Universal TV has launched Transplant, a gripping medical drama featuring Scottish actor, JOHN HANNAH. He talks about his role in the show.

Scottish actor John Hannah is delighted to be part of Transplant, the breakout medical hit of 2020, which premiered on Universal TV in Africa on 30 November.

Hannah admits he was immediately drawn by the Transplant script and told Brieftake.com: “I thought it was really interesting for the time and it was exciting 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. Transplant is a very positive story and I think that we’re in a time in which we really need to focus on that.”

The 13-part series revolves around an ER doctor, who has “transplanted” himself from war-torn Syria to come to Canada, and who must overcome numerous obstacles to resume a career in the high stakes world of emergency medicine.

Bashir “Bash” Hamed, played by Hamza Haq, fled Syria with his young sister during that country’s civil war and arrived in Canada as a refugee. His application to work as a doctor in a Canadian hospital has been rejected.

The series premiere starts with the restaurant where Bash is working being hit by a truck, and Bash jumping into action to save the lives of the patrons and workers. Hannah plays the complex Dr Jed Bishop, Bash’s no-nonsense boss and chief of emergency medicine at a top Toronto hospital. The Transplant cast includes Laurence Leboeuf, Ayisha Issa and Jim Watson.

A modern immigrant story

The series – a modern immigrant story wrapped in a medical procedural – became the most-watched new Canadian series of the year when it premiered there, and soon won the hearts of viewers, with John Anderson of The Wall Street Journal naming it “the best medical show airing on American television”.

Hannah has an impressive acting resume which includes everything from his break-out role in the hit film Four Weddings and A Funeral to The Mummy trilogy. He’s also been in Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D and appeared as Rebus in the TV adaptation of Ian Rankin detective novels.

“I thought Transplant was incredibly different as a piece, partly because of what Hamza bring to the role, and also because of the journey of this refugee who’s here, who has trained for something and yet he’s not allowed to work in his field, at least not initially,” Hannah told Bellemedia. “I do think they’ve found a great lead character who takes us on a journey, where we meet other interesting characters who are so diverse, even in terms of age.”

Hannah praised the show, on ontvtoday.com, for its authenticity, the way it doesn’t cushion the politics or simply check off the boxes: “I always believed Transplant would be successful when it was broadcast but you just don’t know. Especially with the year we’ve had, you don’t know what impact real events may have on how people are watching TV. But I’m really proud of the work and delighted how well it has now been received.”

He admits that he’s delighted that the series has been renewed for a second season: “I was only supposed to do one season, but during that, they asked if I would want to come back and do a second one. I said yes immediately. Now that I’m getting older myself, I’m dealing with some of the same issues as the character I play in the show, like the impact that career choices can have on your life.”

The Scottish actor’s co-star Hamza Haq revealed recently that he and Transplant cast members were starstruck when first meeting Hannah and would randomly yell out lines from The Mummy.

“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 (being in The Mummy) at him. I was like, ‘I’ve seen that movie more than 100 times. It’s my favourite film,’ and stuff like that,” he says.

Haq – who was born to Pakistani parents in Saudi Arabia and moved with his family to Canada when he was 9 – wasn’t originally slated to play the lead role in the buzzworthy medical drama and was initially hired as a consultant.

He had worked with Transplant creator Joseph Kay before as an actor in Kay’s previous series, This Life and was asked by Kay to contribute his experiences as an immigrant and Muslim in Canada but, six months later, was delighted to audition for the role.

He told thedailypodium.com: “I’m grateful that an American (and global) audience will see a show from a perspective they may not have understood or seen before,” he says. “From what I see (in Canada), you’ve got plenty of families in the US in this situation and quite a lot of negative emotions … slanted toward people of colour, Muslims specifically. One thing I’m certain of, positive or negative, it’s certainly going to elicit some kind of emotion, from a lot of people.”

Transplant is finalising plans to film its second season on a Montreal soundstage.

What: Transplant series
When: Mondays at 8pm
Where: CAT on Universal TV – DStv channel 117