Twenty years ago, Americans – already stunned by the 9/11 attacks – had a new crisis.
Lethal doses of anthrax were being mailed. Five people died, 11 were seriously ill; and then it stopped.
What didn’t stop was the FBI investigation. Seven years later, after some missteps, it pointed to a suspect. Now that’s being retold in “The Hot Zone: Anthrax” (shown here), from 9-11 p.m. Sunday through Tuesday (Nov. 28-30) on National Geographic.
And yes, this does seem timely. “During a pandemic, where science is at the forefront, it just felt like the right time to tell the story,” said producer Kelly Souders.
It’s one that captivated people, said producer David Zucker … then faded. “This was a very public, horrific series of events. (But most people) have no awareness” of how it ended.
You could look it up, but don’t. Instead, let the story slowly unfold over six hours.
To simplify it, “Hot Zone” tightens the time and has a team of FBI agents compacted into two people. They’re played by Dawn Olivieri and Daniel Dae Kim (“Lost”), who finds this refreshing.
“My character is an amalgamation of a number of” people, Kim said. “It’s a sign of progress (that producers) thought an Asian-American face could represent the face of the FBI.”
Those agents are confined to a just-the-facts approach, leaving the big acting duties to Tony Goldwyn (shown here). He plays Dr. Bruce Ivins, an anthrax expert who voiced concerns that the culprit could be someone at the Army research lab where he worked.
He’s a quirky guy — and fresh turf for Goldwyn, who often plays officials. He’s been to the moon (as Neil Armstrong in “From Earth to the Moon”) and the White House, playing real people – Jody Powell, Clark Clifford, Harold Nixon (the president’s brother) and, in “Scandal,” the fictional President Fitzgerald Grant.
But now that presidential stature is gone. “Putting on the clothes of Bruce and finding the right glasses and stuff, in combination with the mustache, really was a transformational thing,” Goldwyn said. “And then discovering kind of a body language for Bruce.”
That did it, Souders said. With “one shoulder sort of slumped …. he’d just literally, physically change in front of you.”
Goldwyn has conquered a profession (acting) that many feel is a dead-end choice. “My father felt the same way …. It’s a seemingly impossible profession,” he said.
And that’s a family that should know. Tony’s father (the late Sam Goldwyn Jr.) was a key figure in indie-movie producing and distributing … his grandfather (Sam Goldwyn) was the leader of MGM (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer). Tony’s brother (John Goldwyn) is a former Paramount executive whose recent productions include “Dopesick” and “Dexter: New Blood.”
All of these people know that acting is the shakiest part of the movie/TV world.
“But once you get the bug,” Tony Goldwyn said, you “feel that there’s literally nothing else you could possibly do. So yeah, I should have known better, but luckily, I didn’t.”
And now – 35 years after his first film role and 23 years after he (fictionally) walked the moon – he has the sort of role actors can dream of.