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Daniel Dae Kim Interview: Hot Zone Anthrax | Screen Rant

The Hot Zone: Anthrax is the latest installment of National Geographic's anthology series, which began airing on November 28 and consists of six episodes. The intense but compact season follows the efforts of specialists trying to contain and understand the Anthrax attacks of 2001. Following in the wake of the first season's high-profile cast, veteran actors like Daniel Dae Kim and Tony Goldwyn lead the new story.

Related: Hot Zone Anthrax Cast & Character Guide

Kim plays Matthew Ryker, an FBI agent specializing in microbiology. The beloved actor spoke to Screen Rant about the importance of representation and his methods of getting into the mindset of his character.

Screen Rant: I'm half Asian and I want to say how amazing is it to see representation that's on-screen like this. Congratulations. It's been a long time coming. The show's phenomenal and you're phenomenal in it. You play Special Agent Matthew Ryker in the series. Who is Matthew Ryker?

Daniel Dae Kim: Matthew Ryker is a Korean American adoptee who went into the sciences and then decided that he was going to switch gears out of loyalty to his father who served this country. He decided he was going to join the FBI. He is the one who is tasked with discovering who's behind these attacks with anthrax letters. That's who Matthew Ryker is.

Now, something you brought to this role that I read about was that you talked to FBI agents that were Asian to get an understanding of what they were going through during that time. Can you talk to me about adding that to the character of Matthew Ryker?

Daniel Dae Kim: I thought that was an important element to add because when you cast someone like me, you want to bring everything that that entails along with it and you want to examine that in a really specific way for a real character. I was really grateful that there were some Asian Americans who took the time to talk to me and shared their experiences about what it was like, especially back in the early 2000s, being a person of color in that community, in that organization.

The thing that I was most encouraged to hear was they recognized that they did not look like everyone else, but they didn't focus on the obstacle. FBI agents in general [are] type A. They're very driven. They're very ambitious. They're very smart. Their attitude was, "I'm not going to let any obstacles get in my way. I'm going to use whatever obstacles I have to power me forward." That was, I think, a huge influence on Ryker because his persistence and his willingness not to be deterred was, I think, the closest thing he had to a superpower.

In one of the episodes, Ryker is an eyewitness to one of the 9/11 attacks. Can you talk to me about the pressure that's on Ryker's shoulder to move towards the direction of connecting anthrax to terrorism?

Daniel Dae Kim: I think having a firsthand experience and having a set of priorities that he does in his life, meaning he's already an FBI agent, he's already devoting his life to protecting this country and he's got a history where his father also served in the country, so it strikes at the very core of who he is and the things that he believes in. It's why it's so foundation shattering to him when he sees it happen in front of his eyes and at the same time, it also fuels his drive to get answers.

20 years ago, I remember the anthrax stories and people being afraid to open their mail, but I didn't realize how deep this went and I didn't realize that specific media was targeted. There's just a lot of information I didn't know. When you were reading these amazing scripts, what details did you discover about the anthrax attacks after 9/11?

Daniel Dae Kim: Gosh, I learned a lot. I hadn't realized how close we were to actually having this affect a lot more people. While we were sleeping, there were hundreds of people who were working around the clock sifting through tens of thousands of pieces of mail, looking for a slight imperfection in a stamp, in a seal. This is the kind of work that it takes to solve these kinds of crimes to keep us safe.

The last thing I wanted to ask you is, what did you want to bring to the role of Matthew Ryker that wasn't necessarily on the page?

Daniel Dae Kim: Wow, that's a good question. I haven't been asked that before. I think the fact that they chose someone who looks like me to be the face of the lead American FBI investigator already brings something that is not on the page because this was not what the intent was originally. And so for me to bring my experiences to talk about the fact that he's an adoptee, to talk about what it means to be an American if you're not of European descent is something that is new, is something that we haven't seen before. I think of it as a sign of progress.

Next: The Hot Zone: Anthrax True Story - What Nat Geo Left Out

The Hot Zone: Anthrax is now available to stream on Hulu.

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