Everything about Transplant, eh?

Link: Transplant writer Rachel Langer on the sacrifices required to deliver a script

From Bridget Liszewski of The TV Junkies:

Link: Transplant writer Rachel Langer on the sacrifices required to deliver a script
“I started on Transplant three months after undergoing a total hysterectomy removing my uterus, ovaries and fallopian tubes. I was definitely still recovering, and Derek and I talked a lot about what that was going to look like during the job, but ultimately I LOVE working.” Continue reading.

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Executive producer Virginia Rankin breaks down Transplant’s origin story

Virginia Rankin has executive-produced some of the most compelling series in Canadian television. From 19-2 to Bad Blood and This Life she, and the folks at Sphère Média Plus, have brought unique characters and compelling stories to primetime TV.

The latest is Transplant. Airing Wednesdays at 9 p.m. ET/PT on CTV, Rankin’s newest project debuted to strong ratings in Canada. Starring Hamza Haq as Dr. Bashir “Bash” Hamed—a Syrian doctor with battle-tested skills in emergency medicine—it appears she’s got another success on her hands.

We spoke to Virginia Rankin about how Transplant was created, and how the TV market has changed for a company like Sphère Média Plus.

Take me back to the beginning. How did Transplant come about?
Virginia Rankin: I work very closely with Tara Woodbury, who’s our head of development, and Tara really wanted to do something around immigration and refugees. Her family, her extended family, sponsors a Sudanese refugee, so she has firsthand experience with it and so she wanted to do something around that. And my experience, in 20 years of television, is that it’s incredibly hard to tell those stories because mainstream networks are like, ‘Ah, it sounds like an issue. We don’t do issues.’ So, I sort of a little hesitant, but she was really passionate about it. And at first, we were bouncing around ideas like rom-coms and comedies and this kind of thing.

At the same time, we knew that [CTV] was looking for a medical show to replace Saving Hope. And we also knew that we wanted to work with Joseph Kay. I had had a great experience working with him on This Life. We sort of cornered him. We all kind of sat around and threw ideas around and then one night, in the middle of the night, they kind of all came together and the title Transplant came to me and that was some debate about whether it should be The Transplant, by the way, or Transplant. But for me, it was just Transplant and I saw the poster and on the poster was Hamza Haq.

We knew from working with him what a great guy he was and that he’s the full hero package. He’s charismatic, he’s handsome as anything, he’s got the acting chops and he’s a wonderful human being. My job was done and then it was over to Joe and Joe just took those simple elements and he went away and he did a lot of deep diving, a lot of research and he came back and he pitched us this beautiful story of Bash and his sister Amira as Syrian refugees and their new lives in Canada.

It was really all created by Joseph.

Just to clarify, Hamza was not attached. We didn’t say it has to be this guy and we hadn’t attached him in any way. We actually went through a full audition process before we attached him, but he did come on as a consultant. So he read the draft and gave Joe his thoughts.

He actually had to audition and we did audition a number of Syrian actors. We looked quite extensively at Arab actors. And when it came down to it, he was still the guy who we really thought could bring an audience to the show.

What is it about Joseph Kay that ticks the boxes when it comes to a showrunner?
VR: It’s how seriously he takes his job. It’s the research that he does. He has to really know his characters in a deep way. And he does that. He does that work. He’s a wonderful collaborator. I’ve worked on two shows with him now and I just love the creative conversation with him and how he listens and he thinks and he takes everything on board. And then he comes out with beautiful work. So, I can’t say enough good things about working with him.

As you said, Hamza is fantastic. You can’t help but cheer for this guy.
VR: He’s a leading man. He’s Omar Sharif and you don’t see that that often either. And frankly, I think we’re incredibly lucky that we kind of discovered him when we did. I mean, he already had it long CV, but certainly, this is his first major, major leading role. And I feel like a year or two from now we wouldn’t have been able to get him. So, I feel like he’s going to break out. But luckily for us, he loves the show. He’s really, really, really passionate about it and he works so hard and put so much of his heart and soul into it.

