By Cait Rohan Kelly | April 3, 2017 | People
Dominic Monaghan spills on how he prepared to play a mentally disturbed character in his new sci-fi thriller, Atomica, what he thinks about the LOST ending (the answer will surprise you), and why Harrison Ford sparked his interest in acting.
Dominic Monaghan in Atomica.
Dominic Monaghan is best known for playing some of pop culture’s most beloved fantasy characters—hobbit Meriadoc "Merry" Brandybuck in the early aughts’ The Lord of the Rings trilogy movies, Charlie Pace on buzzy '00s TV show LOST, and Chris Bradley/Bolt in 2009's X-Men Origins: Wolverine. Monaghan continues his work in sci-fi with Atomica (out on VOD and Digital HD), a psychological thriller set in the near future that focuses on two men, Zek (Tom Sizemore) and Robinson (Monaghan), who are living and working in a remote nuclear power plant. When the plant’s communicators malfunction, safety inspector Abby Dixon (Sarah Habel) arrives to check things out—and finds much more than the plant in shambles. We chatted with Monaghan to find out about the role and much more.
Congrats on Atomica! Tell us about your character.
DOMINIC MONAGHAN: I play a guy called Robinson who, when we meet him at the start of the movie, is going through some pretty significant mental issues that dictate his personality throughout the rest of the film. He works in an underground nuclear base, and stuff is starting to go into disrepair, around the same time his mind and body start to bail as well. So he’s a bit of a mess when you first meet him.
How did you prepare to play this sort of role?
DM: My character played guitar, so I played quite a bit of guitar in preparation—I like playing guitar anyway, but I spent a lot of time playing guitar. I researched a lot about nuclear disasters, obviously Chernobyl was a big one. I kind of isolated myself, and watched a lot of sci-fi and paranoid thrillers and stuff like that. I like that stuff anyway, so it wasn’t a huge challenge for me to be watching those movies.
The movie was filmed in a Cold War-era Titan II missile silo. What was that like?
DM: Yeah, that was pretty fascinating. You have a constant underground temperature of around about 56 or 57, so it’s pretty chilly. A lot of creatures had made their way into there at this point—which was fun for me since I like animals. It was a lot of bats and owls, and cool insects down there. And the sets that we used were part of the underground base—all those corridors and rooms and massive alleys and stuff, that was all at one point a fully working base. I find it fascinating, I think all people will find it fascinating.
You play a lot of science fiction and fantasy characters. Why are you attracted to those types of roles?
DM: I don’t know if that’s necessarily intentional but I’m attracted to strong scripts. So if it’s a good script, then I’ll start to explore doing that project. And these just happened to be really good scripts that kept my interest. But I’d like to do comedies, I’d like to do Disney movies, I’d like to do romantic [movies], there’s nothing that I’d count out, it just so happens the past few years or so the projects that end up coming to fruition have been thrillers or sci-fis.
Dominic Monaghan and Sarah Habel in Atomica.
Let’s talk about The Lord of the Rings. You starred as Merry in the early 2000s film adaptations. Were you a fan before you shot the movies?
DM: Yeah, I used to live in Germany and my parents would drive my brother and me to Manchester every year from Germany, which is a couple of days’ drive. On the drive, we would listen to the BBC adaptation of The Lord of the Rings. Ian Holm actually played Frodo back then, which is kind of beautiful because he ended up playing Bilbo in the trilogy. So we knew all about it, I knew all about Gandalf, Frodo, and Bilbo, and stuff. My dad was a huge influence in me getting into the movie, because I knew how important it was for him when he was a kid. I really wanted the role [of Merry], so it kind of it felt a little predestined to me.
The Lord of the Rings is a story that started with J.R.R. Tolkien's The Hobbit in the 1930s, but the franchise is still so popular today—why do you think it’s had such a lasting power?
DM: I think it’s a very classic story, it’s a traditional story that everyone knows. J.R.R. Tolkien was known for going back into old folklore, Greek parables, Japanese stories—those archetypal stories of the battle of good vs. evil. We know these archetypal characters, it’s almost like traditional storytelling in that way. And each generation wants to know that story, they want to know about a character that doesn’t quite have all of its faculties and needs to surround himself with [powers] that he’s lacking to overcome the odds.
Another one of your roles, Charlie Pace in LOST, was also loved by many… but people have very strong opinions on the ending of that show. What did you think of it?
DM: I didn’t see the ending, and I don’t really know what happened in the ending. At that point, it had been a couple of years since I’d been working on the show, and I wasn’t as invested in it as other people. But, if people are talking about the show, one way or the other, good or bad, I think it’s a good sign, you know?
Do you have a favorite character that you’ve ever played?
DM: I get a lot from each character. If I go through my career, there’s always good and bad things about each character, there’s always challenges. I think the most loved characters up until now that I’ve played are Charlie and Merry, but then there are some films that I’ve done that not a lot of people have seen that I probably like the characters even more. I just played a character called Seth in a film called in Pet, he’s bit of a creep, but I really liked playing him because he’s such a weirdo. I played a character called Arthur Blake in another small film called I Sell the Dead, which again, that’s really good.
Going back a bit—how did you first become interested in acting?
DM: When I was younger I was a class clown, and bit of a performer. I watched Star Wars when I was kid, and then the week after I watched Indiana Jones, and I realized that Harrison Ford was able to play both Han Solo and Indiana Jones. At that point I thought, ‘Okay, well, if you get the opportunity to be these fantastic characters, then I’m going to see if I can do that too.’
Some people don’t know that you’re an environmental activist and animal lover. Talk to us about this—how did you get into it, and why do you think it’s important?
DM: I think if you have any kind of care or concern for the next generation of any type of animal, not just humans, you have to care about the environment. I grew up in a family with a scientist father and a nurse mother. We held great reverence for trees and plants and animals, and in my downtime I was able to travel around. When I was 18, I went to look for orangutans, and then when I was 22, I went to look for whale sharks in Thailand. I ended up talking to my agent about these adventures, and he said, ‘You know, this is ultimately a TV show if you want to bring a film crew in.’ And that’s what we did with Wild Things.
But in terms of caring about the environment, we all have a great responsibility to care about our environment because it obviously affects others in our families, but it also affects the state of the planet in general. As far as we know, there’s only one planet to live on, so we have to protect it.
What’s up next for you?
DM: I’m circling around a couple of movies, I’ll make a decision in the next couple of weeks or so. My friend Billy Boyd, who I was in Lord of the Rings with, has been generating a show about the history of food for the last six months or so. It’s about trends in food, how food has changed the world, and how food has influenced cultures in the world and makes people travel, and why things like chocolate, coffee, and whiskey have become so popular. So we’ll do that, and then I’m sure I’ll find a way to work with animals sometime soon, and just continue to look for good projects.