'The Hot Zone' Renewed at National Geographic

Julianna Margulies stars in The Hot Zone -National Geographic Publicity- H 2019
National Geographic

National Geographic's The Hot Zone is making the transition from limited series to anthology.

The Disney-owned cable network has picked up a second season of the series, which will chronicle a different biological threat: The mailing of anthrax to a number of victims in the fall of 2001, just after the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

The first season of The Hot Zone was based on Richard Preston's best-selling book and chronicled the origins of the Ebola virus, its arrival in the United States and the scientists who worked to prevent an outbreak. Julianna Margulies, Noah Emmerich and Topher Grace headed the cast.

It was billed as a limited series, but following a strong audience response — it averaged nearly 2 million viewers with three days of viewing, the best ever for a Nat Geo scripted series — the cabler and producers Touchstone TV (then Fox 21) and Scott Free began discussing a second installment.

"The gripping, propulsive story of the hunt for the anthrax killer who terrorized the country in the dark days that followed the Sept. 11 attack couldn't be more timely," said Carolyn Bernstein, executive vp global scripted content and documentary films at Nat Geo. "As the world battles COVID-19, another deadly and mysterious virus, The Hot Zone: Anthrax is a scientific thriller for our time."

A week after 9/11, someone mailed letters to several major media outlets containing anthrax spores. Three weeks later, two U.S. senators, Tom Daschle and Patrick Leahy, were sent letters containing an even more potent form of the bacteria. Five people died and 17 were hospitalized due to the attacks.

The Hot Zone: Anthrax will focus on the work of scientists at the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases, FBI agents and other Justice Department staff who helped zero in on a suspect after a host of false leads.

"While many of us can recall the breaking news headlines and the widespread fear that ensued when anthrax emerged in America, there are still layers to this story that have not yet been told," said executive producer Kelly Souders. "The second season of our anthology series will dive deep into the forensic investigation of a simple envelope that sent the entire Eastern Seaboard into a panic."

Souders and Brian Peterson, who were showrunners on the first season of The Hot Zone, will serve in the same capacity for season two. Ridley Scott and David W. Zucker of Scott Free Productions also executive produce, along with Jordan Sheehan and Lynda Obst is an executive producer. The Hot Zone author Preston is a co-exec producer.

Deadline first reported the news.