Published: Thursday, 28 July 2022 14:41 | Written by Jamie Ruby
An all-new episode of Moonhaven premieres today on AMC+. The series takes place in the future and follows Bella Sway (Emma McDonald), a cargo pilot and smuggler, who arrives in the lunar community of Moonhaven and is accused of murder and marooned on the moon. While there, she meets Detective Paul Sarno, played by Dominic Monaghan, and together they work to clear her name but also uncover a conspiracy surrounding the artificial intelligence that is said to be Earth’s savior.
Because of the way that everyone in Moonhaven has been brought up in the utopian community with the artificial intelligence running everything, Detective Sarno really hadn’t had to do regular police work before Bella arrived. “[H]is level of detective work on the moon is kind of helping old ladies across the street, that kind of community leader,” Monaghan explained to SciFi Vision during a recent interview. “Then, some very serious crimes and murders start to occur on the moon. So, you watch a guy kind of being a police officer for the first time and adopting a very idealistic kind of positive outlook on life and realizing that maybe everything is not entirely what he thinks it seems to be.”
It’s really interacting with Bella that changes his outlook on life when he realizes that things may not be what he thought they were. “I think Mooners, and certainly, Paul, [are] quite naive about humans,” said Monaghan. “He thinks that humans can be taken [at] face value, that they don't lie, that they're nice people at their core, that everybody wants to help everyone else, and that's what being a human means. I think [Bella] kind of reminds him that, that's not how it works on Earth and that people are out to get theirs and that people can be destructive and unkind for no particular reason, and you have to be a little bit more wily, let's say, if you're a detective trying to solve a set of very serious crimes on the moon. So, I think it's a learning experience for him.”
Monaghan enjoys those detective scenes and had a lot of fun working with Kadeem Hardison as his partner, Detective Arlo. “Any of the times that myself and Kadeem are pretending to be Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson is always fun,” the actor told the site. “The character that Kadeem plays is fascinated by the work of Sherlock Holmes, and I have to kind of rein him in a little bit and remind him that this is real life work, but I'm also kind of tickled by the fact that he wants to be Sherlock Holmes or WatsonThe scenes with Kadeem, [are] kind of fun and slightly bordering on being funny, whilst also exploring something serious at the same time. As an actor, that's an interesting tightrope to walk and a fun thing to explore.”
Would Monaghan make a good detective in real life? “I guess, it depends how personally invested I was in that mission,” said the actor. “I do like some mysteries…I definitely like exploring a little bit of mystery, and I'm curious about stuff, and I think it's fascinating when we find things that are unexplained.”
It's not only in Moonhaven that Monaghan recently worked to solve a mystery. The actor is starring in the new audio drama on Audible, Moriarty: The Devil’s Game, however rather than playing Sherlock, he plays Moriarty, but in this story, he may not actually be the villain. “[H]e thinks he's doing the right thing and that Sherlock Holmes is the bad guy,” the actor explained. In the unique story, Holmes works with his nemesis to prove his innocence of murder.
For more from the interview, be sure to watch it in full or read the transcript below, where Monaghan not only talks to SciFi Vision at length about working on Moonhaven, but also what movie or television series he’s still most asked about, whether he’d be up for a LOST reunion, what kind of role he’d still love to get to play, and much more.
SCIFIVISION: This is such a unique show. Can you talk a bit about how Paul, I guess, fits into all the moving pieces?
DOMINIC MONAGHAN:The character that I play, Paul Sarno, is a detective on the moon, where the earth has become kind of uninhabitable, and his level of detective work on the moon is kind of helping old ladies across the street, that kind of community leader. Then, some very serious crimes and murders start to occur on the moon. So, you watch a guy kind of being a police officer for the first time and adopting a very idealistic kind of positive outlook on life and realizing that maybe everything is not entirely what he thinks it seems to be.
Do you like puzzles and mysteries and that kind of thing? I mean, do you think you would make a good detective?
I guess, it depends how personally invested I was in that mission. I do like some mysteries. I like some mystery shows. I like some mystery books. I've done some Escape Rooms in my time, some which have been successful, some have not. But yeah, I definitely like exploring a little bit of mystery, and I'm curious about stuff, and I think it's fascinating when we find things that are unexplained.
At first, Paul seems to think everything, like you said, is perfect, and obviously it's not until he talks to [Bella], and she sort of changes his outlook, and he starts to see what's really going on. Can you sort of talk about his journey and that shift in his outlook and sort of realizing that things aren't quite what they seem?
