National Geographic’s The Hot Zone anthology series delves into real-life stories of deadly outbreaks and the heroes on the frontlines in Anthrax. Season 2 is inspired by the shocking true events that occurred after the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the United States in 2001. A second strike: the anthrax letters, killed five people and caused panic across the nation. The targets were media figures and politicians – but they weren’t the only ones exposed to the deadly poison.
This six-episode limited series follows lead investigator, FBI Special Agent and scientist Matthew Ryker (TV vet Daniel Dae Kim of Lost, in his first leading role on television) as he tracks down the killer. The character is an amalgamation of the hundreds of agents who worked against the clock to solve the case and prevent more deaths.
“The investigation took a lot of twists and turns and wasn’t wrapped up in a nice little bow,” Kim tells us. He was fascinated by the large-scale, real-life efforts the bureau made to track down leads, which are documented in the series. “It meant a lot to me that we were talking about real people who died, lives that were affected.”
Cracking under the pressure is Dr. Bruce Ivins (Tony Goldwyn), a researcher for the defense department tasked with finding the source of the anthrax. “Bruce became obsessed with this investigation. As the series progresses it is revealed he has severe struggles with mental illness. His world starts to fall apart,” Goldwyn says.
The series paints portraits of the targets too. One is news anchor Tom Brokaw (Harry Hamlin, who did intense preparation to play a real-life figure, “I listened to all of his books, watched news broadcasts, speeches, did total immersion.”)
A suspenseful high-stakes case and great performances make this a must-watch. Watch our interview with the cast above!
The Hot Zone: Anthrax, Series Premiere, Sunday, November 28, 9/8c, Nat Geo and next-day streaming on Hulu