Lion naps make for crazy times

Working on the TV series Zoo was exhausting for James Wolk when his animal co-stars sometimes fell asleep on the job

James Wolk plays a zoologist who investigates a string of animal attacks that appear to be coordinated in TV drama Zoo.
James Wolk plays a zoologist who investigates a string of animal attacks that appear to be coordinated in TV drama Zoo.PHOTO: LIFETIME

Filming a TV drama often translates to long work days, but the hours were made even crazier for the cast and crew of new series Zoo.

That is because the show features many live animals, which meant that proper scheduling was rendered almost impossible.

Lead actor of the drama James Wolk relates how the animals on set, which included a lion and a pack of wolves, would "sometimes just fall asleep".

The 30-year-old adds: "So we would have to go back to the trailer for a bit or go to lunch early because the top priority on set, besides human safety, is also animal safety.

"The animals were never pushed or prodded into anything, so that made for very long and exhausting days."

The series, which premieres on Lifetime (StarHub TV Channel 514) on Thursday, is adapted from James Patterson and Michael Ledwidge's 2012 novel of the same name about animals that start preying violently on humans.

Wolk plays Jackson Oz, a zoologist who investigates a string of bizarre animal attacks that appear to be coordinated.

As much as the star "loved" the experience of working with all the animal extras, he admits that it got scary at times.

"I would say the craziest day we had was being within inches of a brown bear. There are trainers and it's super safe but, at the same time, it's a bear and you can't reason with a bear.

"They wouldn't put us in a situation where we felt threatened, but you definitely feel the power and the wild nature of the animals," he says.

To fill certain scenes, computer generated imagery (CGI) was employed. The actor says: "I knew the show would be a combination of CGI and real animals and I couldn't wait to see the final product. I had faith in the producers to deliver quality work and I think they did a great job."

Since the series premiered in the United States in June, it has received generally positive reviews, with media outlets praising it for its thrilling action and suspense.

The San Francisco Chronicle wrote that Zoo "has more than enough edge-of-your-seat drama to make it feel like the equivalent of great summer beach reading", while The Hollywood Reporter called it "fun, escapist fare".

So how much of an animal lover is Wolk offscreen?

The actor, who is married, immediately starts gushing.

"Well, I have a dog and we're symbiotic. She's a rescue dog, so she got a new life, but I got a new best friend."

What if his dog turns on him one day and starts attacking him?

He says with a chuckle: "It's hard for me to imagine her ferocious because that dog is such a softie.

"But let's say she did. She lives in the house and she doesn't sleep that far from my bed. I doubt it could ever happen, but the idea that she could is scary."

Zoo premieres on Lifetime (StarHub TV Channel 514) on Thursday at 10pm.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 28, 2015, with the headline 'Lion naps make for crazy times'. Print Edition | Subscribe