‘Animal Practice’: Five Surprising Facts About Crystal the Monkey

"Animal Practice" - Crystal as Dr. Rizzo -- (Photo by: Robert Trachtenberg/NBC)

Every television season, a newcomer becomes a breakout star. Last year, it was Lena Dunham. This year it is Crystal the Monkey, the pint sized star of “Animal Practice.” Crystal steals the show as Dr.Rizzo in the broad comedy about a kooky veterinary hospital. Dr. Rizzo was reportedly the highest testing character on any new NBC show. But is America ready for a Capuchin leading lady — particularly one who is playing a man? Will her low double digit weight set an unrealistic example for teenage girls? Are the rumors of a feud with the new puppy on “Parenthood” true?  XfinityTV.com went beyond the hype to talk to Crystal — with a little help from her trainer, Tom Gunderson. Here are the five things you need to know about the monkey with an M.D.

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Crystal is the Season’s Most Controversial Star: PETA has launched a protest, demanding that “Animal Practice” be canceled because it is cruel to use animals as actors. The organization is also concerned that viewers will decide to get pet monkeys, then abandon them when they realize how difficult it is to take care of them. Not even “Dancing With the Stars” competitor Bristol Palin has inspired an actual demonstration. According to Gunderson, Crystal shares his home, just like any other pet. She became an animal actor because, like child actors, she demonstrated a love for performing. Though, like child actors, she would not have chose her profession without outside encouragement. Gunderson did show a lack of regard for Crystal’s privacy when he revealed that she wears diapers. There is no word on whether she will replace Lisa Rinna as a spokesprimate for Depends.

Learn More About Crystal:

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Crystal is Not a Diva: With numerous film credits, including “Night at the Museum” and “The Hangover 2“, you might think that Crystal feels like she is slumming it on television, or thinks she is better than her co-stars. According to Gunderson, she has never copped an attitude, despite all of the attention she is getting. “I won’t allow it,” he says. “Not at all.” Really? Not even a little? “She may ask for higher quality bananas, things of that nature,” Gunderson admits. “She seems pretty grounded though. She doesn’t have much of an ego.”

Crystal is Already Working With the Writers: Every actor secretly wants to write and direct. It usually takes a few seasons for them to get the opportunity. But Crystal is already brown nosing her way into the writers room. Says Gunderson, “We’ve had a lot of phone calls and they consult me on the set. That’s a rare quality you don’t find very often in this business.”  Clearly, it’s only a matter of time before she demands a producer credit.

Crystal Gets Along With Her Human Co-Stars. Really. They’re All Best Friends: One monkey and a barrel of human actors, including the show’s leading man, Justin Kirk,  seems like a recipe for behind-the-scenes squabbles to rival the early seasons of “Grey’s Anatomy.” According to Gunderson, the set is one big, happy family. “We don’t want to take anything away from the human actors. Everybody has a special quality that they bring to the formula. But the nice thing about having this cast of people is none of them are pretentious. None of them are threatened by having a monkey on there. It’s hard to not have a monkey automatically pull your attention. Luckily, we have a group of people. Every single one of them, they embrace it rather than shy away from it.” Reports that the human actors demanded the removal of all bananas from the craft services truck could not be substantiated.

Crystal Wants an On-Screen Romance: Crystal wants her character to be more than a sight gag. She wants to show her emotional range. To that end, she would be open to a romantic storyline, and already has a love interest in mind.  Said Gunderson,”Maybe Joanna Garcia down the road.” Garcia could not be reached for comment.

“Animal Practice” airs Wednesdays at 8/7c on NBC.

The opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Comcast.

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