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Why ‘Designated Survivor’ Chose a Pandemic Storyline for Season 3

Neal Baer is among the many few folks on the earth who can listing “licensed doctor” and “skilled showrunner” on his resume. With that background, it’s telling that Baer’s most up-to-date TV effort — steering the third season of Kiefer Sutherland drama “Designated Survivor” — revolved across the theme of a pandemic breaking out within the U.S.

The extraordinary world response to the coronavirus risk has appeared to carry viewership and social media visitors on the Leisure One sequence, which premiered its third (and ultimate) season on Netflix in June 2019, after two seasons on ABC.

Baer, who beforehand labored on “ER” and was showrunner/government producer of “Regulation & Order: SVU” and “Beneath the Dome,”  knew that the specter of a bio-terror assault and the nation’s lack of preparedness could be meaty topics for a political drama sequence as a result of they’ve been a rising focus for real-life public well being specialists.

“I’m hoping that COVID-19 gives us with a drill,” Baer tells Selection. “Regardless that it’s triggered horrible calamity, it’s additionally making ready us for what may very well be a lot worse. That was my concept in doing it in ‘Designated Survivor.’ “

Within the present, Sutherland performed a cupboard secretary, Tom Kirkman, who’s thrust into the Oval Workplace after a terrorist assault devastates the administration wherein he serves.

By season three, President Kirkman is working for re-election when a mysterious viral outbreak emerges that threatens to focus on folks of shade for sterilization. That sinister focus fuels conspiracy theories about whether or not the origins of the virus have been politically motivated.

Baer met with specialists from Johns Hopkins College, Harvard and MIT in preparation for writing the season. The pandemic-related considerations he heard have been so pressing that determined to make it the main focus of all the season. The writing course of started in August 2018, whereas capturing ran from October 2018 via February 2019.

Whereas the fictional drama sequence took loads of license to up the drama, Baer can’t imagine the truth of the state of affairs that the wealthiest nation on the earth has discovered itself in because the long-feared pandemic state of affairs has reared up in a enormous method.

“It’s superb that we could be so technologically superior in some areas, however we’re asking folks in Boston to make (protecting) masks out of garments like we’re within the time of Betsy Ross,” he mentioned.

In “Designated Survivor,” Baer sought to focus on the hazard posed by cutting-edge applied sciences contain genetics and instruments that will wind up altering human DNA without end. The system identified to geneticists as CRISPR has unimaginable potential to assist those that undergo from illnesses reminiscent of sickle cell anemia, however within the improper palms there are considerations it may be the supply of bio-terror havoc.

“It guarantees main cures and it comes with the potential for calamity,” Baer says. “For little or no cash it will probably create viruses and micro organism the likes of which we’ve by no means seen.”

In a commentary Baer penned for the winter 2020 version of the Johns Hopkins College Press medical journal Views in Biology and Medication, Baer described CRISPR as “an ingenious cut-and-paste system that houses in on a specific DNA gene sequence” focused for restore via re-sequencing and the manipulation of cells.

Baer has pursued a wide selection of tasks within the months for the reason that curtain fell on “Designated Survivor.” He’s exec producer of the documentary “Welcome to Chechnya” that earned a particular jury award at this yr’s Sundance movie competition and the documentary award on the Berlin Movie Pageant. It’s set to premiere on HBO in June.

(Pictured prime: “Designated Survivor.” Pictured above: Neal Baer)

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