Meet Frank the lizard and Jay Brewer
Brewer is surrogate father and business manager of Frank, the Asian water monitor better known as Kipling on the Disney Channel’s “Jessie.”
Orphaned at 14, Brewer gave up his reptiles when he moved into a shared apartment in Newport Beach. But a year later, he became a commercial fisherman, giving him the means to get his own place and buy some pet snakes. He eventually opened Fountain Valley’s Prehistoric Pets in1988. “Now I’m known all over the world for my rare, reticulated python morphs,” says the owner of the pet store, breeding facility, and zoo. Brewer, who runs the business with his wife and daughters, finds it rewarding, but financially challenging. “My electric bill sometimes is around $8,000 a month,” he says. “Luckily I have some snakes that are worth ten to twenty grand.” The Brookhurst Street shop is home to hundreds of snakes, alligators, lizards—and Frank.
How was Frank “discovered”?
Disney just came to us and said, “We need a big, tame lizard.” They needed something manageable because of all these people waiting on set. Don’t get me wrong—sometimes he refuses to do what they want because his trailer might be a couple of degrees too warm. But really, he was the best candidate for the show. He’s got the best disposition.
How do you give a lizard acting lessons?
When certain things need to be done, we have to encourage him to do it. He’s not trainable like a dog, but we can get him to move his mouth, nudge him to go walk one way or another way, and then they edit the video to make it look fun.
Is he comfortable on set?
They give him every consideration as an actor. They really do! They understand that he’s a live animal, but they treat him like a person.
Is he picky about room temperature?
If you’re comfortable, he’s comfortable. If you’re a little bit hot, he’s still comfortable. If you’re a little bit cold, he’s still comfortable. It’s not a dire situation like some other animals that are more delicate. But the studio—because of the lighting—is kind of cool, so Frank has his own crew with a heat lamp.
Has Frank ever wreaked havoc on the set?
When we’re there shooting, we always have to be really careful because he’s so big. If we don’t have somebody to control his tail, it messes up the set, and then they have to stop and figure out exactly where everything was sitting.
Any pre-shooting rituals?
We have a rule: We take him out, and he marks his territory.
What does Frank eat?
We feed him about twice a week, mostly raw chicken—legs and breasts. He likes rats a lot. Dead rats, dead rabbits, he loves them all. He eats about 3 pounds a week—he can eat as much as 5 pounds, but we’re keeping him thin to extend his lifespan.
Does he get along with the other actors?
In the very beginning they were a little bit concerned about him, but now he’s just another member of the cast. They love him.
Has fame gone to his head?
He’s been on “David Letterman,” “Good Day LA,” “The Tonight Show With Jay Leno,” and Conan O’Brien’s show. He makes more than I do in a day, but, nah, he still has the same personality.
Met any celebs through your other reptiles?
One of my snakes actually got me to the prince of Dubai’s animal facility last year. I’ve dealt with Michael Jackson’s pet handlers, and I’m planning a trip to Pakistan to help out with a wealthy family’s private zoo.
Why do you like reptiles?
Well, I’ve always been trying to figure out who would want a fish as a pet. It ain’t like you can pull them out of a tank and hold them! I can hold my reptiles and pet them, and take care of them. Every day of my life I get to live my dreams as a little kid doing cool stuff.
Video by Astgik Khatchatryan