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Scott D. Pierce: Talk show with animals latest for Anthony Anderson

First Published      Last Updated Feb 10 2017 06:08 pm

Anthony Anderson, not busy enough starring in the sitcom "Black-ish" and hosting the game show "To Tell the Truth," has added talk-show hosting to his list of credits.

It's not just another talk show with the same celebrities promoting their latest project. This is "Animal Nation" on Animal Planet (Fridays, 8 p.m.), and the guests are — you guessed it! — animals.

"So this is, at least to our knowledge, this is the first talk show in history where it's the animals, and they bring the celebrities," said executive producer Brian Volk Weiss.

There are celebrities (including George Lopez, Cheryl Hines, Jerry O'Connell, Walton Goggins and Michaela Watkins) with their pets, but it's more than that. There are clips of animals doing cute and/or amazing things. And animal experts bring everything from llama and rattlesnakes to falcons and sloths, reminiscent of the visits Jack Hanna made to "Late Show with David Letterman."

Is it hard to work with animals?

"You mean other than the attacks on my person?" Anderson said. "Or an animal relieving himself onstage?"

Well, it looks like Anderson is having fun, which he said is the case.

"Animals are like babies when you're working with them. They're unpredictable," he said. "It's all about them, and you have to give them space for it to be about them. So just whatever you can imagine happened on our show."

He said he's had animals and been an animal lover "all my life."

"Like most black men in the 'hood in Compton, I grew up with a pit bull and three cats," he said. "And then there was a St. Bernard, and then there was a German shepherd.

"I loved going to the zoo. Loved playing with animals."

Not that he played with animals at the zoo when he was growing up. But he gets to do that now.

"I wanted to have as much fun as possible on the show," Anderson said, "and I wanted to interact with as many animals as I could. And whether I was scared or not, that made for great television because it was true. And so there was nothing I really backed down from."

Except for the kangaroo.

"The animal that I feared the most was when they brought the kangaroo on set," he said. "And I got familiar with kangaroos while I was filming this little movie called 'Kangaroo Jack.' "

Familiar enough to stay away from the kangaroo on the "Animal Nation" set.

Which is not to say he was overly careful when it came to dealing with the animals.

"By the second episode," Weiss said, "we were, like, 'Anthony! Anthony, please be careful! Don't play with the attack dog!' "

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