Second ‘Hot Zone’ drama recalls the 2001 anthrax attacks

Daniel Dae Kim, Tony Goldwyn star in National Geographic drama

Tony Goldwyn stars in “The Hot Zone: Anthrax,” which begins Sunday on National Geographic.

Almost immediately after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, America faced another threat: anthrax.

For several weeks in the fall of 2001, envelopes containing hazardous powder were received at offices of media figures and politicians, resulting in five deaths and 17 other infections. The story of how the sources were traced and the crisis eventually contained is dramatized in National Geographic’s new sequel to its earlier miniseries “The Hot Zone,” as “The Hot Zone: Anthrax” runs over three consecutive nights starting Sunday, Nov. 28.

Daniel Dae Kim (“Lost,” “Hawaii Five-0”) and Tony Goldwyn (“Scandal”) star respectively as FBI Special Agent Matthew Ryker and microbiologist Bruce Ivins. The real-life Ivins, who took his own life in 2008, came to be a suspect in the attacks during an investigation by multiple government agencies.

Daniel Dae Kim stars in “The Hot Zone: Anthrax,” which begins Sunday on National Geographic.

“My character is an amalgamation of a number of different people involved with the investigation,” Dae Kim explains, adding that (while continuing as an executive producer of ABC’s “The Good Doctor”) he appreciates having the role. “I think it’s a sign of progress, and it’s a testament to our producers — and everyone associated with the show who are making decisions — that they thought an Asian-American face could represent the face of the FBI.”

Goldwyn says an “extremely helpful” component of his research was “Mirage Man,” a biography about Ivins: “It had lots of details about his life and his psyche and the investigation itself. And then (I read) a number of other books about the investigation and really just tried to steep myself in it. And then I spoke to different experts in different fields, related to both microbiology and psychiatry and some of the issues that impacted Bruce’s life.”

Among well-known personalities portrayed in “The Hot Zone: Anthrax,” Enrico Colantoni (“Veronica Mars”) appears as then-New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, and Harry Hamlin appears as NBC News’ Tom Brokaw. Ridley Scott, Lynda Obst and “Smallville” alumni Kelly Souders and Brian Peterson return from the 2019 “The Hot Zone” (which was about the Ebola outbreak) as executive producers, joined this time by David W. Zucker (“The Good Wife”).

Noting that this year marks the 20th anniversary of the anthrax attacks as well as 9/11, Zucker believes now is appropriate for the new miniseries.

“The time was an extraordinary one,” he reflects, “and one that still impacts us today in so many profound ways. The Ebola story was one that was entirely behind the scenes, that most people who hadn’t read the book ‘The Hot Zone’ knew nothing about. In this instance, this was a very public, horrific series of events that actually extended for seven years in terms of the investigation … so it was a fascinating undertaking.”

Jay Bobbin

Jay Bobbin has decades of experience covering the television and movie businesses, winning Tribune Media Services’ Crown Jewel Award in 2008 for his performance in the company. Over those many years of interviewing and writing, he has spoken with everyone from Robert De Niro and John Travolta to Paul McCartney and Tony Bennett … from Meryl Streep and Julie Andrews to Taylor Swift and Carrie Underwood.

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