Interview with Hamza Haq of “Transplant” on NBC by Suzanne 10/9/20
It was great to speak with Hamza, who’s a smart, thoughtful guy, clearly on the rise. I’m enjoying watching his work on this show. If you haven’t watched “Transplant,” yet, you’re really missing out.
Suzanne: So, tell us how the audition for your show went. I know it was a while ago now.
Hamza: Well, I had a pre-existing relationship with both CTV, the network, and Joe, the showrunner, on two different shows. So, when they decided to partner up together, I was kind of the unofficial front runner…[But then] they wanted a Syrian for the role. So, they told me, you know, “We all wanted you to play it, but we’re really going to make a concerted effort to try to find a Syrian within Canada to really tell the story.”
As much as I didn’t like losing a part, if there was Pakistani character that I didn’t even get to read for, I would have been quite upset. So, I just accepted that that was the way that it was gonna be.
Then they did their due diligence, and they searched for actors of Syrian decent across Canada for several months, and I was just fortunate that they couldn’t find him.
I’m sure…just given the nature of the opportunity certain people get and what they hear about it, you know, I ended up getting the part, and I’ve been doing my best to do justice to it ever since.
Have you started shooting season two yet?
Hamza: We have not. We have not. We were slated for August, and here we are in cozy old October, still waiting. You know, frustration aside, everybody’s very happy to make sure that we provide a safe environment for everybody to work and all that jazz, cope with precautions, etc, etc.
Suzanne: Yeah, I hope they start on that soon, because, the the daytime soaps here in the US have already started all back. They just do it very safely. I don’t know the details, but I guess they test everyone regularly, and everyone wears masks, and whatever else they do. Some of the other shows, I think some of the primetime shows, have started, but you never know, right?
Hamza: Absolutely not.
Suzanne: Did you do any research for the role before you started filming it?
Hamza: Oh, of course, I mean, as far as the medical stuff is concerned, we’re all very happy that we had – first things first, the writers did all their research to make sure that everything was medically accurate. Then all of us on the cast, we went to boot camp to try to, you know, choreograph all the things that we have to do in trauma situations and surgeries and all of those things. So, that was taken care of.
As far as character is concerned, I was given several documentaries and readings and novels to sort of get into the mindset and really understand better the the conflict that happened and is currently happening in Syria still ten years after the fact, you know, since [then], and just trying to understand and have conversations with people who went through it or something similar. We had a wide range of consultants who lived this exact experience, who were able to be very generous with their time and their experiences. So, all that money [went] to bringing this to life.
Suzanne: Great. And what about your accent? What are you basing that on?
Hamza: So, I had a couple of dialect coaches to help get the accent right. Then there was some fine tuning based on the region that he [is from]. You know, he’s from Aleppo, so we tried to get that regional accent but also tried to use a little bit of the fact that he may have gone to school in more of an upper scale, maybe British, educational system, that kind of thing. So, there’re a couple subtleties here that aren’t completely, you know, Syrian Syrian, but it’s sort of an amalgamation of his life experiences. So, I worked with about three or four people tirelessly, and three of them were actually Syrian refugees. So, I was very happy to have that experience – fortunate, rather.
Suzanne: Wow. So, it’s very authentic, in a lot of ways, this show.
Hamza: We’re doing our best, I think. With such an important story, I think everybody is just going to try to do their best to do justice to the story and the experiences of the people who went through it. So, I think authenticity was definitely the goal, and I certainly hope we hit it in a lot of areas. And there’s a lot of areas yet to go, and, hopefully, we’ll hit those in seasons two, three, etc.
Suzanne: I saw a video of you, and you had tattoos on your hands. Do they have to cover those up with makeup when you do the show?
Hamza: No…it was just Henna.
Suzanne: Oh, temporary?
Hamza: I had a little red carpet affair in Berlin, and I like to flex my own culture and get a little South Asian Henna done before the ceremony or whatever. So, yeah, that was fun, but it it faded within four or five days.
Suzanne: Okay, so it was temporary. So, were you surprised when the show got picked up for TV in the US?
Hamza: I’m cocky, but no. It’s a very good show; the goal was to try to get as many eyes on it as possible. It’s a very universal story. So, we heard, “Hey, they have enough faith in the show that they’re gonna take this to American audiences,” and everything like that. So, I will say I was very happy when it happened, but surprised, no. It was like, “Well yes.” The fact that it happened, you know, we’re all very fortunate. We’re very blessed with the getting such tremendous feedback from American audiences. Also, it’s very nice.
Suzanne: Oh, good. So, you’ve gotten a lot of fan reaction?
