National Geographic has announced its next scripted program will be a limited series adaptation of Richard Preston’s 1995 non-fiction book about the Ebola virus, The Hot Zone, starring Julianna Margulies. The project was picked up by NatGeo last year, but there hasn’t been any movement on it since. Now it seems that with its lead actor in place, the project is set to get filming underway this fall, with a projected 2019 premiere date planned. The series will fit in nicely with the network’s science and culture-first approach to its limited scripted offerings so far. And given that the deadly Ebola virus made headlines not too long ago, the adaptation should also make for a story that’s as timely as it is terrifying.
Preston’s book not only looks into the virus itself, its origins, and various incidents involving Ebola, it also recounts an incident from 1989 wherein the virus was discovered at a primate research facility near Washington, D.C. That story will be fictionalized into the limited series, with Margulies taking on the role of U.S. Army scientist Dr. Nancy Jaax, who worked to prevent a full-scale outbreak and keep it from reaching the nearby population.
The news was announced during National Geographic’s presentation at the Television Critics Association summer press tour. It was also announced that the series will be produced by Lynda Obst, Ridley Scott’s Scott Free Productions, and Fox 21. Production is set to begin in the fall, with filming taking place in Toronto and South Africa.
An adaptation of Preston’s book is more than two decades in the making, as Obst originally landed the film rights in the ‘90s. The project was ostensibly shelved when the similarly themed Outbreak, starring Dustin Hoffman, Rene Russo, and Morgan Freeman was released in 1995. It lay dormant until 2014 when it was announced The Hot Zone was being reworked as a potential series for television.
The new project is another step in the right direction for NatGeo, which has earned Emmy nominations for its anthology series Genius, with Geoffrey Rush getting a nod for his work as Albert Einstein and, more recently, Antonio Banderas being nominated for his performance as Pablo Picasso. The network also has a second season of Mars on tap for later this year. Given the high profile of the project and the talent involved, The Hot Zone could be a game changer for the network in 2019.
The Hot Zone is expected to premiere on National Geographic in 2019.
Source: National Geographic