Former Utahn Martha Raddatz has covered wars in Bosnia, Iraq and Afghanistan for ABC News. She’s been embedded with the troops. She flew in an F-15 fighter jet on combat missions over Afghanistan. She’s reported from Yemen, Iran, Pakistan, Israel, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, India, Turkey, Libya, Oman, the United Arab Emirates and numerous other countries.
She was a White House correspondent. She moderated a Joe Biden/Paul Ryan vice presidential debate and a Hillary Clinton/Donald Trump presidential debate.
But ABC News’ chief global-affairs correspondent and co-anchor of “This Week with George Stephanopoulos” — who is, by the way, a graduate of Salt Lake’s East High — has found herself in a world that’s decidedly strange to her: Hollywood.
Her best-selling book, “The Long Road Home: A Story of War and Family,” has been turned into an eight-part TV series for the National Geographic Channel.
“[Executive producer] Mike Medavoy and I have been working together on this for 10 years,” Raddatz told The Tribune. “I’m still at the stage where it’s surreal to me.”
The project bounced around from studio to studio, in development as a film and then a TV series, before landing at National Geographic. But Raddatz never gave up on it.
“There is nothing that’s been more meaningful in my career than this,” she said.
The book and the miniseries recount what became known as Black Sunday. On April 4, 2004, the 1st Cavalry Division from Fort Hood was ambushed and cut off in Sadr City, Baghdad, and over the next 48 hours several Americans were killed and more were wounded.
The two-hour premiere of “The Long Road Home” airs Tuesday at 7 and 9 p.m. on the National Geographic Channel. It will continue on six successive Tuesdays with one-hour episodes.
“The Long Road Home” tells the story of the men in Iraq and their families back home in Texas. It’s gripping and horrifying, and Raddatz said, “It’s just in my heart.”
Soon after Raddatz was born in Idaho Falls, her family moved to Salt Lake City. After graduating from East, she attended the University of Utah for a while — leaving for a job at KTVX-Channel 4, which launched her career. She still returns here to visit family.
The cast of “The Long Road Home” includes Michael Kelly as Lt. Col. Gary Volesky, Jason Ritter as Capt. Troy Denomy, Kate Bosworth as Gina Denomy, Sarah Wayne Callies as LeAnn Volesky, Noel Fisher as Pfc. Tomas Young, Jeremy Sisto as Staff Sgt. Robert Miltenberger, and Jon Beavers as Sgt. Eric Bourquin.
“I’m not very used to this industry, but I know these people care deeply about these soldiers. They care deeply about these families,” Raddatz said. “I’ve seen it. They’ve cooked meals for the Gold Star families. The families who lost people in that battle are so close to the actors.”
While she’s accustomed to being on camera and posing for publicity photos, she was laughing about the “crazy photo shoot with all these amazing actors” she’d just done.
Not that she’s in any danger of going Hollywood.
“I just go back to what the story is and ground myself,” Raddatz said. “And I always have by looking over at [real-life soldiers/Black Sunday survivors] Eric Borquin and Eric Fowler and know what it means to them. And I have enormous pride that I helped their story get to millions of people.”
The two worked as consultants on the miniseries, and Fowler said it was “definitely part of the healing process” for him.
“I hope that the audience takes home the sacrifice and they understand that the story is about family,” Borquin added. “It’s about sacrifice.”
After all the stories she’s covered and all the journalism awards she’s won, Raddatz said she’d be “happy only to tell that story to the world.”
As for everything surrounding the premiere of a TV miniseries, “I can’t quite comprehend that this is going to happen.”