The Omicron variant has reached a point where Ontario hospitals are at orange alert. There just aren’t enough beds or doctors or nurses to treat an escalating number of patients.

It goes without saying that this very real health crisis is much more important than the production of any one TV show. The COVID pandemic, however, is impacting the film and television community.

Even hospital shows are at risk. Take Transplant, for example. Lead actor Hamza Haq is this weeks guest on the podcast.

The 31-year-old actor says it took eight months to shoot the 13-episode second season of the CTV’s Monday night medical drama. With production based on an expansive and very realistic energency ward hospital set in Montreal, Haq and his co-stars saw eight-day schedules stretch out to at least 13 days per episode.

Watching this Monday’s season premiere it is a wonder they are able to shoot the series at all. It begins with a terrible bus accident that sends multiple passengers with serious injuries to the hospital. Ambulances arrive with paramedics carrying children and adults into the hospital on stretchers. Attendants are reaching across chests, ripping open clothes, and shouting “clear” as they insert needles and tubes and apply paddles.

Gord Rand (Orphan Black) joins the cast in season 2 as the new hard-ass in charge

Despite all that close contact, Haq says the series was shot under the strictest of safety protocols. Actors could only unmask for 20 minutes at a time and had to maintain a distance of six feet. There were crew members with long sticks assigned to make sure everybody kept their distance.


Miraculously, during the eight month shoot, there was not one COVID case among the cast or crew. The second season, however, did have the good fortune to have been in production during a downturn in the COVID curve, in advance of the current highly contageous Omicron variant.

In a relaxed, candid and revealing conversation, Haq talks about coping with it all in his first opportunity as No. 1 on the call sheet. Right before COVID struck in February of 2020, the series opened big and maintained an audience of around 1.4 million in Canada. Haq was singled out with a Best Actor nod at the Canadian Screen Awards. The series was picked up and did well stateside on NBC. Press tours and red carpet events were scheduled,

The party was put on hold however as everything devolved into an endless string of zoom calls.

Haq wonders out loud if he might have become big-headed about this sudden rush of fame had COVID not slapped some realities home for him.

Haq (left) with Transplant co-star Laurence Leboeuf

“I feel like I literally would have let all of that go to my head,” says Haq. If it had been business as usual, “I would have come back at it as ‘Hamza Haq, superstar, Season Two, Transplant,’ as opposed to just like, yeah man, doing my job…” The off year in-between, he says, drove home a message: “Stay humble. Anything can happen to anyone, anytime.”

Haq shares much more on the episode, including his lifelong love of television. What does he start watching as a nine-year-old after his family moves from Saudi Arabia to Ottawa? WWE wrestling! We talk a little about that, but it could have been a lot. Next time!

Hear about the show he is binging now, the American sitcoms he watched growing up in Saudi Arabia, and the things he’s learning now from a fine cast of fellow actors including seasoned pro John Hannah.

Click here or on the blue and white arrow above to link directly to the episode.

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