Animals and children make for fun TV. Animal Practice doesn't have kids, but it has plenty of animals. One of them is Crystal, who plays Dr. Rizzo on the new NBC sitcom. Crystal has had plenty of screen time, both on the big and small screens. She has been in Night at the Museum 1 & 2, episodes of Community, The Hangover Part 2, and We Bought a Zoo. And in every scene she is a showstopper.
I sat down to talk with Crystal's trainer, Tom Gunderson, who informed me the adorable little primate is 18 years old. Since these monkeys generally have a life expectancy of 40-50 years, Crystal is almost middle aged. But don't let her age fool you. She is full of energy. As Tom and I spoke, Crystal fidgeted on his lap. He explained Weeper Capuchin's have a high level of nervousness. He also said they have a very high metabolism. Besides that, although they are omnivores, they prefer to eat fruits and vegetables so their diets are high in fiber. So combining all three of these facts make it very difficult to potty train them. When she is at home, Crystal wears a diaper. In the show she wears scrubs!
Tom has two young children at home who have grown up with Crystal in their house. Can you imagine how much fun that would be? Well, all fun aside, they know the dos and don'ts when it comes to dealing with primates. So, even though it might seem like the monkeys are fun to have around, they are not pets.
The monkeys feel more comfortable with one, maybe two bosses. They learn to respect their "boss" and they don't offer their respect as easily to a child as they do to an adult.
"When I got her and had her on a leash," he explained, "and was giving her a bath and was putting a diaper on her and was spending almost every waking moment with her, she would try to stay the furthest point of that leash from me as possible. And as time went on, even within the first 2 weeks, she started to slack off and by the end of a few months she would sleep cuddled up by my face. And just think about it for a second. We're so much larger than they are and she has no idea what my intentions are. She communicates with me like she communicates with the other monkeys, but she knows there's a significant difference. So I have to be very sympathetic to that." He emphasized that the monkeys are not domesticated animals. They do not make good pets and shouldn't be thought of as pets. As Tom stated, "They're not tamed, they're trained."
If you are concerned that little Crystal doesn't have anyone of her own kind to play with, don't worry. Squirt is another Capuchin that lives with them. Tom jokes, "Squirt is Crystal's understudy. That's weird to say it. I wouldn't say stunt double because Crystal does her own stunts. If there's a stunt that Crystal can't do then we use a stuffie, a fake monkey." So at home, Crystal gets monkey and human time as well as monkey and monkey time.
I have to admit that I thoroughly adore Crystal. She is a lot of fun and understands that she is a star. When I asked Tom what makes her so special, he said, "I think there are two things. One, her natural personality and two, the experience that she has accumulated over the years being on different projects." I can attest to the fact that this little charmer is loaded with personality.
To see more of Crystal, tune into the sneak peek of Animal Practice Sunday, August 12, 2012 on NBC following the Olympic Closing Ceremonies. The series premiers Wednesday, September 26. I will go out on a limb by saying that the star of the show is definitely Crystal, no offense to the other animals and humans in the show. But how can anyone not adore this adorable little creature? Can you say "aww"?