I think Mooners and certainly, Paul, [are] quite naive about humans. He thinks that humans can be taken on face value, that they don't lie, that they're nice people at their core, that everybody wants to help everyone else, and that's what being a human means. I think the character that Emma plays, Bella, kind of reminds him that, that's not how it works on Earth, and that people are out to get theirs and that people can be destructive and unkind for no particular reason, and you have to be a little bit more wily, let's say, if you're a detective trying to solve a set of very serious crimes on the moon. So, I think it's a learning experience for him, in the same way that it's a learning experience for Emma's character, because she realizes that maybe people can also be good, and maybe she can learn to trust people at the same time.
Can you talk a bit about working with Emma?
Emma is great and is an English person like I am, so we're able to bond a lot about hobnobs and Marmite and football and pubs and stuff like that. We probably worked more than any other two actors on the show, so we also bonded about those things. And we're also two sides of the scale. My character is extremely naive and innocent, and her character is extremely cynical and has her own issues. So, I think we're arriving at the story on two extreme sides of the scale. And it was fun hanging out with Emma.
When I was talking to Emma, she was saying how she sort of lived alone and moved away from everything [during filming to prepare]. I know you were in Ireland. It's gorgeous. How did you sort of prepare? I mean, did you take a different approach? Your character isn't quite as you know, pushing himself away from everybody. So, I assume that you didn't do that?
Well, we were going through kind of coming towards the end of the first lockdown in Ireland. So, for the first kind of half of the show, none of us were allowed to do anything. We would come to work, and then go home. We were not expected to be going to restaurants or pubs or anything like that. We weren't allowed to hang out with any of the crew or cast outside of work. So, my life was kind of isolated as well as everyone else's. I'm a big football fan. So, ended up just watching a bunch of football, playing a bunch of video games. I had a pool table in my house, so I got better and better at pool. You know, when you go to work, especially when you're playing a character that I play, you're interacting with one hundred, one hundred fifty people a day. So, when I come home at night, I probably need to be on my own; it's probably helpful to be on my own. Normally, I have ten, twelve, fifteen pages to pull to learn for the next day. So after, thirty years of working, I realized that what I need to do after a day's work is prepare for the next one.
What part of the character did you find the most difficult to connect to?
Probably his naivety. He's quite innocent and childlike about people. He just thinks that people are nice, just thinks that people won't lie to him, just thinks that people will be kind, and they'll do the right thing. And I think, even though I'm not necessarily cynical, I think I'm realistic about humans, and I think I'm mindful about how I approach humans and, you know, make sure that I don't put myself in harm's way. The [character] that I play, consistently puts himself in that way, because he always thinks that humans will be good. He always gives them the benefit of the doubt.
Can you talk about working with the special effects? I mean, obviously, you've done a lot of that before, but do you like working with green screen and all that? Do you find it tedious? How do you feel about it?
I mean, it's just part of your job, really, it can be a little tedious, but that is what it means to be an actor. You are literally expected to feel feelings that you're not having and see things that you're not seeing and have experiences that you're not experiencing. So, if someone puts a green screen in front of your face and says, "There's a mountain, or there's a dragon, or there's, you know, a smoke monster, you just have to make out that that is indeed what you are seeing. So, it's not something that I've not done before. It's just the part of the job in the same way that maybe you'll wear a wig, or you might have blood on your face. It's just another part of what it means to be an actor.
The show has a lot of good practical effects too, a lot of really beautiful practical sets. Do you have a favorite part of a set or a prop or anything like that that kind of stood out to you?
I like the Chancellor, which it looks like a gun. Myself and Kadeem Hardison's character, Arlo, both wear these things on our waistband, which looks like a gun. It's called the Chancellor, and you just pointed out anything in the world, and it gives you the information back. So, when we see a dead body, we're able to point the Chancellor at the dead body, and it tells us who the body is, when they died, how they died, who killed them, and where you can find the murderer. I thought that was a really interesting concept about the show.
How was the choreography, dancing in the one scene you did? I loved that.
Yeah, it was great. It was great. I was really close with Josh, the young actor who plays my son. It's great to hang out with young people. He's only seventeen; I'm forty-five. So, I'm now at a point in my life where I can very often be older than a lot of the actors on these shows, and it's refreshing to be around young people. We spent three or four sessions together for a couple of hours learning the dance and having fun with each other and giving each other a hard time when we got it wrong, and it was it was great fun. I love preparing, and I love dancing; it's a really fun thing to do. It's great to express yourself that way. That was that was one of the standout days on set. I had a great time. I also did a little dance with the girl who plays my daughter, Martha, and she's a lovely little girl as well. So yeah, really fun day on set.
