‘The Hot Zone: Anthrax’ Team Talks ‘Companion’ to Ebola Season

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Although executive producer Brian Peterson said he and executive producer Kelly Souders probably had “about 100 ideas” for a second season of “The Hot Zone,” diving into the anthrax scare that followed in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks quickly rose to the top for them.

“The first season was very much about an outbreak. It was about a virus,” Peterson explained during the show’s Television Critics Assn. press tour panel on Aug. 18. “This is a story that’s about bacteria and about a very targeted situation that still lived within the same timeframe and world, roughly, as the first season, so it felt like a really good companion piece.”

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The first season centered on the ebola crisis in the early 1990s while the second follows both FBI Agent Matthew Ryker (Daniel Dae Kim) as he investigates the suspicious mailings sent to newsmakers and government officials and fights to have postal facilities tested and shut down, and Bruce Ivins (Tony Goldwyn), a biodefense researcher and suspected perpetrator of the attacks.

“Most people who hadn’t read the book, ‘Hot Zone,’ knew nothing about it,” said executive producer David Zucker. “In this instance, this was a very public horrific series of events that actually extended for seven years in terms of the investigation. … It was one of those unique opportunities to examine a period in history that had a profound effect, both on the heels of 9/11, as well as politically, socially and otherwise how something like this transpired, how it came to pass and ultimately what the resolution is, which I bet if you ask most people in this country they they have no awareness of.”

Producing this season amid the COVID-19 pandemic, when “science is at the forefront,” Souders said, carried extra weight to the story they were telling and the way they were telling it. As characters wore hazmat suits on-screen, so, too, did their crew members need to keep their faces covered to work safely amid changing healthy and safety guidelines.

And since Peterson called this second season a “companion” to the first, he admitted they would still “have to see” if there could be a third season. Nothing is officially greenlit by National Geographic yet, and since they have been so focused on making this season, they have not had many discussions about the future of the franchise. That said, Zucker noted that after what has been happening over the last few years, he would love to see it continue on for a couple more seasons at least.

“I think the the emergence in the last years of of an ecological series which which were dormant for quite a number of decades [has] s been an extraordinarily positive one, and there are stories like this that sit so so firmly in this kind of format where you can really tell the tale in the right number of hours,” he said. “I would be sad not to continue.

The Hot Zone: Anthrax” will premiere Nov. 28 as part of a three-night event.

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