Belfast Telegraph

Elisabeth Moss to star as Tyrone's 'Typhoid Mary' in new BBC series

Mad Men actress to star as 'typhoid mary'

By Julian Brouwer

The story of how a Tyrone woman brought a terrifying typhoid epidemic to New York is to be told in a new BBC series.

Mary Mallon, who polluted New York with the deadly disease after emigrating there in the early 1900s, will be played by Mad Men actress Elisabeth Moss in Fever.

But to many it's as if Mallon - who was sent to quarantine in the now abandoned North Brother Island on the East River - never left: they claim her ghost still haunts New York.

Authorities have long since banned all visitors from North Brother Island, which today is full of dilapidated buildings and hospitals.

Actress Moss, who also appeared in The West Wing and The Handmaid's Tale, is looking forward to playing Mallon, who emigrated to the US from her home town of Cookstown at 15 and became the first US resident identified as an asymptomatic carrier of the pathogen associated with deadly typhoid fever.

Interviewed recently, the 36-year-old star said: "I am looking forward to telling this story about one of the most infamous women in America, 'Typhoid Mary,' a woman whose true tale has never been told.

"Mary was an immigrant in turn of the century New York, a time of huge change and progress in America. She was incredibly unique, stubborn, ambitious and in fierce denial of any wrongdoing until her death where she lived out her days imprisoned on an island just off of the Bronx."

Mary unknowingly spread typhoid fever while she was working as a cook for several families in New York's Long Island. A New York banker called Charles Henry Warren hired Mary. Quickly, one of Warren's daughters fell ill with typhoid fever. Within days, Mrs Warren and two maids became ill as well. In the end, six of the 11 people in the house were diagnosed with typhoid.

After being exiled to North Island, Mary protested her innocence and claimed she was being persecuted by the authorities. In her own mind, she was perfectly healthy. She could not comprehend how she could spread a disease and cause deaths when she exhibited none of the symptoms herself. New York politician Mark Levine, the chairman of the council's parks and recreation committee, wants the island to be reopened to the public. He has arranged visits there and is intrigued by the Mary Mallon story. "We need to find a way to get people on the island in a safe manner," he said. "To visit there was an experience unlike any other that I've had.

"There's so much history. The experience of being completely isolated in the forest with these half-decayed beautiful buildings as you faintly hear the background sounds of the city - honks from the Bronx, loudspeakers from Rikers Island."

Fever starring Elisabeth Moss will be shown on BBC in 2019

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