Hamza: Yeah, I mean, I’m not on Twitter, which is where a lot of those things happen, so, I hear about a lot of these things, which is really great. The numbers don’t lie, either, you know, the team will [be] like, “We held 4 million or $3 million,” or however many it was. That’s just great. So, I would imagine that if people are maintaining it, there’s x amount of million people watching it every day, I would imagine that it’s generally positive, that those who are watching it are enjoying it. So, I’m happy about that.
Suzanne: Well, I see you on Instagram. Is that not you? Or somebody posting for you?
Hamza: No, Instagram is me; Instagram is me, but I try not to get too big headed. So, I don’t read all the comments. It’s really easy for me to get big headed, and I love the attention, and I love all that stuff. But I try my best not to lean too far into it. I’m grateful. I’m grateful, yes, everybody commenting on my eyelashes. I appreciate it. Yes, they are real. Yes, I’m sorry that a lot of people have to spend a lot of money getting these eyelashes, but, sorry, I got them from my dad.
Suzanne: So, how are you and Bashir different besides the obvious, like not being Syrian.
Hamza: Bashir has a tremendous amount of confidence in who he is as a person. His ability to stay steadfast in decision making outside of his work is something that I very much look up to; I’m very easily influenced by other people. I’m quite insecure about a lot of things, and Bashir has this very, you know, fortified sense of self and a sense of identity, which is something that I’m working towards.
Where we’re similar, is our brashness and our arrogance when it comes to the jobs that we do. I [lose] the insecurity as soon as I’m on set. I feel like I know what I’m doing, and I feel like I can tell a story. And sometimes, I would say, not to the degree that Bashir is, I can rub people the wrong way in terms of, you know, like me arguing with the director or the writer that this is the way that it should be done and everything like that. I don’t think it gets to a point where I’m ever yelling or going behind someone’s back being sneaky about anything, but when it comes to work, I think we’re both similarly confident in what we do.
Suzanne: The only problems he seems to have, is the whole PTSD and not wanting to get help for it and maybe a little too much pride that some people have, you know, not wanting to get help, not admitting that he has problems.
Hamza: Yeah, that’s a predominantly male issue, I think. I think a lot of guys can relate to that. That wasn’t too far of a stretch for me either, like, “No, I got it. It’s fine.”
Suzanne: What can you tell us about working with Sirena, who plays your little sister?
Hamza: Oh, those are easiest scenes. I feel so connected to her and protective of her. You know, a young actress comes on to set, and you just want to make sure that she’s doing okay, and it was very easy. I see her as my little sister, and I want her to succeed, and I want her to be safe. I want her to have fun and learn and all of those things. So, you know, the dialogue just lent itself to this very immediate connection that the two of us already had. So, it was beautiful. Like, it’s not difficult to want to provide, you know, to want to make the world a better place for Amira, or Sirena as well.
Suzanne: Yeah, the scenes with her, you can tell that you like her, and she’s adorable. So, I can’t imagine even now.
Hamza: Yeah, she’s really cool. Easily she’s gonna be the biggest star out of this. Right now I’ll go on record saying she’s going to be the biggest star out of all of us, mark my words.
Suzanne: Do you have any funny stories about filming the show?
Hamza: I have several. I just don’t know what I’m allowed to say.
Did you know John Hannah was in The Mummy? He hates that I keep bringing that up, but I would say that on the first day that we all met, I was so excited when I heard that he was going to be a part of the show. And I thought we waited a whole 30 seconds before we yelled that at him. I was like, “I’ve seen that movie like one hundred times. It’s my favorite movie,” and stuff like that. I think the more I say it, the more it grinds his gears a bit, but I’m never gonna stop doing it.
Suzanne: Oh, that’s funny.
Hamza: Yeah, I mean, the whole thing was really fun. Like, you know, we would all get together after work, like often party together. You know, we went rock climbing with Jim Watson, and we did Brazilian Jiu Jitsu with Ayisha Issa, you know what I mean? You know, anytime we wanted a good restaurant to go to (unintelligible) incredible, you know, recommendation, and she could get those reservations too. So, it was just everybody brought their own thing to it. And we just loved each other from go.
Suzanne: Oh, that’s cool. That’s great. Yeah, it’s it’s a great cast. I enjoy it. I liked him; he was in so many great TV shows. And Tori Higginson, she was wonderful in Stargate Atlantis. I don’t know if you ever saw that show.
Hamza: Yeah, I worked with her on the show in Canada as well, called This Life. That’s where I worked with Joseph Kay before. So, it was really nice when she joined the team as well.
Suzanne: Oh, cool. That’s nice. Yeah, it’s always nice to see people you know, already. Is there anything else that you’d like to tell your fans?
Hamza: Keep on watching. I’m grateful that people are learning so much about Muslim culture and Arab culture and, you know, go up there and vote. Register to vote and make your voices heard.