When you see NBCUniversal International Studios attached to this, I can’t help but think about the way that the market has changed and how it’s become truly international. As a producer, has there been a seismic shift in the way that you go about making television shows here in this country and how you shop them around?
VR: It’s interesting. It is quite different working with NBC than it has been working with the other international distributors we’ve worked with in the past. NBC sees itself as a studio. We don’t have a studio system in Canada. In Canada, we, the production company, sees ourselves as a studio because we own the copyright and the cashflow and we do all that stuff. But NBC does see themselves more like a studio. Their participation is on a level that they’ve earned that. And so they are much more actively involved than the experience I’ve had with other international distributors, which is great because you do want your show to sell around the world and they obviously know how to do that. So, we really appreciate their perspective and we really hope that the show does succeed in significant markets around the world.

What can you say about Bash’s journey through the first season of the show?
VR: The journey of Bash is, to a certain extent, to allow himself to release some of his secrets because some of his secrets are kind of killing him. He’s carrying guilt and trauma as any refugee will have, any survivor will have. And he’s sharing those things and he perhaps needs to share them more for his own sake, for his own survival. So that is his character journey, which is to learn to let some of those secrets go.

The first episode ends with Bash sitting down with Jed Bishop and Jed saying, ‘Let’s have that job interview over again.’ Is this going to be a mentor-mentee type of relationship, a father-son relationship between these two?
VR: Yes, yes, absolutely. There’s the father-son dynamic there and like any father-son or parental relationship, it’s not always nice. It’s not always pretty. So on both sides, there’s rebellion from the son figure and there are disappointments from the father figure, it’s all of those variations of the father-son relationship.

Transplant airs Wednesdays at 9 p.m. ET/PT on CTV.

Images courtesy of Bell Media.

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Links: Transplant, Season 1

From The Suburban:

Link: Laurence Leboeuf from CTV’s Transplant talks about new medical drama premiering February 26th
“She knows everything, talks fast, she’s by-the-book, and she’s someone who cares a lot… maybe too much. She puts everything into her work, which is one of her faults: she puts too much emotion into it.” Continue reading.

From Melissa Hank of Postmedia:

Link: Transplant star Hamza Haq celebrates 20 years in Canada as new show debuts
I think the goal of the show was to go for the feeling of what it’s really like to be a refugee, not a sensationalization. Some of these stories are taken directly from our consultants, many of who are Syrian refugees. But it’s safe to say that Transplant tells the story of one specific refugee. This is Bash’s story.” Continue reading.

From Aparita Bhandari of The Globe and Mail:

Link: Canadian actor Hamza Haq, star of CTV’s Transplant, on his immigrant parents, studying neuroscience and playing a doctor on TV
From an extra who blends into the background to the lead character in the new CTV medical drama Transplant, Hamza Haq has slowly and steadily worked his way up in an industry known for its fickleness. Continue reading.

From John Doyle of The Globe and Mail:

Link: Transplant is a medical drama with its own energy and voice
Transplant is far more ambitious and on the evidence of early episodes sometimes reaches what it aims for. Continue reading.

From Bridget Liszewski of The TV Junkies:

Link: Transplant stars on why the new medical drama feels so real
“So much of this is just a personal show. Every director that came in gave us their all. Every actor gave it their all. It’s such a phenomenal cast.” Continue reading. 

From Bill Brioux of Brioux.tv:

Link: Haq and Higgins breathe life into CTV’s terrific Transplant
The character lifts this show beyond the usual miracle-of-the-week medical rut and into a dialogue on the changing face of Canadian society. This is a series as much about refugees and immigration as it is about universal health care and waiting rooms. Continue reading.

