Thursday, March 22, 2007

BBC America’s Wild at Heart

A dysfunctional family attempts to resolve deep-seated issues in the wilds of South Africa in BBC America’s latest drama premiere. Wild at Heart premieres Saturday, April 21st at 10:00 p.m. ET/PT.

Combining family drama, stunning scenery and gripping adventure, Wild at Heart tells the story of an urban clan who swap conventional city life in Britain for the excitement and dangers of life in the unfamiliar environment of the South African bush.

Danny Trevanion (Stephen Tompkinson, Prime Suspect), a widower and veterinary surgeon, lives with his teenage daughter, Rosie (Lucy Jo-Hudson), new wife Sarah (Amanda Holden, Cutting It) and her two children from a previous marriage, eight-year-old Olivia (Rafaella Hutchinson) and thirteen-year-old Evan (Luke Ward-Wilkinson).

Tensions in the family are running high - Rosie is bitterly resentful her father has remarried and Evan is so out of control he threatens school bullies with a tranquiliser gun. When Danny brings home a monkey, whose life he saved after it was smuggled illegally into the UK, Sarah decides the family should travel together to Africa to return it to its natural habitat – hoping they’ll finally bond as a family along the way.

Once there, the Trevanions meet Du Plessis (Deon Stewardson), a hard-bitten Afrikaaner who owns a decaying game reserve. When Du Plessis sees Danny’s skill as a vet, he suggests Danny and Sarah buy into the reserve and help him transform it into a successful game park. Sarah is ecstatic - this could be a fresh start for all of them, an opportunity to become a proper family. She and Danny accept the offer and make the brave, life-altering decision to move to South Africa.

The six part season chronicles their adventures from getting the game park up and running to finding and caring for animals and dealing with unfamiliar dangers of life in the bush. Even after the first tourists start to arrive, the challenge of managing a new business only becomes harder with the attention of a charming but ruthless rival game-park owner, Alex Tate (Gary Lawson), who becomes a threat both to Danny and Sarah’s business and their marriage.

Interview with Stephen Tompkinson who plays widowed vet Danny Trevanion.

Stephen has been gracing UK television screens for nearly twenty years. After coming to prominence in satirical comedy Drop the Dead Donkey he went on to star in numerous hit shows including Father Ted and Ballykissangel as well as appearing in Brassed Off with Ewan McGregor.

Despite a varied acting career, the experience of filming with wild animals in Africa is something very new for Stephen:

"The size of them can be very forbidding but the female elephant, Three, who I filmed with has always been very gentle with me so I guess I’m very fortunate.

"I just called them as you would dogs and they both came swimming over to me with just their heads out of the water so I could scratch their heads. It was just superb. It’s such a privilege and I do feel very spoilt." But as well as being awe inspiring, working with these animals also required special diligence. He continues:

"So for me it’s an absolute love of the animals but at the same time being wary of them because things can change in seconds. They are not tame and it’s a question of how much they tolerate you at any given time. Luckily we’ve been very fortunate so far."

The other major challenge was accurately portraying the work of a vet:

“I insist on the vet going through each and every procedure in as much detail as possible before I have to film it. For Danny his veterinary work is the one area of his life that he is in control of and knows exactly what to do at exactly the right time.

"By contrast in his personal life Danny is quite hopeless really and just keeps smiling and hopes that everyone just gets along."

In addition to offering a new professional challenge, the actor is thrilled that Wild at Heart has given him the opportunity to star in another hit show:

"I haven't had a hit like this since Ballykissangel and often you only get one in a lifetime as an actor so it has thrilled me beyond belief to get a second bite at the cherry and to get as big an audience as Wild at Heart did."