Mido Hamada talks about 'Emerald City' and how he has to update his bucket list

For more than 16 years, Mido Hamada has graced the stage and both big and small screens. Since his three highest profile roles to date were in 24, Homeland and Clint Eastwood’s American Sniper, one may be wrong in thinking that he only portrays one type of character, but nothing is further from the truth.

Hamada is a global performer who speaks English, German, Arabic and even a little Spanish was educated at Oxford School of Drama and made his bones in the theater.

He also starred in British television film Hannibal: Rome's Worst Nightmare, Fox series Terra Nova and film Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow to name just a few of his many roles.

The charming Mido Hamada spoke with TheCelebrityCafe.com about his new role as Eamonn on NBC hit Emerald City, his other creative projects, how he prepares for roles, performers he loves, how he avoids being stereotyped and more.

TheCelebrityCafe.com:  Thank you so much for chatting with us.

Mido Hamada:  Fabulous.

TCC:  So, I'm sure you get asked this a lot, but your name sounds Japanese, but you are not?

MH:  I do.

TCC:  Does your name mean something?

MH:  Well it's very funny, because it's both Japanese and Arabic, and it goes for both names. So both "Mido" and "Hamada" are both Arabic and Japanese names, so I'm sure there's some hidden meaning in terms of maybe a past life connection to ancient Japan. Who knows? I wouldn't be surprised, but yes I've turned up at the airport several times, and people thought that I was going to be Japanese, and then they saw me and were quite surprised.

TCC:  [laughter] I'll bet. Can you first tell me about your early life and education?

MH:  Yeah, I was born in Egypt and raised in Germany. My mother and I left Egypt when I was very young, and we moved to Germany. And then once in Germany, I started to go to an international school, which is where I learned English, and especially where I learned to speak English with American accent. And then later on, I then continued in the German schooling system and then quite in the middle of my studying sports science, I got injured and took an acting class in that time and just got hooked. And applied to go to a drama school in the UK. And went to the UK then shortly afterwards, and went to drama school, and was on to my acting career.

TCC:  Now, where do you live now?

MH:  I live in L.A.

TCC:  Okay, you do live in Los Angeles. Okay. Now, where did you go to drama school, please?

MH:  I went to the Oxford School of Drama.

TCC:  Oh, wow. And it seems like you've done some theater.

MH:  Yes. So when I first left the Oxford School of Drama, which is not affiliated with the Oxford University, by the way. It's its own thing. I moved to London because I got signed by my agent there. And so I moved to London and then I started doing plays. The first couple of plays I did were for The Royal Court. I did a play at The Royal Court called Spinning Into Butter. And then, later on, another play called At the Table. And then I was in an international production of Hamlet for a wonderful Japanese director called Yukio Ninagawa. Then I did another play in the West End called Guantanamo, which is about the detainees in Guantanamo, obviously. And I did numerous, numerous, numerous plays. And in the first five, six years of my career were spent on stage before, then started to slowly but surely get into the film industry. I'm on both TV and film.

TCC:  And do you have any plan to return to the theater some day?

MH:  I'm waiting for the right situation.  I love the theater. I had an amazing time being on stage. It's grueling. Eight shows a week is intense, but I loved it. I love the fact that it's live. I love the fact that the audience gives you an energy. And I love the nerves of the first night. I love the whole experience. And mostly I love the preparation. I love the rehearsal process. I think that, to me, is the most rewarding thing about acting is the process of rehearsal. The things that you use, the things that you throw away. Those are the things that I really, really, really miss about theater. That you have three, four, five weeks to rehearse and prepare to get a show up on its feet. So, yes, I would love to go back to theater, but it has to be under the right circumstances at the moment.

TCC:  As you were speaking of preparedness, how do you prepare for your roles?

MH:  How do I prepare for my roles? Well, that's actually different each time. I was trained in a classical British way, and I would say that that's something that's always in the back of your head. But for me, I don't like to have a set way of doing things. I read a script and hopefully, the script will tell me what I need to do. And I'm a firm believer that you only prepare as much as you need to prepare to convince yourself that you can be that person. The only person you have to convince is yourself. The audience member automatically assumes that you are that person. They don't go in there with a thought that you're not. So the only person you must convince is yourself. So I will do and prepare in whichever way I think is necessary to convince myself that I could be that person. That's different each time. Sometimes you need a lot of preparation, and sometimes you need very little, and you focus on different things. So I kind of like the process to be really organic and not set in stone, and this is what I need to do. So, that's kind of how I look at it and how I go about it.

TCC:  Now, you've been part of many hit shows like 24 and Homeland. What's it like joining the cast of an already popular, successful show?

