D.W. Moffett and Stephanie Niznik play parents who move their family to a game reserve in South Africa
D.W. Moffett and Stephanie Niznik play the parents in the new series Life is Wild on The CW. The show is about a family that moves from America to Africa for what is supposed to be a year, but if ratings are good, their year might end up being a lot longer. Only time will tell. The stars shared some of their experiences about the show that is filmed entirely in South Africa. They spoke via satellite from the set in Africa.
D.W. Moffett: The first call (they) make is they say, "You want to move to South Africa?" And you say, "Just hold on. Let me call my wife." I have two kids, and they're really happy. They've always embraced my kind of gypsy lifestyle. And I've been sending back glowing reports about how beautiful it is here and how much fun they're going to have. And my daughter is out of her mind. She's 10. She just can't wait to get here. I'm sending her pictures back of things like this (referring to lion cub on his lap), and she can't wait to get her hands on 'em. So in that sense, the adventure far outweighs the inconveniences.
And how many takes do you do with an animal scene? How does that work?
D.W. Moffett: I think what you have to do, certainly, when you have an animal on the scene, is you've got to kind of roll with what the animal's doing. And if the guy says to you in the scene, "My, that tiger's being awfully quiet," and he's screaming, you have to try to adjust your answer to what he just said. So you kind of have to roll with what the animals's doing. Don't get the sense that we are burning film to make sure the elephant hits the purple mark, otherwise we'd have guns to our heads. I mean, I think we're being very flexible and very smart about doing what the animal gives us. It's always interesting because it's an elephant or whatever it is and then just moving on.
Where are you staying while you are over there?
Stephanie Niznik: We are all staying very nearby, and we all have our own amazing homes in a place called Pecanwood, which is a golf estate. And we've all had our adventures ... It's actually very cold here right now, which is sort of the opposite of what I expected, so I've learned how to make a great fire, but in beautiful, beautiful homes very close by.
What has been the more challenging change for you, to be working on a distant location or to be adjusting to the European work rules?
D.W. Moffett: Well, I'm loving the 12-hour day. As you all know, the level of quality that's required now in America hour shows, everybody's working 15 hours a day and it just chews crews up, and it's tough on folks. And I think we're making our days, and we're doing it in 11 hours with animals. And so that's been a wonderful adjustment. I think for me the hardest part has been, you know, being away from the family, and just sort of getting settled into a totally different new country. I was shocked about how little I knew about Africa until I got here. And so that has been the big adjustment for me. The crew is very professional. It's like shooting in America, except there's an elephant right behind you.
Stephanie Niznik: Well, I love the European work hours. But actually I got here so quickly, it was such a whirlwind. And one of the first people I ever spoke to was Michael (Rauch, Executive Producer). And he said, "You're never going to believe it, but after a while you've see so many giraffes, you're just kind of hoping that they'll stay in the shot consistently." And I couldn't believe that was true, but it really, really is. We see everything every day in the background. When I was shooting with D.W. the other day there was a zebra, and then it turned into a giraffe, and then it was an elephant. So definitely the biggest transition has been coming (to Africa).
Atandwa Kani plays Tumelo, a local who befriends the family. He shared his experiences working with Americans and a big production company
What is it like having Hollywood come into South Africa and bring the industry to you and working on this series?
Atandwa Kani: Well, it's pretty amazing, because I think the only thing we see of Hollywood in South Africa is on TV and on the big screen. So when you have it, when you become part of it, and it becomes right in your face, it's out of this world. It's sort of surreal. I don't think it's hit me yet that I'm in this production. I don't think it's really hit me yet. And when it does, I think I'll just faint, because it's every actor's dream to get to that standard, to the level in production that they produce. And, yeah, it is - there are a lot of South African actors that would love this opportunity. And to be in a production like this, it's magnificent.
Do people in Africa think that what they see on TV and in the movies reflects reality in America?
Atandwa Kani: No, no, not all. Well, I mean, there are some -- if you take a documentary, we believe that that is the actual authentic life. But when it's clear -- not so much of a fabrication. When it's fiction, then we really understand that it's fiction. We don't really think that there are aliens coming out of the place and they're grabbing people. But we really understand the authenticity and the realness of television.
Life is Wild airs Sunday Nights at 8PM on The CW.