Cold Feet and Downton Abbey actor Robert Bathurst reveals what he’s learned during filming Wild at Heart (ITV1, Sunday)…

In this weekend’s episode you’re chased by a lion. Was it as scary as it sounds?

“I was chased by Monty the lion – he’s really very big and ferocious. Half the excitement is knowing he could turn at any minute. I’ve learned the key to working with a wild cat is don’t take your eyes off it – and don’t fall over. It’s not something you normally have to consider with your fellow actors!”

How does your character Ed happen to be chased by a lion in the first place?

“Naughty old Dup has released loads of lions on the lawn at Mara to scare off prospective buyers. Danny and Ed team up and dart them, but one lion has gone into the house in a panic. It confronts Ed and chases him – and Danny’s gun jams!”

Was it daunting for you to join such an established cast and crew?

“It’s been very good on two levels. The regulars couldn’t have been nicer or more welcoming. And also it’s a new character – so that’s exciting. It’s as interesting a job as I’ve done in a long time. It’s all up for grabs. Like life, you don’t know what’s going to happen, which is exciting! It’s also a privilege to be close to so many unusual and beautiful animals.”

How would you describe newcomer Ed?

“Although Ed’s a vet and a clinician he’s also a businessman. Unlike Danny he’s not overly touchy feely with the animals and he doesn’t like that in Danny. Ed is very much his own man – he’s not overtly mean, he’s just plain speaking and doesn’t care whether he’s upsetting people! He’s a very good vet and definitely knows what he’s doing.”

Do you think viewers will warm to Ed as they get to know him better?

“Ed’s a complicated man. In a show as established as Wild at Heart changes happen gradually in characters. And the more you get to know someone, the more you accept their foibles. I don’t think Ed needs a big character change from nasty to nice – it’s not as bald as that. Ed is strident for a reason. He has certain standards he likes to maintain. His reactions to people aren’t always the accepted norms of behaviour – he’s not intentionally unpleasant, he’s just not trying to please.”