A Q&A with the star of the award-winning medical drama Transplant
Known for: Starring in the fast-paced medical drama Transplant
Up next: Shooting season three of Transplant
In 2018, after years of playing bit parts, Hamza Haq landed the lead in CTV and NBC’s award-winning series Transplant. We caught up with him while he was shooting his third season as Bashir Hamed, a Syrian refugee doctor turned shawarma-shop worker turned doctor again.
Were you into medical shows growing up?
Not at all. I’d never watched a medical drama before Transplant. As a brown guy, you’re expected to be a doctor. The last thing I want to do is watch shows about something I wasn’t good enough to do in real life.
You emigrated from Saudi Arabia to Canada when you were nine years old. Was your interest in acting already brewing before you came to Canada?
Sort of. I grew up watching movies, and I’m the youngest of four kids and one of 22 cousins. I was the comic relief, the entertainment, either by choice or by luck of the draw. I leaned into that, and everything became a performance: dancing at weddings, doing skits for school. The next logical step was drama class and school plays.
What were some of your favourite movies?
Back in Saudi, it was just Bollywood and Disney. There’s this movie called King Uncle, which is essentially a Bollywood remake of Annie.
Were there any actors you wanted to emulate?
All of them. It’s exactly like that line Benedict Cumberbatch delivers in Doctor Strange: I’m just constantly stealing from other people and passing it off as my own. And you can’t be a brown actor and not want to be like Riz Ahmed at least a little bit.
What’s something you miss from growing up in Saudi Arabia?
We lived 45 minutes from Mecca, and we used to go there every other week to offer prayers. I miss that atmosphere and ritual. And the food! There was this one fried chicken place called Al-Baik that we went to every week. Anybody who’s been to the Middle East knows what I’m talking about.
Does playing a doctor make you think you can handle medical emergencies?
I lie to myself and say I can. I was recently on a flight where they asked any doctors on board to come forward. There are procedures we repeat so much on the show that I actually thought about it. The arrogance!
How do you practise stitching?
They gave me this palette of fake skin that the prosthetics guys use. I’m just going to give a shout-out to Bruno Gatien and our prosthetics department, who have been nominated for Canadian Screen Awards for best makeup on the show every year.
There’s a lot of sexual tension between your character, Bashir, and the female lead, Dr. Magalie Leblanc, played by Laurence Leboeuf. Does the fact that they’re in emergency situations make the will-they-or-won’t-they storyline sexier?
Of course, when the stakes are that high and you have other people’s lives in your hands, those moments land. You see two people who have never given themselves the time to take care of their own lives and are just so focused on others, oftentimes to their own detriment.
What was it like to act in a medical drama during a pandemic?
It made me realize how much we owe health care workers. There are high expectations of medical workers, and an entitlement from patients that health care is a product. It’s not; it’s a practice that’s imperfect and evolving. People were overworked and afraid for their families. I would have hated to be in that scenario, trying my best to contain an absolutely unknown situation and then being blamed by the masses for it spreading.
Is there something that you’d like to try other than acting?
I feel like I’m going into director territory. They let me operate the camera the other day. It was a relatively stationary scene that I wasn’t in. It was, like, the third take, and we already had one in the can. I sat on the dolly and the camera was on the slider. I’ve been asking to direct an episode of Transplant since season one, and I’ve been told they know I’m interested.
Any dream roles, blue sky stuff?
I want to play Hannibal King in the Blade franchise, opposite Mahershala Ali. I don’t know if I’ve got a Disney prince in me, but if DC ever made a gritty remake of Aladdin, that would be fun.
From Jafar’s perspective?
No, from Aladdin’s perspective. Just because he’s the protagonist doesn’t mean he’s clean cut. How did he end up on the street? The name of the movie would be Riff Raff Street Rat, and Jasmine would be the daughter of an Elon Musk type who runs Sultan Corp. Also, in Robert Pattinson’s new Batman world, they haven’t introduced Victor Zsasz yet, and I think I would be perfect as a knife-wielding serial killer.
Using a knife in a different way.
Hey, there you go! I’d be great.
Hair and makeup by Mayillah Ezekiel