MH:  Well, one of the things that's amazing is just it's a finely tuned and well-oiled machine in terms of cast and crew. Everybody knows when it's a 10-minute turnaround, it's a 10-minute turnaround. The crew is tight. The actors know who their characters are. So you come in to something that is already highly functioning, and so you have to match that level. And you have to find on what level everybody is, and you have to immediately go in there and match that. Whereas with something, when you start off altogether, it's different, because we're all finding it together. The cast and the crew is coming together on this, with the help of the director, and the producers, and the show runners, in trying to establish an identity. When you get on board something that already has an identity, it's you that has to fit into that identity. So it's a little bit different, but both are just as rewarding.

TCC:  Now, I believe you're multi-lingual. German, English, and Arabic, is that correct?

MH:  That's correct. And a little bit of Spanish, yes.

TCC:  Oh, great. Have you done anything for non-English-speaking films or projects? I know you've had roles where you speak a different language that are either English or American productions, but I was wondering if you've done any German or Arabic films?

MH:  Yeah. I have done two German movies, two German made-for-TV movies. So my entire acting was in the German language. And that's something I really like. I think being able to speak different languages, and being able to act in those languages is something that's really very rewarding. I consider myself to be in the storytelling business. I'm a storyteller, and as a story-teller, you see that each country, and therefore the language that it speaks has its very own way and very unique way of telling a story. And there's a lot to be learned from each country, and each language, and how they tell a story.

I can tell you I was in a production of Hamlet in England. I just mentioned that earlier. And then shortly after, I was in Germany watching a German production of Hamlet, which was completely different. It's the same text. It's the same story, but it's completely differently realized, and I love that, and I love the challenge of that, and I love the fact that we are different as people, but our humanity is the common thread through all of us, and I think you see that in the stories that we tell. And so for me, to study how each country and how each nation tells its stories is a very, very enriching and enlightening thing, so I love it.

Whenever I get a chance to work in a different language, or in a different accent, or anything like that, I'm game. I think it's a great challenge and something to be done.

TCC:  Who are some actors whom you admire?

MH:  Oh I think my first love was Yul Brynner. When I was growing up, he just stood out to me first of all because of his look. He was the only bald guy in a time when nobody was bald [laughter].

And he had a presence about him. He had an animalistic quality that I really liked. I then became a huge fan of Toshiro Mifune, who was one of Kurosawa's favorite actors until they fell out. But he was another actor I greatly admired. But the bulk of, I would say, my movie experience would be, of course, Al Pacino and Robert DeNiro, who I absolutely idolized when I was growing up, because their movies were the movies that I was watching, and they were telling the story of my youth, so to speak. And so, yeah, I admire those guys the most.

I admire different actors for different things. Every actor brings an amazing quality. It's hard not to fall in love with Jackie Chan when you see what he can do, and what he has been doing for well over 50 years almost. So there's many, many, many talented people out there, and I'm blessed to be in the same profession as them.

TCC:  It seems like you've been cast as a terrorist with some frequency. Does being cast in these roles bother you?

MH:  I think it bothers me more that people think that's that what I've done. I think I've been in the game for 16 years, and in those 16 years, I've played three roles that would fit that description. They only happen to be very large ones in terms of it being 24, Homeland, and American Sniper so yes, it does bother me if I'm being identified as such, because I spent the first part of my career saying no to a lot of things, because I didn't want to play those parts.

When you are in the image business, which we are - we tell pictures through stories. We tell stories through pictures, sorry - you have to be very much aware of what image you keep perpetuating. And if you lend your face to keep telling the same image, then that image becomes the reality for people, and I refused to do that in the beginning, and I spent the first ten years of my career at least never going anywhere near those parts. I think then when 24 came around, I changed my mind, because I saw an opportunity there to create something that was slightly different than what had already been seen by these type of parts. And with American Sniper, I have to be honest with you. The concept of working with Clint Eastwood outweighed the part [laughter]. You know? And so I played the part merely for the desire to be able to work with an icon and someone who I've admired from afar for a very long time.

So does it bother me? Yeah, if my career ends up being described that way, it would bother me, but I think I have a very varied career at this stage, and like I said 16, 17 years of doing it, there's only been three parts that fit that description. And I think I'm doing all right, stepping away from that stereotype. I think we live in the world that we live in, and things are going on that are going on, and we can't quite change that. And the art has to somehow try and reflect what's going on in the world, but we also have to be responsible in how we do that. I think that's a key component. How do we portray these characters? And is there someone within the story that balances that out? What I mean by that is, is there another character who looks Arabic or is of Arabic descent that is the opposing force or villain, so to speak. So that we're not just perpetuating the same image of an entire people over and over again. Because there's more than just that type. That's an extreme type. It's like saying all people that are Caucasian are members of the KKK. They're not, and we have to be smart about how we portray people. And hopefully, I think, the industry is getting more sensitive to that and understands its responsibility in vilifying a people, and I think, hopefully, we can be at the forefront of bringing unity rather than separation.