From Charles Trapunski of Brief Take:

Link: Interview: Transplant’s John Hannah
“I thought it was really interesting for the time and it was interesting that it was the Canadians that were ahead of the curve on dealing with immigration in a positive story arc, rather than necessarily seeing it as something unfortunately in which a lot of the world has lurched a bit further to the right, it was a very positive story and I think that we’re in a time in which we really need to focus on that.” Continue reading.

From Bridget Liszewski of The TV Junkies:

Link: Transplant stars on the gift of second chances
“A lot of times, in these stories of displacement, people spend a lot of time readjusting and acclimate to a life they aren’t used to.” Continue reading.

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Joseph Kay returns to TV with a new family in CTV’s Transplant

A part of me will always miss This Life. Created by Michael MacLennan—from an adaptation of Radio Canada’s Nouvelle Adresse—and taken over by Joseph Kay when MacLennan departed for Los Angeles to co-executive-produce The Fosters, the story of a single mother raising her two daughters while battling cancer was cancelled far too soon. I feel like Kay was just getting the story going before it came to an end.

Thankfully, Kay is back with a brand-new primetime family, albeit with a different style of story. Debuting Wednesday at 9 p.m. ET/PT on CTV, Transplant follows Dr. Bashir “Bash” Hamed (Hamza Haq, The Indian Detective), a Syrian doctor with battle-tested skills in emergency medicine, makes the difficult decision to flee his country with his younger sister Amira (Sirena Gulamgaus, Orphan Black).

With the hope of returning to his career in medicine, Bash and Amira build a new life in Canada while managing the struggles that come with a new country. Bash works in a new environment after earning a residency in the Emergency Department at Toronto’sfictional York Memorial.

Alongside Bash at the hospital are Dr. Jed Bishop (John Hannah), Dr. Mags Lablanc (Laurence Laboeuf, 19-2), Dr. Theo Hunter (Jim Watson, Mary Kills People), Dr. June Curtis (Ayisha Issa, Dark Matter) and head nurse Claire Malone (Torri Higginson, This Life).

We spoke to Joseph Kay about his road to Transplant, the learning curve of writing a medical drama and Hamza Haq’s superstar potential.

How did Transplant come about? What was the origin story?
Joseph Kay: I started developing it way back in 2016 right as This Life was ending actually. At the time I had been reading a lot about really skilled professionals from different parts of the world who come here and then can’t qualify and can’t do their jobs. It occurred to me that that could be a novel take on the genre. I was always a fan of the medical genre. And when I started thinking about it on those terms also in 2016, Syria and the conflict was in the news a lot. It still is, but it was in it quite a bit then. And there were a lot of refugees and newcomers and immigrants coming to Toronto specifically.

Two sort of jumped into my mind together, the idea of building a show around a refugee coming from Syria who was amazingly skilled at something and then wasn’t able to do the thing that he could do. I started researching pretty heavily both sides of that, particularly the Syrian side and immediately got connected and found a lot of different Syrians who were here and different kinds of immigrants and newcomers to get people’s lived perspectives and trying to figure out whether I could write that and sort of went from there.

Was the name of the show always Transplant, or was it something else?
JK: It was always Transplant. It’s just a very evocative, I love single word titles.

Let’s talk a little bit about some of the other research you had to do. Was that a bit of a slog for you or do you like doing that kind of research into medical terminology or do you pay somebody to do that for you?
JK: Both. I love it, Greg. I actually love it. I found, very early on, a doctor who is a trauma team leader at St Mike’s hospital in Toronto. So, by the time the show was up and running, we had a lot of consultants. But in the early days, I was very fortunate to come across a guy who was willing to give a lot of his time to just take me through everything and read the scripts and help me with the dialogue and all the medical-ese.

