HFPA in Conversation: Julianna Margulies, Fighting Against Ebola

by Kirpi Uimonen Ballesteros May 22, 2019
Actress Julianna Margulies, Golden Globe winner

magnus sundholm/hfpa

Golden Globe winner Julianna Margulies plays a heroic U.S. Army scientist, who is fighting against the Ebola virus in Natural Geographic's The Hot Zone.  The limited series is based on Richard Preston’s best-selling thriller and recounts the terrifying true story of the origins of the Ebola virus.  Margulies, who has been previously seen on TV shows ER and The Good Wife, told HFPA journalist Helen Hoehne why she wanted to play Dr. Nancy Jaax.

The first thing was, they sent me the script.  And when I got the script in my head I said, well I’ll never do it because I didn’t want to dive into anything medical ever again after being on a medical drama for six years.”

She read the script and it was a page-turner. “I could not put it down.  I read all of the first four episodes in two hours.  Then I bought the book and read the book.  I couldn’t believe how naïve I had been about such a deadly subject and something that I thought wouldn’t affect my life at all, ever.  You think of Ebola and you hear Africa, right?  It’s so far away, this is not our problem.  But this is a global problem.  As Nancy Jaax states in the 6th episode, this is not if it happens to us again, it’s a when it will happen to us again because it will. And we’re not prepared.”

Science is not Margulies' strength, but she admires scientists. “The thing that I found so fascinating about the script is that because you can’t see it you don’t believe it’s real.  These pathologists who work in these biohazard level four labs and risk their lives are the ones to believe.”

She realized she can help shine a light on the issue. “Ridley Scott and Lynda Obst had been wanting to make this as a film for 25 years and it fell apart.  I think it was a blessing in disguise, not because I got to play the role but because I think the story is much too intricate to be told in a two-hour film.  It needed six hours to really get into what the threat of Ebola Zaire is, what it does and what we need to do to ensure that we have the tools to fight it if it shows up again.  It is not an African problem, it’s a global problem.”

Listen to the podcast and hear why she thought she was immune to the chickenpox; why she keeps hand sanitizer in her purse; what kind of family she grew up in; when she acted for the first time; with whom she went to see Broadway plays as a child; why she wanted to be a lawyer and how she ended up being an actress; how was her audition for the medical drama ER; what she learned during the six seasons on ER; how was it working with George Clooney; what she did after ER; what kind of advice her dad gave her; how motherhood affected her career; how was it filming The Good Wife when her son was a toddler; how her husband helped her with legal jargon; why she would recommend therapy to her character Alicia Florrick; how she relaxes;  and why she is involved with Erin’s Law, which requires public schools to teach children personal body safety in the prevention of child sexual abuse.

Trigger Warning:  This podcast contains a brief discussion from 37:00-40:00 about Julianna Margulies's efforts to help pass legislation that would help prevent sexual assault against minors.