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Helen Mirren says ‘When Nature Calls’ is a documentary with “a comedic twist”


What happens to a nature documentary’s leftover footage?  Well, thanks to the BBC, a new kind of show is heading to ABC Thursday night starring Helen Mirren.

Mirren spoke with ABC Audio about her new show When Nature Calls and says the idea for it came about when producers were going through leftover footage from several BBC nature documentaries.

“They put an incredible amount of effort, you know, weeks and weeks and weeks on a rock just to get a penguin doing something. And that’s maybe a minute and a half of film that’s in the actual [finished product,]” explains Mirren, 75. “We’re going to be using that very high quality material, but then giving it a comedic twist.”

That twist, she says, is “putting what maybe is in the animal’s mind. We can maybe hear what the animal’s saying to itself or to its partner.” 

The Oscar-winning actress admits that, when the project was first pitched to her, she thought she needed to be completely serious and narrate in the same style as fellow Brit David Attenborough.

“I thought maybe it was a serious documentary about nature,” Mirren reflects. “So I thought, ‘Okay, this is my serious documentary voice.’ But then of course, the minute they sent me the material, I realized… it’s very, very comedic.”

As it turns out, the Good Liar star is the perfect choice for the show’s narrator, as she has befriended the local wildlife around her new home in Tahoe, Nevada.

“The chipmunks, the golden-mantleds, occasionally the bears, the coyotes…,” Mirren smiles, “It’s such a privilege just to be able to see them going about their business.”

When Nature Calls airs Thursday at 8 p.m. ET on ABC.

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