Wild at Heart star Jill Halfpenny talks to TV Times magazine about walking on the wild side…

How was it filming in South Africa with all the wild animals?
“The cats are really handsome and when you see them you think: ‘Wow!’ But weirdly enough, I fell in love with the warthogs! Obviously all the animals, including elephants and zebras, are fed to keep them on their spot during filming. But when the director says ‘Cut’, they wander off, and then the little warthogs come in for the scraps left behind on the floor! They’re very amusing to watch.”

Did you have any scary encounters with the animals?
“I was filming with baby leopards, but they weren’t so baby to be honest! The guy looking after me said: ‘Ah don’t worry, they’re gentle’. But at that moment, one of the leopards jumped on me and clawed its way down my shirt leaving comedy-style holes all the way down it! I said: ‘So that’s gentle is it?!’ After that, I’d be talking and they’d just pounce on my neck or dig their claws into my thighs, it was really frightening actually. I was like: ‘I don’t want to do scenes with these leopards!'”

Can you describe your character, Fiona Lynch?
“Fiona’s persistent, confident, knows what she wants and she won’t stop until she gets it!”

What do you think is the secret of the show’s success?
“It’s beautifully shot, and people love the animal element. And it’s in its seventh series now so people feel like they really know the characters, so I can understand why it has such a huge following.”

Was it hard being away from your son, Harvey?
“It is hard. But the way I look at it, if I could only ever work in London then I would never really work. Most things require some form of being on location. It’s just part of the job, and something that I’m used to.”

Did you miss anything else about the UK?
“It was television I missed the most, they don’t have the channels that we have. And the internet is so slow that watching a one minute video on YouTube takes half an hour so you just give up!”