Any media that involves animals (particularly dogs and cats), is more than likely to attract more people. We’re looking at you, Marley and Me, Hachiko, Lassie, Heartland, etc. Seeing humans and animals interacting is always a great reminder that both can live in harmony. If there’s a compelling storyline and great acting (human AND animal), all the better!
The ITV series, Wild At Heart, joined these ranks in 2006. It revolves around an English family that moves to South Africa to establish a veterinary hospital and rehabilitate an animal sanctuary. If the premise intrigues you, here are 10 interesting facts about the series.
10 Starred Prominent British Personalities
If viewers are looking for a prominent cast of British actors, then look no further than Wild At Heart. Amanda Holden, who has transitioned to reality TV, portrayed Sarah before her character’s tragic death at the end of series 3. In recent years, she can be seen judging on Britain’s Got Talent.
Lucy-Jo Hudson, who portrayed Rosie, was a series regular up until the fourth series and then returned for the final series. For years, she had starred on the popular (and lengthy) soap opera Coronation Street.
9 Built On A Real-Life Animal Sanctuary
When it comes to setting, the more realistic a production can be, the easier it’ll be to pull the audience into the universe of the story. Well, nothing says realistic like filming on an actual animal sanctuary! The series was filmed at the Glen Afric Country Lodge, and it hosts a wide variety of animals such as elephants, lions, and hippos.
According to producer Ann Harrison-Baxter, “It was all created from scratch and aged to look like it had been there for more than a century!“
8 Had An American Remake
If your series manages to get remade for an audience across the sea, then you know you’ve made it. And that’s where Life Is Wild was born. The pilot episode of Wild at Heart was remade and, once it was green-lit, it aired on The CW in 2007.
The remake is loosely based on the source material, but with a completely new cast of characters. Unfortunately, due to low ratings, the series was canceled after just one season.
7 Has A Behind The Scenes Documentary
To give the series a proper send-off, a documentary was made and aired the day after the series finale. Stephen Tomkinson, who portrays the main character, Danny Trevanion, narrates a walk through all of the animals in the series.
The viewers get an exclusive insight into how animal stunts were pulled off, as well as an insight into how animal acting is really like. It also includes never-before-seen footage. The documentary was seen by 3.2 million viewers.
6 Tragedy On Set
Wild At Heart, despite its heartwarming nature, was not spared from tragedy off-screen. In 2010, when cast and crew returned to the sanctuary, they found that Hamley, a giraffe that appeared regularly on the show, was killed by lightning. Stephen Tompkinson lamented the event by stating that “It was like losing a human cast member“.
In a tragic twist of fate, Deon Stewardson, who played Anders “Dup” Duplessis, lost his life to suicide in 2017. He was only 66 years old.
5 An Emotional And Intense Series Finale
When a series comes to an end, it is always the dream of everyone involved that it goes out on a high. And that’s exactly what Wild At Heart did. In the series finale, among craziness surrounding an impending wedding, Danny is flown to Zimbabwe to save cheetahs. According to Tompkinson, “There are some ridiculous aerial stunts involved,”
But emotions were high among the cast, as the show came to a close. Tompkinson added that “I don’t know what I’m going to do without Wild At Heart“.
4 Series Was, Ultimately, Sunk
This beloved series had a great run of seven series and a finale special. However, despite the show averaging 7.5 million viewers throughout its run, was scrapped due to the ITVs Titanic mini-series. Both series suffered from having a very high production cost, which played into Wild At Heart’s axing.
A source for the show lamented that “We’re all gutted that it has come to this. There are shows that would kill for 7.5million viewers”. Unfortunately, due to the Titanic’s budget, it seemed like the channel was trying to save in other areas of production.
3 Dedication To Outreach On and Off-Screen
The premise of the show is around animal conservationism…. and apparently, it continued off-set! Thompkinson mentioned that the cast and crew built a community center in the local area where they were filming. He also mentioned that they made sure to donate money to provide water tanks for the community.
Another way that the show has helped give back is through its soundtrack. Composed by Tristin Norwell and Nick Green, all the profits from soundtrack purchases go to Water Aid.
2 Dawn Steele Has An Emotional Side
Alice Trevanion is known, on the series, for being tough as nails. As a veterinarian, to spend hours in the sun and deal with every type of animal, she needs to have a thick skin. Her actress Dawn Steele, however, is quite the opposite.
After having her first child, she openly talked about how she struggled after having her first child, comparing the experience to “Chinese water torture”. This was because she was juggling filming, child-rearing, and turbulent new emotions.
1 The Perks Of Filming With Animals
The cast is constantly around animals, even when the cameras aren’t rolling. For example, instead of proper changing rooms, the cast used the sanctuary’s stable block. Also, since Glen Afric is a tourist hub year-round, there are suites available for guests to meet the animals in person.
And filming with animals can always create quirky and heartwarming stories. Vicky Brooker, the animal wrangler for sanctuary, has mentioned how they had “a hippo […] in love with a water buffalo, […] and used to break into his enclosure every night”.
Next: 9 Amazing Shows To Watch If You Liked Wild At Heart
Which Character From The O.C. Are You Based On Your Chinese Zodiac?