Tag Archives: Hamza Haq

Transplant: Creator Joseph Kay teases Season 2

To say Season 1 of Transplant was a success would be an understatement. Critics and viewers lauded the CTV medical drama with high ratings and Canadian Screen Award nominations and wins. The love extended to the U.S., where Transplant aired on NBC and around the world in the UK, Spain, Australia and the Netherlands.

Now Transplant is back and, judging by the season premiere—kicking off Monday at 10 p.m. ET/PT on CTV—that success will grow even more.

We spoke to Joseph Kay, Transplant‘s creator—showrunner, executive producer and writer—about what’s next for Bash (Hamza Haq), Jed (John Hannah), Mags (Laurence Leboeuf), June (Ayisha Issa), Theo (Jim Watson) and recurring characters Dr. Mark Novak (Gord Rand) and Rania (Nora Guerch).

What was it like to see the love that the show was getting as the first season rolled out across North America?
Joseph Kay: I was and am really, really proud that people responded to the work. Really thrilled by that. There’s a team of people who work unbelievably hard to make the show on every level, and we care a lot about what we do and put all of ourselves into it. You work hard and sometimes audiences respond and sometimes they don’t, but you work hard either way. So to see people like it, to see audiences respond to it is just very humbling and exciting and thrilling. I always did feel that there was something at the core of the show that would connect with audiences. It tells someone’s individual experience that people are interested in, but it also has some resonance and accessible themes.

We always did our best to deliver them in a warm, engaging, fast-paced, page-turney sort of way. We are excited for people to see the work we’ve been doing the last year as well.

I immediately fell in love with the characters and cared about what happened to them. And that continues in Season 2 with the first episode, “Guardrail.” What is it that makes a show succeed in this connection with an audience like Transplant does?
JK: I wish I could articulate the answer to that well. I totally hear where you’re coming from, and as an avid viewer of things, sometimes you just connect and sometimes you don’t. I think on the level of Transplant, I’d say two things. One, I would first say that, man, we do have such a great ensemble, starting with Hamza, to Laurence, John, Jim, and then even expanding from there, our actors are very, very good. And I think that they deal with the emotion in a really real accessible, funny way. They’re just warm people that you want to spend time with and they convey that. So I think that’s a very huge part of it.

And in terms of the storytelling, one thing I’m proud of about the show is that we’re telling a very specific story for Bash that I think audiences are interested in, but I feel like we’re also trying to tell this kind of thematic story for everyone. Our stories are always about moving forward or starting over or reconciling old versions of ourselves with new versions of ourselves. We locate a theme and variations on the theme that allow audiences to connect with the show. And that that’s why audiences are interested in following those characters on their journeys. And finally, Transplant is a medical procedural, yes, but it’s very much about the main characters. Some of these shows have a balance that skews towards the guest stars, the patients, whereas our show is really, really firmly grounded in the doctors and the main characters. So we try really hard to get you engaged on that level as well.

Was there anything that you changed between seasons? Anything you felt needed tweaking?
JK: We did some tweaking. From a narrative perspective, we feel like we’re going through stages of Bash’s journey, so we’re digging into a different side of it now. He’s kind of grasping onto job security and we get to open up deeper and wider emotional stories to tell, and that changes things, I’d say, just in terms of how we address the storytelling overall. From my perspective as a writer and producer and of all people who make the show, the directors, the editors, the people on set, we’ve gotten better at all sides of it, so it allows us some more freedom.

When we last left the group, Jed had collapsed from a stroke. Did you always know that would be the Season 1 cliffhanger?
JK: In the first season I actually had intended to kill John’s character in the finale. I had always been really fascinated by the death of the mentor part of a hero’s journey. And that’s what we started off kind of thinking that Bash would’ve saved him in the pilot and there’d be lingering effects from what had happened that just kind of come out of nowhere and kill him and then Bash would’ve had to move forward without him. By around Episode 4 of production in Season 1 we realized, ‘We can’t do that.’ He’s too good. He makes everything around him better, as an actor, as a human being, as a person to collaborate with. He’s just a wonderful presence and performer.

In Monday’s episode, we are introduced to Dr. Mark Novak, who shakes up the department. I love Gord Rand and was thrilled to see him play this character.
JK: I like to think of [Mark] as a little bit puckish, because he’s an agent of chaos and that’s a really fun thing to write, too, and Gord really delivered.

