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Stephen Tompkinson: 'I'll miss Wild at Heart!'

Stephen Tompkinson: 'I'll miss Wild at Heart!'
Stephen Tompkinson: 'I'll miss Wild at Heart!'

Wild at Heart star Stephen Tompkinson says a fond goodbye to the long-running South African drama... After almost eight years of playing vet Danny Trevanion, will there be a big Wild at Heart shaped hole in your heart now? "Definitely. I'll have to find something else to do. Maybe I'll hang around zoos to get my fix! It's great that we got to say goodbye with this Christmas special, rather than hearing we'd been cancelled. It's full of things we haven't done before and is a proper ending." How do you feel about the ending? "It's a natural conclusion, I think. We weren't desperately thinking we could go again if we dropped a hint! We had all accepted the fact this was it and wanted to give it a good send off. We never dropped below seven million viewers in the eight years and we're all incredibly proud of that - cast and crew. We were all together again for the final and that was beautifully moving." How are things with the family when we catch up with them? "It's about eighteen months later and it's New Year's Eve. People are making resolutions - and breaking them immediately! Alice [Dawn Steele] and I have our little boy, Bobby - the young actor added his own dialogue in those scenes, and we've kept them. I never read that book about not working with children and animals!" In terms of the final story, what can you tell us? "Some of our animals are poached so Dawn and I split camps. She and Caroline [Hayley Mills] look after Leopard's Den and try to get to the bottom of who is responsible for taking the animals. Meanwhile, Danny, Rosie [Lucy-Jo Hudson] and Dup [Deon Stewardson] fly off to Zimbabwe on a rescue mission." It sounds exciting! "We've got some incredible aerial footage. Rosie is engaged to a pilot called Dylan, who has given her a few lessons. So when we have to beat a hasty retreat out of Zimbabwe she has to fly a plane with an anesthetised cheetah waking up in the back!" Was it difficult to film? "We interviewed lots of pilots who, when we told them what we wanted to do, they were health and safety up the ying yang! Then we discovered CC. He's a dead ringer for Iggy Pop and CC stands for Captain Crash! He's a genius, lunatic pilot and provided us with footage that's taken my breath away. He was amazing - he could land a plane sideways, hit trees and all that." Were you scared? "It was terrifying to begin with but by the second take I really started to enjoy it. We kept swapping things around so they could film everyone's reactions to it for real when he went into a dive and all you could see was the ground!" What have been the other memorable moments for you over the last eight years? "Probably working with the animals, because that's the most unique aspect about the show. Things like the fact you can call a giraffe like Hamley by his first name and he would come to you! The big cats are very special too. Although it's a bit weird if they're anesthetised, as they keep their eyes open throughout the whole thing. But just to be able to feel it breathing is awesome. I'm incredibly proud of the show and will miss it. It was really special." The two-hour finale of Wild At Heart can be seen on Sunday December 30 at 8pm on ITV1