TCC:  Indeed, your art is a good way to go about it.

HM:  I think so I think so. I think that's what art is all about. Art is about highlighting what is wrong in our society and then maybe giving one or two solutions. It's about holding up a mirror to society. And we don't always have to like what we see, but we have to take it in.

TCC:  Please tell me about Emerald City for someone who's never seen it.

HM:  All right. Emerald City is a reimagining of The Wizard of Oz. It's based on L. Frank Baum's novel. L. Frank Baum wrote 14 novels, and it's a completely different take than the Judy Garland version that everyone so fondly remembers. One of the main differences we have here is that Dorothy, through a tornado, lands in Oz and finds herself in this magical, mystical land that has been taken over by the Wizard. And the Wizard has outlawed the use of magic in favor of science. And my job as Eamonn, as the captain of the Wizard's guards, is to enforce those laws that the Wizard hands down.

And Oz is different in a way that-- the image that everybody has in their head of Dorothy, and Scarecrow, and the Cowardly Lion, and Tin Man walking down the yellow brick road, well, in our show, everybody becomes those characters. You have to watch the season to find out who Tin Man is. I mean it's been revealed now at this stage, but we still don't know who The Lion is. We know who Scarecrow is, so everybody becomes their characters through the process of this journey that everyone goes on, and I think that's one of the major differences. It's modern in terms of the theme that it deals with. We have a character who could be called a transgender character. We have numerous things that deal with topics that are relevant today. I mean everyone is kind of searching for their identity. There are no heroes and villains in our story. I think we all are ambiguous when it comes to that. We do good things, and we do bad things just like people do. We just live in a magical world and do it in a magical realm, where we have witches and powers that other people don't.

EMERALD CITY -- "They Came First" Episode 107 -- Pictured: (l-r) Ana Ularu as West, Jordan Loughran as Tip, Vincent D'onofrio as Wizard, Mido Hamada as Eamonn -- (Photo by: David Lukacs/NBC)

TCC:  Where was it filmed?

MH:  We filmed it in several locations. We were very, very fortunate to work with the director, Tarsem , who is an amazing visual director, an incredible director, and someone that I would love to work with at a drop of a hat. He's absolutely incredible, and he decided that he wanted to direct episodes of the show. So what we did is we shot the show like a ten-hour movie. And through Tarsem's experience from all of his previous jobs he is very familiar with the most amazing and exciting locations that this planet has to offer. So we started off shooting in Barcelona, and then we shot in three, four, five different locations in Spain. And then we moved from Spain to Croatia and shot in a national forest there. And then we moved from Croatia to Hungary where our main base studio was, and then we shot in and around Budapest for the remainder of the show. And it was an incredible experience, because we tried to use as little CGI as possible and tried to use as much of natural locations as we could, so that was really, really exciting shooting in all of these beautiful, beautiful places.

TCC:  Now, is Emerald City a limited series, or could it possibly come back for another season?

MH:  Well that is up to the gods [laughter].

I think we would all love and hope for it to go again, but it kind of depends on what the network decides. There's certainly enough material. There's, like I said, 14 books, so we have enough source material to keep going. It's just a question if the network decides to, and if we get the numbers, and see what goes. We shall see. Time will tell. We would love to, that much I can say.

TCC:  Can you please tell me about your new project on Starz?

MH:  Yes. At the moment, I'm filming a new show on Starz called Counterpart, with the wonderful, wonderful JK Simmons in the lead. And it's an espionage kind of thriller. It's basically about the fact that our world was duplicated through an event about 30 years ago. And there's basically a sort of cold war going on between the two worlds. There's people going back and forth and with ulterior motives. And, yeah, it's kind of like a cold war between world one and world two. And we, each person, each character, has an exact counterpart in the other world, with the exact DNA, the same fingerprint, everything. And it's a very, very exciting show. And it's a wonderful cast, and we're shooting it both here in LA and in Berlin, Germany. And, yeah, it's fantastic. It's going to be a great show.

TCC:  Now, what do you like to do for fun?

MH:  What do I like to do for fun? That's a great question. Wow. Well, I like being physically active, so I like doing things outdoors. I like horseback riding. I like martial arts. I like climbing. Yes, things that are physical and things that are outside.

TCC:  Is there anything you haven't done yet that you want to do?

MH:  In terms of--?

TCC:  Life, in general. Adventures, going to Tahiti, anything along those lines.

