like making them feel that anything is possible in this film and as soon as Rick finds himself in that situation, you as an audience are aware that the usual rules of a film don’t apply to this particular movie.
The Kidd: Yeah, and that’s definitely what got me. You mentioned PSYCHO. SCREAM kind of followed the same model of building a recognizable actor and establishing them and then “wham” just kind of hitting you with something and then you realize then what the stakes are. So I know you said that was something that turned you on, but how much work was really put into really establishing this character to then take him away so shockingly I guess?
Dominic Monaghan: The filmmakers and certainly myself were as invested in creating a well-rounded character as the other actors in the film. We wanted to have someone who brought his own positive and negative elements and good things to the group and bad things to the group and a fully fleshed well rounded kind of character you know? Stanislavsky, one of the major teachers in modern day acting said that “there are no small parts, only small actors” and I approach anything I do based on that idea and if someone is only in one scene it doesn’t mean that there’s less to their character, it just means that your audience is seeing them in that one particular scene, but you can make it as real as possible.
The Kidd: There’s also this group mentality where Rick is clearly the leader of the group and I kind of wondered how you approach this group dynamic where clearly there’s leaders and clearly there’s followers even though everyone may have their own ideas on how to survive. I kind of wonder how you approach reconciling that and how these different characters would fit into that group mentality.
Dominic Monaghan: I was a little grumpier than normal. I’m usually quite a sociable person and like to go out and get to know people and party a little bit and I was a little bit more of a curmudgeon on this particular film and I told people I was going to be that way and I didn’t socialize much, I kind of kept to myself and probably wasn’t as approachable as I normally would be and that allowed me to be more of a military like response to people’s reaction and I kind of saw myself a little bit like the sergeant of that group.
The Kidd: Let me ask you really quickly about THE HOBBIT, because now that Peter Jackson is turning the two parts into a trilogy with all kind of talks of approaching the Tolkien appendixes to tie the trilogies together. Have there been any discussions with you about coming back with some of the other LORD OF THE RINGS regulars who were part of the first three movies to try to tie those films together by having Merry be a part of it?
Dominic Monaghan: I talk to Pete a lot. I talk to him about how the film is going and how he is in general and how he is as a human being. I never put any pressure on him to “work with me,” because that’s a relationship that I wouldn’t want to abuse, so I would never ask him myself and up until this point I think Pete has been so focused on telling other elements of the story in THE HOBBIT that I don’t think he has got there, but obviously I love Pete and I love the family that he had around him and the New Zealand world and if he were to ask me to come back I wouldn’t need to think about it for too long.
The Kidd: (Laughs) Okay, thank you very much.
Dominic Monaghan: All right, man, it’s good to talk to you.
The Kidd: Thank you very much.
Dominic Monaghan: See you later.
THE DAY opens in theatres this Wednesday, August 29.
"The Infamous Billy The Kidd"
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