Hamza is great as Bash, a very expressive face. I’m cheering for him and fell in love with him. Was Hamza, when he walked in the room or when he supplied his casting tape, was he the guy right from the get-go?
JK: Definitely. Hamza and I knew each other because of the second season of This Life. He was sort of a foreign student in his little arc and he was nominated for a CSA for his role. And at the time Hamza and I talked a lot. Hamza’s an immigrant and part of his background formed the character he was playing on This Life. We get along well creatively. So as soon as I started thinking about this show, Hamza was the guy I started thinking about very, very, very early on in the process. Of course, we looked at every available actor all along because you always have to do that. But Hamza was very prominent in my mind and in the minds of the people at Sphere Media from the beginning. And then when he did finally start reading for it: he’s a star.

He’s charming, he’s got great energy, he is very expressive. And the character was always meant to be the kind of person who doesn’t say that much, so you want a specific actor who can pull that off. And I had written this thing about the character in one of the series documents, which is that Bash is the kind of guy who you tell all your secrets to and then you realize that you don’t know a single thing about him and you told him everything.

Can you tell me about some of the themes and storylines that you cover in the first season?
JK: When we started really digging into the creative we quickly realized that the storytelling lends itself to this idea of starting over. Starting over of second chances, so everything systematically would flow from that. I mean, it’s Bash’s opportunity to start over. And so in that way, the stories that we tell over the first season are, what are the challenges there both at work and the kinds of conflicts he’s going to find himself in at work? He’s the kind of person who is all instinct and a bit of a rule breaker. He acts before he thinks. So we’re trying to look at sort of the challenges he faced in an environment being an outsider combined with the sort of the nature of his personality.

And then also to see the other side of him. We’re fortunate in that we’re able to go home with him and see a little bit of his family life. And so we’re telling his story of starting over and we’re also at the same time wondering who this guy is and where he came from really and what happened to him and what he left behind. So as we encounter present-tense conflicts and challenges at work and in his personal life, we start to unpack what happened to him and what are the sort of major events of his life that have led him right now. We let those trickle out in ways that keep it interesting and mysterious.

Transplant airs Wednesdays at 9 p.m. ET/PT on CTV.

Images courtesy of Bell Media.

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Timely and emotionally charged new CTV original drama Transplant premieres Feb. 26

From a media release:

CTV announced today that new MADE®-in-Canada series TRANSPLANT is set to air Wednesdays at 9 p.m. ET/PT beginning Feb. 26 exclusively on CTV and everywhere CTV content can be found. The CTV Original drama comes from Sphère Média Plus, the producers behind Bell Media’s multiple award-winning and International Emmy-nominated drama series 19-2, in association with NBCUniversal International Studios. NBCUniversal is also handling global distribution.

TRANSPLANT is about Dr. Bashir “Bash” Hamed (Hamza Haq, THE INDIAN DETECTIVE), a Syrian doctor with battle-tested skills in emergency medicine who makes the difficult decision to flee his country with his younger sister Amira. Together they struggle to build a new life in Canada, as Bash strives to rebuild his career in medicine.

Shot in Montréal and set in Toronto, the first season of TRANSPLANT consists of 13 one-hour episodes and stars an ensemble cast anchored by Haq and also starring Laurence Leboeuf (19-2) as Dr. Magalie “Mags” Leblanc, an empathetic ER resident seeking perfection, along with John Hannah (MARVEL’S AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D., Four Weddings and a Funeral) as Dr. Jed Bishop, the hospital’s Chief of Emergency Medicine.

TRANSPLANT also features Jim Watson (MARY KILLS PEOPLE) as Dr. Theo Hunter, a pediatric fellow in the emergency department; Ayisha Issa (Polar, Immortals) as Dr. June Curtis, an ambitious surgical resident; Sirena Gulamgaus (ORPHAN BLACK) as Bash’s sister Amira; Torri Higginson (DARK MATTER, THIS LIFE) as head ER nurse Claire Malone; Linda E. Smith (19-2) as Dr. Wendy Atwater; Grace Lynn Kung (THE INBETWEEN, FRANKIE DRAKE MYSTERIES) as social worker Vivian Barnes; and Sugith Varughese (KIM’S CONVENIENCE) as senior surgeon Dr. Aajay Singh.

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