DISTEMPER is a television series created and written by Max Pitagno that is based on the true story of Dr. Louise Pearce, an openly gay pathologist who, in 1918, helped cure African sleeping sickness and saved an estimated two million lives. Her partner was Sara Josephine Baker, the physician who tracked down Typhoid Mary, the first healthy carrier of typhoid respondible for spreading the disease to numerous people. DISTEMPER stars Abigail Hawk (BLUE BLOODS) and Chiké Okonkwo (BEING MARY JANE).
The pilot episode of DISTEMPER was filmed in 2019 with support from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation's partnership with the North Fork TV Festival, where the pilot had its premiere. It is now available to watch in its entirety below.
When we spoke with Pitagno last year at the pilot's premiere, he told us about his view on Dr. Pearce: "Louise Pearce was a hero, no doubt, but she’s also a morally complex character. She had the right intentions, I truly believe, but maybe with the enormity of everything, going from New York City to southern Africa where you’re by yourself, you’re a woman–and this is before the internet or even phones in that area–and how shocked she must have been to have seen people maimed, to see thousands of people dead and burned. Maybe she felt urgency, maybe she legitimately felt like: I don’t have time to mess around with animal trials, I need to see if we can save people."
The North Fork TV Festival is set to take place on Long Island from October 16-17. The second winner of the Science + Technology Script Competition, after DISTEMPER, will premiere then.