Q: In the premiere of “The Hot Zone,” your character Nancy Jaax puts a new recruit through the very precise steps of biohazard training. How sobering was doing that scene for you?
A: That’s one of my favorite scenes because … you get to see it from a layman’s perspective what it is these people do because I don’t understand what a biohazard level four lab is. I don’t understand the severity of any of it or the cautions you have to take or all the steps you have to go through before you even get inside. So I thought that was so well done when I read it on the page because it invited me into this world I don’t have an inkling about, and it’s frightening.
Q: Did doing the series cause you to alter your own hygiene habits?
A: Sadly, yes (laughs). I never was like that. I have become one of those people that carries hand sanitizer in my bag at all times, even when I’m out for the evening. … I have become very aware of how many times a day I touch my face and I have tried to stop doing that, which of course during pollen season is almost impossible.
And also just watching people. You know, I’m a New Yorker, I ride the subway, and there’s these great moments in the script where you see through the lens of the camera, it just goes from someone taking a sip of water to someone touching a banister to someone touching their face to then someone touching their child to someone going to a water fountain. That’s my daily life now. …
And also there’s the flip side, which I grew up with a mother who said, “Germs are good for you. It builds your immune system.” And I do believe that, too. So yeah, you want to strike a happy balance. I was one of those moms who if the food fell on the floor I’d say, “Oh honey, it’s the 10-second rule. It’s fine, eat it. It’ll build up your immune system.” Now when my kids – a book falls on the floor in the subway, I’m like, “Hold on! Let me wipe it off” (laughs).
George Dickie has been a features writer for Gracenote/Tribune Media Services since 1989, when “Hee-Haw” was still on the air and George “Goober” Lindsay was his first interview. His early interviews ranged from Jim Henson and Dick Van Dyke to Phil Collins and the Dixie Chicks.