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Richard Preston’s 1994 book “The Hot Zone” reflects on the origins of Ebola and the 1980s outbreak that saw the fatal disease hit U.S. soil, and follows the journeys of many individuals who were touched by it at the time. But Brian Peterson and Kelly Souders’ limited series adaptation honed in more specifically on one woman’s experience: Lt. Col. Nancy Jaax (played by Julianna Margulies), who was appointed to work on the Ebola outbreak operation for the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases.
Peterson and Souders wanted to match the heightened level of situational drama for their viewing audience, but because they were working with National Geographic, it was also imperative to root the series in reality when it came to such science.
Worlds - Peterson - Scenes - Audience - Scientists
“We really had to straddle these two worlds,” Peterson says. “There are scenes where the audience won’t know what’s going on, but the scientists watching will. That was a decision we came to together. One of our producers called it ‘science porn.’”
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Addition - Preston - Book - Source - Material
In addition to Preston’s book as source material, Peterson and Souders met with the real-life Jaax, as well as a number of other “science consultants and cultural consultants” to determine “when to showcase the science and when it should be background.” The decisions, which were made on a scene by scene basis, Peterson admits, were based on the entertainment factor because ultimately they were not out to make a documentary.
In the sixth episode, Nancy suits up to assess the situation inside the monkey facility once again. Prior to this, she had a scare with a rip in her suit after handling contaminated materials. The audience had seen her get ready before, so rather than follow the book’s detailed...
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