Julianna Margulies is leaving behind the power suits and high heels she was accustomed to wearing while working on The Good Wife and Dietland, opting instead to wear military fatigues in National Geographic’s The Hot Zone. Margulies stars as Army scientist Lt. Col. Nancy Jaax in the small screen adaption of the 1994 best-selling novel by Richard Preston about the origins of the Ebola virus.
The six-part miniseries follows the heroic Jaax and her race to contain the viral hemorrhagic fever of Central African origins before an outbreak infects the U.S. population. A trailer for the series was released today at the Television Critics Association meeting.
Margulies was joined by co-stars Noah Emmerich, Liam Cunningham, Topher Grace, James D’Arcy, Paul James, and showrunners Brian Peterson and Kelly Souders for a Television Critics Association spring presentation panel on Sunday to discuss the drama set to air May 27-29 at 9/8c.
“She’s a real person and I had the chance to speak to her,” Margulies said about Jaax. “The things that struck me about her personally was that she just doesn’t see herself as anything but a woman going to work. I look at her as a hero because she really got the ball rolling to stop it from spreading.
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To her, it was just another day at the office, really. There’s a moment when she gets a tear in her suit. Once she’s in a decontamination chamber and she’s thinking about her children and her husband and her life and how that can all be compromised if she’s infected. Ultimately, it was amazing to play a woman who gets excited about going into a level 4 biohazard lab and dissecting tissue that may carry contagious agents that could kill you.”
The former small screen nurse admits that she’s more cautious about germs since working on The Hot Zone. Not only does she catch herself wash her hands more, but she’s more aware of those around her.
“I wash my hands more and I’m very aware of what I’m touching. I now carry wipes in my bag, which i never used to do,” she explained. “It’s not just the hand washing. I worked with Nancy Jaax’s nephew who’s an infectious disease specialist, one of the top in the field. He told me that infectious disease specialists never touch their face.
He said, ‘Now that you know that, you’re going to watch people and you’re going to see how many times in five minutes they will touch their face.
He told me he never gets the flu. He maybe gets sick once every six years because he’s not constantly touching his face. So now, I’m always sitting on my hands so that I’m not touching my face.”
Margulies hopes that people will pay more attention to the news and the lack there of front page coverage of infectious diseases. With many health reporters losing their jobs recently, it’s even more important that citizens stay on top of agencies like the Center For Disease Control.
“There was a lot of stories about Ebola the whole time we were shooting,” she said. “Every day there seemed to be another story about Ebola but in small print, which i found disturbing that it wasn’t on the front page.
It just makes our show more relevant and more timely. I think the biggest issues is that everyone thinks that because Ebola is found in faraway African villages that it has nothing to do with us here in the U.S.
And to see something that happened in 1989, to see that Ebola touched U.S. soil and that the CDC’s reaction was basically, ‘We dodged a bullet.’ And the pathologists and the researchers working on this say, ‘No, no, no, we didn’t dodge a bullet. We need to find a cure. There’s nothing that you can take. This has a 90% fatality rate.’
So I feel like, the more stories that are coming up about journalists that are losing their jobs that work in the health departments of newspapers, is frightening.
It’s good that it’s out there, that people understand that this is something they should take seriously but I don’t see any action.”
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