A question about your writer’s room. Adam Barken, Stephanie Morgenstern, Mark Ellis, Rachel Langer, Julie Puckrin … what a who’s who of a writer’s room. What was it like working with these folks in the writer’s room for Season 2?
JK: We’ve been blessed on that level across the board. Everybody was really excited to come onto the show when the writing started for Season 2. And yeah, you absolutely nailed it, it’s kind of an all-star list of writers that you just rattled off. They’re all incredible. One thing that I think is great with Transplant is because there’s freedom in the narrative when it comes to the kinds of stories we tell it encourages great writers like that to come with stories they are really passionate about, they would love to tell that maybe it would be harder to tell in other kinds of places. And I always am like, ‘Yeah, let’s find a way to tell that story.’ I feel like it excites the writers, so we have this season all throughout, all of those people brought selflessly pieces of themselves to share and pour into the show. And I’m really proud of the results that are great. We’re lucky to have them.

“Guardrail” really kicks off Season 2 with incredible visuals.
JK: I want to shout out to Stefan Pleszczynski, our lead director and one of the EPs this year who is a huge part of just maintaining the aesthetic consistency of the show. Beyond Stef, the whole production team is really committed to that. Our director of photography, Pierre Gill, is an unbelievably talented guy, and we sort of across the board take that really, really seriously. Directors who come to the show all want to knock it out of the park on a visual level. There’s a way that the show’s written that encourages long takes or exciting movement, and the directors all really like to play and make the production value really sing.

What types of stories are on the way in Season 2?
There are stories coming up where we deal with different issues, medical issues, cultural issues. And in all of those cases, we just take the research and authenticity and truthfulness component extremely hard, because I think that something that’s inherent to the tone of the show across the board is it tries to be grounded. It tries to be human. It tries to be emotionally honest. So we always like to do that work and we challenge ourselves to do that work and be challenged all the way from idea to beyond editing, and editing is still doing that work.

You ended the first season with a cliffhanger. Is that the same with Season 2? Have you set that bar? Is there a cliffhanger at the end?
JK: There is a cliffhanger at the end of Season 2. There are multiple cliffhangers.

Transplant airs Mondays at 10 p.m. ET/PT on CTV.

Images courtesy of Bell Media.

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Award-winning CTV original drama Transplant returns for Season 2 January 3

From a media release:

Following a successful first season that garnered worldwide acclaim, and four Canadian Screen Award wins including Best Drama Series, CTV Original drama TRANSPLANT returns for its second season Mondays at 10 p.m. ET/PT beginning Jan. 3 on CTV, CTV.ca, and the CTV app. Season 2 of TRANSPLANT is produced by Sphere Media in association with CTV and Universal International Studios, a division of Universal Studio Group, and the translated French version, TRANSPLANTÉ, joins Noovo’s lineup in 2022.

Filmed in Montréal, Season 2 of TRANSPLANT consists of 13 one-hour episodes and is anchored by Hamza Haq (My Salinger Year) as Dr. Bashir Hamed – known to most as Bash – a talented doctor and Syrian refugee who fled to Canada and was granted a second chance to practice Emergency Medicine at York Memorial Hospital in Toronto. In advance of the Season 2 premiere, viewers can catch-up on Season 1 on CTV.ca and the CTV app.

Season 2 of TRANSPLANT picks up almost immediately where Season 1 left off, with Bash (Haq) and his fellow residents reeling after their Chief of Emergency Medicine, Dr. Jed Bishop (John Hannah, MARVEL’S AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D.), suffered a stroke. With everything at the hospital destabilized, the place Bash was starting to consider home suddenly feels precarious. As the team adjusts to new colleagues while dealing with the challenges of life, unexpected faces from the past leave Bash questioning what his ‘transplant’ into this new world really means. Bash’s hard work, compassion, and hopefulness tell a universal story about the human ability to not only survive, but ultimately thrive, when our lives suddenly change course.

Joining Season 2 in recurring roles are Gord Rand (CHAPELWAITE, ORPHAN BLACK) as Dr. Mark Novak, and Nora Guerch (TOM CLANCY’S JACK RYAN, Zoe) as a woman from Bash’s past who was reunited with him at the end of Season 1. Also appearing in Season 2 is TRANSPLANT cultural consultant and internationally produced playwright and actor Ahmad Meree, who plays a character with a gripping, defining role in Bash’s past.

