‘The Hot Zone: Anthrax’ at NYCC: When Will Daniel Dae Kim & Tony Goldwyn’s Characters Meet?

    The Hot Zone returns on National Geographic with Anthrax, set in the days after the September 11 terrorist attacks when those letters led to five deaths and caused panic across the United States.

    Season 2 is “very much about panic” as the country was gripped by what could be happening and the investigation to uncover what happened and “about science being weaponized,” showrunner Brian Peterson said during the New York Comic Con panel with fellow showrunner Kelly Souders and stars Tony Goldwyn (Dr. Bruce Ivins) and Daniel Dae Kim (FBI Special Agent Matthew Ryker). Meanwhile, Season 1 was “the insular, claustrophobic story of trying to prevent panic [and] an outbreak.”

    “All the science is very, very real,” Peterson added, though they couldn’t include all of it in the six episodes. “The details are extraordinary,” Goldwyn said. “It’s kind of mind-blowing.”

    Read on to get to know the characters at the center of the season and find out when they’ll cross paths onscreen.

    Meet FBI Special Agent Matthew Ryker

    Though Kim has been on a lot of television shows, The Hot Zone: Anthrax is his first lead. “It’s been a journey, and it’s great to culminate in a role like this because this was such an important time in our history and especially in a time in our society when we’re examining the role of science and we’re questioning who we are as a country. This, 20 years ago, was a similar time,” he said. “I’m grateful.”

    His character, Matthew Ryker, created for the series, was a microbiologist before he became an FBI agent, and while that made him an outsider, Kim also spoke with Asian-American FBI agents as part of his research because “I wanted to be true to people’s experiences,” he explained. “I think he has feelings of being an outsider because of his ethnicity, especially in 2001. The ethnic makeup of the bureau was very different from what it is today, and that’s going to influence how he operates every day at work.”

    Daniel Dae Kim as Matthew Ryker in The Hot Zone Anthrax

    National Geographic/Peter Stranks

    He described Ryker as “someone who loves his country and is fiercely proud of the work the FBI is doing and the work he’s done as a scientist. … It strengthens his resolve to find the culprit in this case because it’s so in his wheelhouse.”

    He also has trauma in his past. “He has a very immediate, direct connection to what happened in Washington D.C. and it helps to drive him and it’s also an obstacle for him because he is suffering from PTSD,” Kim shared. “There are ways in which it pushes him forward to do his job and then other ways where it prevents him.”

    “Daniel did such a great job of showing a guy who’s so professional but these emotional cracks keep showing up and as the series progresses, they really come to the surface,” Souders added.

    “There is one specific thing that Ryker and his team do in this series that I could not believe because of the extent they had to go to find one element of this case,” Kim teased. “That speaks to an obsession and a relentless passion, but without that passion, we would not be where we are today.”

    Tony Goldwyn as Bruce Ivins in The Hot Zone Anthrax

    National Geographic/Peter Stranks

    Meet Dr. Bruce Ivins

    Goldwyn’s character, the lead anthrax researcher for the government, was a real person and had been working on a vaccine for 20 years before the attacks. Like Ryker, he’s very driven, “a fairly obsessive patriot,” Goldwyn said, and someone who took the September 11 attacks “intensely personally.” He saw the anthrax letters as “a real call to arms.”

    Expect to see “some very crazy things happen in his life,” the actor continued. “His life starts to unravel in his story in connection with these investigations and he becomes obsessed and consumed with them.”

    Also like with Ryker, there’s trauma in Ivins’ life. Not only does the “pressure of this situation … upend his entire life,” but there’s also ” trauma in Bruce’s life dating back to his childhood, which really comes to bear on the story in a very profound way,” Goldwyn previewed. Because that was so key to the character’s behavior in the show, he focused on that in his research.

    When Will Ryker & Ivins’ Stories Collide?

    Ryker and Ivins don’t share scenes until the final two episodes, at which point we can expect to see some fantastic scenes with the two. “That first scene [where they meet] is like a one-act play,” Goldwyn teased. “It really was exciting to do. Kelly and Bryan had the courage and patience to let that come to life in the show.”

    “That scene with Tony, I would’ve done that for free because he is so dynamic in that scene,” Kim added.

    The Hot Zone: Anthrax, Premiere, Sunday, November 28, 9/8c, National Geographic

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