Do you have a favorite scene that you can tease without spoiling too much?
Well, any of the times that myself and Kadeem are pretending to be Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson is always fun. The character that Kadeem plays is fascinated by the work of Sherlock Holmes, and I have to kind of rein him in a little bit and remind him that this is real life work, but I'm also kind of tickled by the fact that he wants to be Sherlock Holmes or Watson. So, I think any of those things, the scenes with Kadeem, [are] kind of fun and slightly bordering on being funny, whilst also exploring something serious at the same time. As an actor, that's an interesting tightrope to walk and a fun thing to explore.
And that's a perfect segue talking about Sherlock. Can you talk a bit about working on Moriarty? How did you get involved in that? And also, what's it like building a character like that when there's been so many versions of him before? How did you make it your own?
You just have to kind of ignore what's come before, otherwise, you get yourself in trouble. So, I'm a fan of Sherlock Holmes [stories], you know, the work of Arthur Conan Doyle, but also any of these other fictional understandings of Sherlock Holmes, but I tried to avoid them when I was making Moriarty: The Devil's Game. I was developing a show with Tree Fort Media about football, about soccer, which ended up kind of falling by the wayside in the development process, but we were keen to find something. At that point, we just said, "What about this world of Sherlock Holmes? There're so many more stories to tell and so many more characters to jump into." Then, it then it became this idea of, what if we explore the life's span of Moriarty and the fact that he thinks he's doing the right thing and that Sherlock Holmes is the bad guy, and that gave us an opportunity for me to reach out to Billy Boyd, who I worked with on Lord of the Rings twenty years ago and see if he wanted to come in and play my right hand man, which he did. It was a ton of fun, and you can listen to that on Audible right now.
How much more difficult is it doing using just your voice and not kind of having your body to act with? Is that more difficult for you, or does it really not make a difference?
It's kind of the same, because I'm still using my body; you just don't see it. Even though I'm attached to a set of headphones and a microphone in front of me, I'm still using my body. If I'm running, I'm trying as hard as I can to run, and if I'm in a fight, I'm trying as hard as I can to be in a fight; it's just that you don't see it. So, I don't necessarily approach these different mediums in any other way. It's just like, "Can I make these characters real? Can they feel real? Can they feel like they live and breathe and exist in the real world?" And if that's the case, then I've done my job.
You mentioned Billy, and you made me wonder. I'm just curious, what do you get most recognized for, Lost, The Lord of the Rings, Star Wars? What? You've been in so many things, what do people usually approach you about?
I don't know, probably Lord of the Rings, just. But Lost is still pretty big. It just depends. I mean, I did a convention last week, and someone only recognized me from this Eminem video that I did. "Have you done any anything else?" And I said, "Yeah, I've done a few things." They're like, "What else?" And I was like, "Oh, you know, just a few things," because it's not my job to tell people what they should or shouldn't be watching. So, it's curious sometimes where people know you from, but I think probably The Lord of the Rings just edges it, just.
I did want to ask you one thing about Lost. If they ever did do like a reunion or a remake or anything like that, would you be up for it, if they asked you to do it?
No. Why not?
Why would I? What would I benefit from going back to do it? I wouldn’t play the character that I played in Lord of the Rings again. You know, I've done it. It was great. I had a great time. Going back to it just dilutes that work, and it's the same with Lost. I played a fantastic character that seemed to resonate with an audience, and if I did a reunion, all I'm doing is talking about old times, and if I did, if the show came back, and I played Charlie, the only opportunity that I would have would be to dilute my character. So, I just have no interest, really.
Well, Charlie's also gone too, which I didn't think through when I asked. [laughs]
Yeah, but everyone's gone in Lost, right?
Yeah, that's true. That's true. So, what kind of character though would you like to play, if you could write your own [part], any kind of character, either one that's already a character or something completely different? What do you still want to do as an actor?
Oh, there are so many things that I want to do. I mean, I don't know, I'm kind of moving into a point in my career now where I'm playing a lot of dads. I enjoy playing fathers. It's nice to play a fatherly-type figure; that's always fun. I don't know. I mean, it would be great to play an out and out good guy, and then, after that, play an out and out bad guy. There's nothing in particular that I'm drawn to, apart from fantastic characters that, hopefully, if you look back at the work that I've done, all of the projects that I've picked, are just great characters, even if they're not in the projects that much. They're fantastic, well-rounded characters. So, that's the only thing that I look for, you know, "Are they real? Can I make them more real?"