National Geographic will premiere this May 27, at 9:00 p.m. (Central Mexico time), the first two episodes of the miniseries The Hot Zone, based on the 1994 novel by Richard Preston of the same name. The plot is set in 1989 when the first appearance of the Ebola virus is discovered on American soil in primates in a scientific laboratory on the outskirts of Washington. The series follows the mission led by Lt. Col. Nancy Jaax, played by Emmy winner Julianna Margulies (The Good Wife), to prevent the virus from spreading to the human population.
Topher Grace, who has worked with directors such as Sam Raimi (Spider-Man 3), Christopher Nolan (Interstellar) o Spike Lee (BlacKkKlansman), He makes up the cast and spoke about his motivations for assuming this role and the production’s work to recreate this story based on true events.
What attracted you to this role?
I think i read The Hot Zone Back in the ’90s, when I was in the eighth or ninth grade. And it was one of those books that was so good that I remember not wanting to finish it. I was only reading one page every night because I was blown away by the writing. He also couldn’t believe it was based on something that actually happened. This was not like a thriller. At the time there were suspense texts that were hits – novels that were completely fictional, or about dinosaurs, or whatever – but this is something that really happened, and I was surprised that I was in the same world that I lived in.
Ebola has many nuances. Are there elements that seem more terrifying than others?
There were some scenes that we were doing in the lab, where it’s weird enough for an actor to be in one of those suits and pretend to be a part of it; but then you think about what they really had to deal with in a room like this and how scary that idea of what happens if it comes out of one of these places is …
Is there something you now know about Ebola that you might not want to know?
Knowing that this is something that actually happened is terrifying. Friday the 13th It’s scary too, but that’s a made-up story. This really happened in real life. And it could happen again.
Your character spends most of the series keeping a very dark secret from many of the other characters. Can you describe what their motivation is behind that decision?
Peter Jahrling is and was a brilliant scientist. He is a civilian, so he is surrounded by people who are different from him, people who have military training. He was brought in from outside the military, so he has a different perspective on how to handle things. He is a bit more relaxed comparatively. He’s really smart, but he gets a little arrogant and tries something he shouldn’t, and the punishment fits the crime.
Can you describe what it’s been like working with directors Michael Uppendahl and Nick Murphy on this project?
Michael and Nick are amazing. I love their previous jobs and it was a big part of why I wanted to be a part of it. His vision for that was great. His attention to detail is amazing; In other words, some of this technology is difficult to obtain because it no longer exists. But they did their best to find or replicate it. And I love that he had that vision. Nick is different from Michael, but he has a great personality that he really brought out some new dimensions from me when my character is in quarantine, which is a very scary time for him.
How has it been working alongside some of your co-stars?
Julianna (Margulies) is amazing. She is one of the people you want to work with if you are an actor. I was very afraid to memorize the script because I thought, “Here’s someone who has worked in an emergency room. If I am going to do something related to medical personnel, something that I have not done before, I had better come forward. So, I memorized my lines twice. But once I met her, she turned out to be the sweetest person, the most practical, and the most fun to work with. And Paul James is someone I didn’t know. He was not very aware of his work. Most of our scenes are together because they quarantine us. And he is an incredible actor. I really enjoyed my time with him. I look forward to working with him again.
For a series that deals with such intense themes, did they add some lightness between takes or break that tension? Do you have any interesting anecdotes about how they made The Hot Zone?
Well, nobody talks to you about these suits. I’ve seen movies where people use them to handle hazardous materials and it seems relatively easy. And sadly, we will be perpetuating that myth because we are trying to make it look easy on this. Air is being pumped into them. That is what keeps them inflated around you and gives them their oxygen. So doing emotional scenes, physical scenes inside the suits, it was really difficult. It was a complex couple of days of shooting in the suits. But we all made it as fun as possible. What’s funny to me is that Peter comes up with everything from another angle because he’s a civilian and wasn’t raised in the military like the rest of the gang, so he has a little more fun before things get too serious. .
Fear is a running theme for this series, and people respond differently to fear. Your character internalizes a secret. Do you feel that fear can be a useful response tool, or can it be harmful?
I think what’s really interesting about fear – and what it’s like to be in a “hot zone” especially for these characters – is that they’re scientists. They understand why things are the way they are. But as they say, there are no atheists in the traps; there is no such thing as no emotion. Once my character thinks he might be infected. So what’s cool is playing a character who is in a way and prides himself on being cold, calculating, fact-oriented, and at the end of his arc, through the series, he’s looking at things in an unfamiliar way. scientific And that’s a big change for him and, I think, it changes him forever.
Is it difficult to play a character in real life?
I’ve played real people before, and it’s always an interesting journey because you have both the fact that the person existed and the fact that the character fulfills a very specific function within the project. That’s what Kelly and Brian did so well – they found an interesting, linear narrative through what is a really long book that is fantastic in six hours. They did a great job adapting it.
¿They did a lot of research to design the sets?
No one is going to think that we were ever on a great sound stage, and we are! And all are investigated. What I love is all the specific technology that no longer exists – fax machines, beepers, and brick cell phones – and this is really what people were using at the time. I take my hat off for the production because, to go get all this, it is very unusual. But at that time, it was just what was around.
The Hot Zone will premiere two new chapters every day, starting today (Monday, May 27) and until next Wednesday, May 29 by National Geographic. The six-part miniseries was co-directed by Michael Uppendahl (Mad Men) y Nick Murphy (The Awakening). In addition to Margulies, the cast is made up of Liam Cunningham (Game of Thrones), James D’Arcy (Agent Carter), Noah Emmerich (The Americans), Robert Sean Leonard (Dr. House), Paul James (Greek), Robert Wisdom (Prision Break) y Topher Grace (That ’70s Show).
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Topher Grace talks about his role in National Geographic’s The Hot Zone