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NBC Insider Dr. Death

Meet the Season 2 Cast of Peacock’s Anthology Series Dr. Death

Edgar Ramírez and Mandy Moore play the thoracic surgeon and NBC journalist whose love story revealed a string of scientific misconduct at a prestigious medical institution.  

By NBC Insider Staff

The chilling story of an Italian surgeon’s disgraced career will be rehashed in Peacock’s Season 2 of Dr. Death. The second season of the anthology series will tell the story of “Miracle Man” Dr. Paolo Macchiarini, and how his lies to journalist Benita Alexander (Mandy Moore) helped her unravel the truth about his personal life, as well as his professional.

The anthology series is based on the hit Wondery podcast, with the same title, and follows the story of Macchiarini (Edgar Ramírez), a world-renowned thoracic surgeon infamously known for his innovative trachea transplants.

“When investigative journalist Benita Alexander approaches him for a story, the line between personal and professional begins to blur, changing her life forever,” per a series description. “As she learns how far Paolo will go to protect his secrets, a group of doctors halfway across the world make shocking discoveries of their own that call everything about Paolo into question.”

While Ramírez and Moore play out the complex narrative on screen, let’s take a look at the real-life characters that inspired this season.

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A close-up of Dr. Paolo Macchiarini during a press conference.

Who is Dr. Paolo Macchiarini?

Edgar Ramírez — a Venezuelan actor known for his work in The Bourne Ultimatum, The Girl on the Train and the star role as Gianni Versace in American Crime Story Season 2 — will lead the season in his portrayal as Italian doctor Macchiarini.

Macchiarini was praised internationally for his groundbreaking synthetic trachea transplants at Sweden’s Karolinska University Hospital in 2011, the world’s first, BBC reported.

A pioneer of regenerative medicine, Macchiarini believed to have solved the problem of transplant rejection in a patient’s body by soaking the plastic replica windpipe in the patient’s own stem cells, per The New York Times. 

But the surgeon’s synthetic trachea weren't the surgical wonder many hoped they would be.

According to the Karolinska Institute, Macchiarini performed three major trachea transplant surgeries between 2011 and 2012. Since then, all three patients have died.

After several reports from doctors and researchers accusing Macchiarini of scientific misconduct, the Karolinska Institute opened an investigation to reveal whether the doctor had fabricated some of his research. Officials concluded in 2016 that he was guilty of scientific misconduct and he was fired, according to The Guardian.

Critics claimed Macchiarini used medically unethical practices to perform dangerous procedures and falsified the conditions of his patients, per the Associated Press. Macchiarini denied any wrongdoing.

Following the deaths of three patients, Macchiarini was investigated by Swedish authorities. He was initially charged with manslaughter, but the case never proceeded to trial because there wasn't enough evidence to convict. However, in 2020, the investigation was reopened and in 2022, Macchiarini was charged by a Swedish court with aggravated assault and causing bodily harm.

Macchiarini was convicted in June 2022 on one count of causing bodily harm, a felony cahrge in Sweden, according to Science Magazine. The disgraced surgeon received a "suspended sentence" and was acquitted of the two assault charges. 

However, in 2023, a Swedish appeals court determined Macchiarini deserved prison time, stating he had acted with "intent of indifference," according to the AP. He was given a two-and-a-half year sentence.

Macchiarini has denied all wrongdoing in the case and his lawyer stated his intention to appeal the ruling.

Benita sitting at a table with a phone in her hand while a character is behind her.

Who is Benita Alexander?

Macchiarini's fall from grace has been partly credited to Alexander, his fiancée at the time, who will be played by This Is Us actress Mandy Moore.

According to her biography, Alexander graduated from Wayne State University with a B.A. in journalism, which launched her into a 17-year career as an award-winning producer with NBC News.

Alexander met Macchiarini while filming an NBC documentary about regenerative medicine. The producer, who is touted for being a major whistleblower in the Macchiarini case, soon found herself in a romantic relationship with the subject, according to Vanity Fair. The couple became engaged in 2013.

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Alexander told Investigation Discovery, who produced the documentary, He Lied About Everything​​​​​, that she stood by her fiancé in 2014 when reports came out accusing Macchiarini of fabricating success stories from his trachea surgeries. But when she learned that Macchiarini lied about being the Pope's doctor and getting him to officiate their wedding, she started her own investigation.​​​​​​

Alexander and her private investigator uncovered a slew of lies that Macchiarini had told her, including that he never divorced from his wife of 30 years, which was confirmed by public records in Italy, per Vanity Fair.​

Her story was published in Vanity Fair's exposé on Macchiarini, which uncovered evidence against the renowned doctor.

Dr. Svensson, Dr. Nathan Gamelli, and Dr. Ana Lasbrey sitting next to each other in a waiting room.

Three More Join the Cast of Dr. Death Season 2

Along with the spar between surgeon and journalist, Season 2 of Dr. Death will document how three doctors played a role in Macchiarini's downfall.

Gustaf Hammarsten will be playing Dr. Svensson, described as a "family man and researcher. He is running Macchiarini's clinical trials on lab rats when alarm bells begin to sound," per Peacock.

Ashley Madekwe will portray Dr. Ana Lasbrey, "a doctor at the institute. She joins Macchiarini's team, hoping to fast-track her career in stem cell research."

Luke Kirby will work alongside Madekwe and Hammarsten in his portrayal of Dr. Nathan Gamelli, who is said to be a "cardiovascular surgeon working at a world-class hospital in Sweden. He faces pressure after voicing doubts about Dr. Macchiarini's groundbreaking surgeries."

Season 2 of Dr. Death will drop on Peacock, with all eight episodes streaming Thursday, Dec. 21.