MH:  Yeah, I did that. I did that this year. I went to Tahiti. I crossed that off my list. But it was on my list. It's very funny you said that. Yes, I did go to Tahiti. Well, not this year, but 2016. It was on my list of things to do and I've always wanted to go. And I did it, and it was everything I wanted it to be. So, yes, I crossed that one off my list. I've worked with elephants, I crossed that. I work with wolves. I go to this place called the Wolf Connection. It's a charity that works with wolves and disenfranchised youths, where they bring youths and wolves together and through the help of each other they rehabilitate each other. So I'm around all the animals that I liked being around. But I haven't swam with dolphins yet. That's a very kitschy and silly thing to do, but it's definitely on my list. It's definitely something I want to do. I've jumped out of airplanes. I've done that. I've done some crazy things, but I haven't quite experienced that one yet, and I definitely want to. Actually, no, I have swam with dolphins. I take that back, I did [laughter]. I just want to do it more.

TCC:  Okay.

MH:  I want to do it more. But actually, no, I have, so that'd be wrong. I have, but I loved it so much that I want to do it again so I got to come up with something that I haven't done. That's interesting. Wow. Now, you're really putting me on the spot.

TCC:  The good news is you have a lot of things that you have done, and you've just got to do a lot more things.

TCC:  I believe you've got to make the best out of this life. You don't know how long you're going to be around, so you might as well try and do all the things you want to do. I haven't produced one of my own stories yet. That I would love to do.

MH:  That's a good goal.

TCC:  There you go. Yeah, let's do that. Let's say that. I like that [laughter].

MH:  I'm putting it out in the universe. Now, it has to happen [laughter]. Now it's going to be in print, now it has to follow-through. Oh, great. Thanks for that.

TCC:  [laughter] Fingers crossed for you.

MH:  Thank you.

TCC:  How do you like fans to connect with you?

MH:  Wow. Just like a normal human being. If you see me in the street, just come up and talk to me. I'm just like you. I'm no different than anybody else. Just treat me like you would anybody else. Just come and talk to me. I want to hear your story. I'm interested in people. We portray people all the time, and the only way we can do that is by getting to know people. So if you see me, you know me and come and say hi. Absolutely. Just kind of talk to me. If I'm not with my own kids, then I'm busy, that's different then. But otherwise, just speak to me. I don't mind that at all. I think we're all human beings, and we all have a story to tell. And, yeah, I'm always eager to hear yours.

TCC:  Can they connect with you via social media?

MH:  Yeah, I'm on Facebook, so they can definitely connect to me via Facebook. And I've just opened a Twitter account. But I would say through social media, but I'm really shit at it [laughter]. So I'm still learning. I was told getting a Twitter account would be helpful to reach out to people, but I haven't, and forgive my ignorance, but I haven't quite worked it out yet. But I'm in the process, though. As you can tell, I'm more of an outdoorsy person. Being on my phone is still something I need to figure out. My kids know more about it than I do, so that's kind of crazy.

TCC:  Okay. And then is there anything you'd like to add in general?

MH:  Just watch Emerald City. It's a fantastic show, and I think it's a magical show. It's Oz like you've never seen it before, and hopefully, you will be enchanted by it. Come watch it on Fridays and let us enchant you, please.

TCC: And when does your Starz show start?

MH:  Well, I've already started filming, so we're in the middle of filming it at the moment. I think it's meant to air sometime late summer, early fall, but I don't have a date on when it airs yet. But we're still shooting it, and will be shooting it until around about May.

TCC:  Okay. Well, it's been nice talking to you, Mido. I hope everything goes well for you.

MH:  Thank you. Lovely to talk to you. Yeah, let's do this again sometime. Next gig, I'll call you up again. Let's do that.

TCC:  Please do. I look forward to talking to you. You sound like an interesting fellow.

MH:  Brilliant. Thank you.

TCC:  Good luck with all your endeavors.

MH:  Thank you.

Mido Hamada can be seen as Eamonn on NBC's Emerald City on Fridays.  Who is your favorite reimagined Wizard of Oz character?

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Michelle Tompkins

Michelle Tompkins is an award-winning media, PR and crisis communications professional with more than ten years experience with coverage in virtually every traditional and new media outlet. She is currently a communications and media strategist and writer, as well as the author of College Prowler: Guidebook for Columbia University. She served as the Media Relations Manager for the Girl Scouts of the USA where she managed all media and talking points, created social media strategy, trained executives and donors and served as the organization’s primary spokesperson, participating in daily interviews with local, regional, and national media outlets. She managed the media for the Let Me Know internet safety and Cyberbullying prevention campaign with Microsoft, as well as Girl Scouts’ centennial Year of the Girl To Get Her There celebration in 2012, which yielded more than 800 million earned media impressions. In addition to her extensive media experience, Michelle worked as a talent agent in Los Angeles, California, as well contracting as a digital content developer and her writing has appeared in newspapers and online. She is passionate about television, theater, classic movies, all things food and in-home entertaining. While she has lived and worked in NYC for more than a decade, she is from suburban Sacramento and gets back there often to watch the San Francisco Giants on TV with her family.

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