Suzanne: Well, thank you. And I really enjoyed the show. I’ve been watching it. NBC let me have all the episodes, but I like to watch them on the TV. So, I enjoy it. And I’ve been telling everybody to watch it. So, good luck, and I hope – and you said you already have a second season right? You just haven’t filmed it yet.
Hamza: Yeah, we’ve been picked up, and we’re we’re in limbo, like much of the world. But, hopefully, as soon as we get we get the go ahead, we’ll be all like tremendously happy to continue telling the story.
Here is the audio version of it.
Interview Transcribed by Jamie of http://www.scifivision.com
Bashir “Bash” Hamed
Hamza Haq stars as Bashir “Bash” Hamed, the new ER doctor who fled his native Syria and must overcome numerous obstacles to resume his career in the high-stakes world of emergency medicine, in NBC’s drama “Transplant.”
Raised in Ottawa, Haq is the youngest of four siblings born in Saudi Arabia to Pakistani parents and has called Canada home for almost 20 years.
His television credits include the CTV miniseries “Indian Detective,” opposite William Shatner, Russell Peters and Anupam Kher; the CBC Gem crime-drama miniseries “The 410”; and the CBC drama “This Life,” which garnered critical acclaim and earned him a 2018 Canadian Screen Award nomination for Best Guest Performance.
He has had recurring roles on the Cinemax series “Jett,” starring Carla Gugino; “Quantico,” opposite Priyanka Chopra; and “The Art of More,” co-starring Dennis Quaid and Kate Bosworth. Other notable credits include “Designated Survivor,” “The Bold Type,” “Being Human,” “Michael: Tuesdays and Thursdays” and “Best Laid Plans.” Haq also served as host of the TVOKids program “Look Kool.”
On the big screen, he’s held supporting roles in “Bon Cop Bad Cop 2,” with Colm Feore; “The Death and Life of John F. Donovan,” directed by Xavier Dolan; Darren Aronofsky’s “Mother!”; “Run this Town,” opposite Mena Massoud and Nina Dobrev; and most recently, “My Salinger Year,” starring Margaret Qualley and Sigourney Weaver.
In 2017, he was named one of Canada’s Rising Stars by the Hollywood Reporter. Haq holds a Bachelor of Arts in film studies with a minor in law from Carleton University.
Premiere: Sept. 1, 2020
When Dr. Bashir Hamed (Hamza Haq, “Quantico”), a charismatic Syrian doctor with battle-tested skills in emergency medicine, flees his war-torn homeland, he and younger sister Amira (Sirena Gulamgaus) become refugees, struggling to forge a new life in Canada. But if Bash ever wants to be a doctor again, he must redo his medical training from the ground up and obtaining a coveted residency position is nearly impossible.
When a horrific truck crash nearly kills a senior doctor right in front of him, Bash saves the doctor’s life and earns a residency in the biggest Emergency Department of the best hospital in Toronto.
Yet for all Bash’s experience, it’s a tough road. Bash’s training is different, his life experience are unique to him and he’s not an exact match for his new colleagues, who include Dr. Magalie “Mags” LeBlanc (Laurence Leboeuf, “The Disappearance”), a ferociously analytical second-year resident who pushes herself relentlessly; Dr. June Curtis (Ayisha Issa, “Polar”), a reserved, ambitious surgical resident whose loyalty doesn’t come easily; and Dr. Theo Hunter (Jim Watson, “Mary Kills People”), a pediatric Emergency Fellow whose small-town upbringing is cracking wide open as life at the hospital changes his worldview.
The team works tirelessly to save lives and win the approval of the legendary head of the Emergency Department, Dr. Jed Bishop (John Hannah, “Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.”), all the while managed by sharp-eyed, acerbic Dr. Wendy Atwater (Linda E. Smith, “19-2”) and supported by longtime head nurse, the deadpan, confident Claire Malone (Torri Higginson, “This Life”).
Through it all, Bash tries to meet the demand of his new country and new job, while trying to pay the bills, raise his little sister and carve out a new life for them both in this unfamiliar land. It’s a journey that’s universal to people everywhere. Bash aims high and is determined to succeed, and those around are quick to see that his passion and hopefulness are contagious. But will his newfound life reject him, or will this “transplant” take?
A major success story as CTV’s the most-watched Canadian series in total viewers this broadcast year, “Transplant” will showcase its bold and powerful storytelling to a brand-new audience.
Joseph Kay, Jocelyn Deschênes, Bruno Dubé, Randy Lennox, Virginia Rankin, Jeremy Spry and Tara Woodbury serve as executive producers.
“Transplant” is produced by Sphere Media in association with CTV and NBCUniversal International Studios, a division of NBCUniversal Content Studios.
Please visit the official show site at: https://www.nbc.com/transplant.
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Proofread and Edited by Brenda