In The Know

Hamlin opens up on playing anthrax-era Tom Brokaw

Harry Hamlin says the government’s response to the deadly 2001 anthrax attacks came back to him as he prepared to play Tom Brokaw during the scare.

In the years after the bacteria was used as a weapon, the Homeland Security Department advised the country to stock up on duct tape to seal windows in case of a terrorist attack.

“We did that,” the former “Mad Men” actor recalls. “We went out and got gas masks and duct tape. I think I still have a box of that duct tape around that we didn’t use.”

Now Hamlin plays a part in recounting that “very intense time” in National Geographic’s six-part limited series, “The Hot Zone: Anthrax,” premiering Nov. 28 and inspired by the true events of the 2001 attacks.

The 70-year-old Golden Globe nominee tells ITK he was a big fan of Brokaw but initially balked at playing the legendary news anchor, who was sent one of the letters containing anthrax.

“When they asked me to do it, I said, you know that’s impossible to do. I can’t play Tom Brokaw. That’s not possible, you can’t become another person.”

But after watching Anthony Hopkins’s turn as a former president in the 1995 film “Nixon,” Hamlin says, “I got how he got the essence of Nixon and got some vocal stuff and some of the way he held his head, and stuff like that. It kind of evoked Nixon, and that’s what I was hoping to do with this.”

Some have drawn vaccine mandate parallels between the anthrax attacks and COVID-19. The Clinton administration, citing a concern with biological weapons being used against troops, required service members to get vaccinated against anthrax in 1998. In a September op-ed for The Hill, former Rep. Steve Israel (D-N.Y.) called anthrax the “COVID-19 of 2001.”

Asked about the comparison, Hamlin replies, “It’s a very odd, Orwellian time no matter how you look at it on so many different levels.”

“The fact that we’re in a pandemic and that the only way out of the pandemic — so we see right now — is vaccinations” puts health officials “between a rock and a hard place,” Hamlin says.

“The authorities want as many people as possible to be saved and to be healthy. And yet, there are a lot of people who feel that a mandate is an abrogation of their personal and fundamental rights.”

“The current sort of overarching sentiment is that the risks of taking the vaccine are far outweighed by the benefit,” the performer says. “So that’s where I stand.”

Hamlin is also taking a stand against a real-life lawsuit that’s gotten the attention of at least one lawmaker.

Hamlin’s wife, “Real Housewives of Beverly Hills” star Lisa Rinna, is facing a $1.2 million lawsuit from the celebrity news agency Backgrid, which claims she infringed on its copyrights by posting photos of herself on her Instagram account that were taken by paparazzi.

“The relationship that celebrities [and] people in our business have with the paparazzi is somewhat symbiotic, and we recognize that and we know these people need to make a living.

“Then to find that we’re being sued for posting a picture of ourselves on our Instagram is just bizarre. Takes a while for that to compute.”

Hamlin says he’s spoken to Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.) about the issue and is working to craft legislation that would “disincentivize companies from using this technique for raising money.” Lieu’s office confirmed the congressman has been in contact with Hamlin, with a spokesman telling ITK he’s exploring legislation to address the entertainer’s “legitimate concerns.”

Tags Steve Israel Ted Lieu

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