The Hot Zone: Who is Dr. Peter Jahrling, played by actor Topher Grace?

The Hot Zone on National Geographic
The Hot Zone premiered on Monday night. Pic credit: National Geographic

Dr. Peter Jahrling, portrayed by actor Topher Grace, is one of the key characters in The Hot Zone, National Geographic’s new six-episode science thriller miniseries that is an adaptation of the best selling 1994 book of the same name by author Richard Preston.

The Hot Zone premiered on National Geographic on Monday night to much anticipation — after the trailer, which was released back in February, went viral and has received more than 12 million views on YouTube alone.

The six episodes of the miniseries air on NatGeo from May 27 to May 29. The Hot Zone is based on the disturbing true story of the first known presence of Ebola virus in the U.S.

The series explores the origins of the Ebola Virus in central Africa, the first known cases of viral hemorrhagic fevers caused by the Ebola and Marburg viruses, and how the Ebola Virus was first accidentally brought to the country in 1989 through primates imported from Africa and kept at a research lab in Washington D.C.

The series follows the courageous and heroic effort of Army veterinary pathologist Lt. Col. Nancy Jaax (Julianna Margulies) who, aided by a SWAT team, risked her life to prevent the spread of the deadly infection to humans after it was discovered that the primates in the lab were carrying the Ebola virus.

Since the miniseries premiered on NatGeo on Monday, May 27, many viewers have been asking questions and searching for information about Dr. Peter Jahrling, one of the key characters in the miniseries.

Here is everything you need to know about him.

Who is Peter Jahrling?

Peter B. Jahrling was a virologist at USAMRIID  and a specialist in primate virology and immunity.

After obtaining his PhD in medical microbiology from Cornell Medical College he joined the U.S. Army and worked at the Army’s Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases (USAMRIID) until the end of his military career. But after he retired from the Army he continued to work for USAMRIID as a civilian research scientist.

Despite being an expert in the field of monkey viruses, Jahrling for many years carefully avoided being directly involved in research work on Ebola and Marburg viruses because there was no known cure for the infections and he did not want to risk his life.

In the miniseries, Dan Dalgard, the veterinarian at Reston Primate Quarantine Unit, seeks Jahrling’s help to identity the virus killing the monkeys.

Before he determined that the monkeys were infected with Ebola Virus, Jahrling and his assistant Thomas Geisbert had unknowingly exposed themselves to infection when they sniffed a vial containing the virus. But Jahrling and Geisbert concluded about three weeks following the exposure that they were not infected.

After he realized that the monkeys at Reston Primate Quarantine Unit were carrying the deadly Ebola virus, he and Geisbert worked at great risk to their lives to decontaminate the unit, and they did not become infected.

Topher Grace portrays Dr. Peter Jahrling

Topher Grace portrays  Dr. Peter Jahrling in The Hot Zone. If Grace’s face looks familiar it is likely because you have seen him in other hit shows and blockbuster movies in the past.

He is best known for playing Eric Forman in the sitcom That ’70s Show (1998-2006). He also played Eddie Brock (aka Venom) in Spider-Man 3 (2007) and Edwin in Predators (2010). He played Getty in Interstellar (2014) and Matt Little in War Machine (2017), as well as David Duke in BlacKkKlansman (2018) and Pastor Jason Noble in Breakthrough (2019).

Topher Grace was born in New York in July 1978, but was raised in Darien, Connecticut.

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