Laurence Fishburne has had his share of dealing with PR catastrophes, but the nightmare he has to deal with as the Centers for Disease Control’s deputy director in the upcoming film “Contagion.”
As head of the CDC, Fishburne’s Dr. Ellis Cheever is in charge of maintaining calm and keeping a tight lid on the fact that an unknown deadly disease is causing folk to drop like flies. However, as a soon-to-be husband, he has a duty to protect his fiance from what he knows about the killer virus – and such is the dilemma driving his actions throughout the film.
To research both the professional and personal decisions of his character, Fishburne pow-wowed with Dr. W. Ian Lipkin, co-chair of the CDC’s National Biosurveillance Advisory Subcommittee.
“He had real strong opinions about how all this should play out,” Fishburne said of Lipkin during an LA press conference for the film last weekend. “He was with us every day and he really is committed to what he does. We’d be working and he’d be on his phone and he’d go, ‘Let me show you this!’ And it would be something that could potentially be an outbreak. I mean, almost every day he’d have some new disease that the CDC is tracking.”
Fishburne said Dr. Lipkin also advised him in scenes regarding his character’s personal decisions, but Fishburne didn’t need any help for one particular scene in which he tells his fiancée, played by Sanaa Lathan, that the deadly virus is on the loose and she must pack up and get out of town at once.
“That was really easy. Any human being in that situation is going to do that,” Fishburne said.