Returning cast starring alongside Haq are Laurence Leboeuf (19-2) as Dr. Magalie “Mags” Leblanc; Hannah as Dr. Jed Bishop; Ayisha Issa (Polar) as Dr. June Curtis; and Jim Watson (DESIGNATED SURVIVOR) as Dr. Theo Hunter. Also back for Season 2 are Sirena Gulamgaus (ORPHAN BLACK) as Amira Hamed; Torri Higginson (DARK MATTER, THIS LIFE) as Claire Malone; Linda Smith (19-2) as Dr. Wendy Atwater; Kenny Wong (PRETTY HARD CASES) as Arnold De Luca; and Sugith Varughese (KIM’S CONVENIENCE) as Dr. Aajay Singh.

Resonating with audiences across the country, TRANSPLANT was the biggest new Canadian drama since 2015, becoming the most-watched Canadian series among total viewers, with an average audience of 1.4 million during the 2019-20 broadcast season. Following the success of the first season in Canada, the series has been embraced by U.S. viewers on NBC and across multiple territories including the UK, Australia, Spain, Germany, and the Netherlands. The critically acclaimed series also garnered six Canadian Screen Award nominations and four wins, including the coveted Best Drama Series, and Best Lead Actor, Drama Series for Hamza Haq.

On the Season 2 premiere of TRANSPLANT, titled “Guardrail” (Monday, Jan. 3 at 10 p.m. ET/PT on CTV, CTV.ca, and the CTV app), a bus full of kids crashes and sends the team racing. Bash’s (Haq) life is upended when he is reunited with a woman from his past. With Dr. Bishop (Hannah) still unconscious after his stroke, Mags (Leboeuf) struggles to find support in her mentor’s absence. Theo (Watson) faces repercussions from his family after taking a full-time job away from home, and June (Issa) has an important career decision to make. An encore of the Season 2 premiere airs Thursday, Jan. 6 at 10 p.m. ET/PT on CTV.

Writers on Season 2 of TRANSPLANT include Joseph Kay, who is also Executive Producer and Showrunner, Adam Barken (EP), Stephanie Morgenstern (EP), Mark Ellis (EP), Rachel Langer (Co-EP), Julie Puckrin (Co-EP), Tamara Moulin, Anusree Roy, Sami Khan, and Carmine Pierre Dufour. Directors are Stefan Pleszczynski, who also serves as Executive Producer, Daniel Grou (PODZ), Chloé Robichaud, Bosedé Williams, and Kim Nguyen.

Cultural consultants on Season 2 of TRANSPLANT, providing valuable insight and feedback on scripts and character development, include Dr. Khaled Almilaji, Ahmad Meree, Manar Chabouk, Dr. Yusra Ahmad, Muzna Dureid, and Eli Shankji.

All distribution rights for TRANSPLANT are handled by NBCUniversal Global Distribution, with the series airing on NBC in the U.S. The series is produced with the participation of the Canada Media Fund, provincial and federal tax credits, SODEC, the Bell Fund, and the IPF’s Cogeco Television Production Fund.

TRANSPLANT is created by Joseph Kay who also serves as Executive Producer and Showrunner. For Sphere Media, Executive Producers are Bruno Dubé, Jocelyn Deschênes, Virginia Rankin, Josée Vallée, and Tara Woodbury.

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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.Facebooktwitterredditlinkedinmail

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.Facebooktwitterredditlinkedinmail

Exclusive photo gallery: First-look photos at CTV’s Transplant

Clearly, we here at TV, Eh? were good boys and girls last year because Bell Media has given us one heck of a cool belated Christmas gift: an exclusive first-look at CTV’s newest original series, Transplant.

As previously announced, Transplant stars Hamza Haq, John Hannah, Laurence Laboeuf, Jim Watson and Ayisha Issa.

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Here is the official synopsis for Transplant direct from Bell Media:

Dr. Bashir “Bash” Hamed (Hamza Haq), a Syrian doctor with battle-tested skills in emergency medicine, makes the difficult decision to flee his country with his younger sister Amira. With the hope of returning to his career in medicine, together Bash and Amira strive to build a new life in Canada while managing the struggles that come with a new country. With life experiences and a medical background unlike his Canadian counterparts, Bash works to navigate a new environment and forge new relationships after earning a coveted residency in the Emergency Department of one of the best hospitals in Toronto, York Memorial.

Transplant debuts this spring on CTV.

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