Kelly Souders was “terrified” after reading “The Hot Zone,” Richard Preston Jr.‘s nonfiction bestseller about an Ebola outbreak outside of Washington, D.C. Souders adapted the book into a limited series with her producing partner Brian Peterson and Jeff Vintar, casting Julianna Margulies as the military doctor who works to keep the deadly virus from spreading before it’s too late. Watch our exclusive video interview with Souders and Peterson above.
Souder was intrigued by the story of Dr. Nancy Jaax and her husband, Dr. Jerry Jaax (Noah Emmerich), who’s a fellow soldier. “Obviously, a woman in the military in 1989 was of particular interest to us,” she reveals. Nancy is doubted at every turn, including, at times, by her own spouse, who puts himself in dangerous situations to protect her even though she’s fully prepared to look out for herself.
These gender dynamics became especially meaningful as the project began developing during the #MeToo movement. “That point was really relevant at the time,” explains Peterson. “It had a poignancy that has played out in really interesting ways as we’ve been shooting the show,” and in light of current events, “it almost gets more relevant, strangely.”
Since the show is set in 1989, the duo wanted to show how women were treated back then, and how very little has changed. Sexism and pay disparity were “definitely in the workforce, in the military, and in American culture at the time,” Souders says. “So we wanted to treat it in a very respectful way.”
Souders and Peterson previously worked together as writers and producers on shows including “Genius,” “Salem,” “Under the Dome,” “Beauty and the Beast,” “Political Animals” and “Smallville.” “The Hot Zone” premieres on May 27, with all six episodes airing over three nights. It is produced by Ridley Scott, who had tried to make it as a movie for 25 years, and it co-stars Liam Cunningham, Topher Grace, James D’Arcy, and Paul James.
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