There is an incredible misconception that success is a straight line; that the people that “make it” knew what they wanted from an early age and walked in their purpose through the finish line. That narrative is as boring as it is untrue. Ahead of the release of Marvel’s Helstrom, I had the opportunity to speak with Hamza Fouad about the winding road that lead him to our TV screens and so much more.
Fouad has a recurring guest star role in Marvel’s Helstrom as Derrick Jackson, a San Francisco police officer with a close relationship to one of the other leads.
PUREFANDOM: Hamza, I really appreciate you taking the out of your day to speak with me and let my introduce you to our audience. Can you tell me a little about what attracted you to the role of Derrick Jackson?
HAMZA FOUAD: I really connected to the character in general just because of some of the descriptive characteristics of him. He is super loyal. He’s got a big heart. And those are qualities that I pride myself in having so i found it quite an easy transition to be able to connect to him. So I went into the audition, they liked what I did, and the rest is history.
Helstrom deals heavily in the supernatural, but your character is on the periphery of a lot of that action? Without giving anything away, will Derrick Jackson start putting two and two together?
I honestly don’t know. When shooting on a Marvel project, the secrecy is next level; something I’ve never experienced before. Even myself, as a one of the characters on the show that recurs over several episodes, there’s only a certain amount of information I’m even allowed to know. I don’t think I’ll be completely in the dark. I’m a cop at the end of the day, I’m going to pick up on some things that are happening, but for now: blissfully unaware.
Can you expand on that secrecy standard? What exactly makes these high-profile fandom projects different?
I was lucky enough to work on the new Star Trek project when it first came out a few years ago [Star Trek: Discovery]. I was on for a day player role. Being that it was a reboot of a super popular show and the type of fans that they have, it was very similar to the experience I had at marvel. When we were shooting, we had to wear ponchos walking form the studio to the place that we grabbed our lunch so that the drones flying overhead would not catch our costume choices.
And you only got sent your scene and that’s it. They give you no other information. Because I had done that show, when I hopped onto this Marvel project it was all pretty standard protocol. You just have to accept the fact that you’ll know what you need to know when you need to know it, and it’s your job to deliver what they need.
I understand that before you got into drama in high school, you were an athlete. What was your sport?
I was a track and field and cross-country guy. Those were the ones I excelled the most at. I wanted to say I that I was a basketball player, but I was trash; I was no good at all. Some of my best friends are all ballers, I just used to show up and people would think I was good, but I was garbage. I’m way better as an adult, now that I have some weight on me. But other than that, track and field and cross country. Those were the ones I naturally fell into. I never really had to train too hard for it; I was that kid that just did it. In grade 9, I was running with the grade 12’s. But then you graduate and you get a little bit older and then you only run for subways or street cars and taxis.
I think we all understand that feeling. I understand that you are into boxing as well. Have you ever thrown on the mits for recreation or a role, or are you strictly a spectator?
One day I hope I do get the opportunity to play a role and use those skills. It hasn’t come up yet, so I will put it out in the universe now. I trained a very short amount of time in my youth. I was one of those kids that went all in and when you go all in without knowing enough… with boxing its more than just training. It’s about nutrition, building that endurance, building that cardio, building that core. I was just young and obsessed with learning the sweet science, but I realized it was a detriment to me. To work out so aggressively and not eat properly, I would die a little bit, so I had to stop that.
I’m also just a huge fan of the sport. I’m currently reading Tyson Fury’s autobiography called Behind the Mask. I think the heavyweight division is thriving in a way that we haven’t seen since the Tyson era; the Lennox Lewis era. I’m really excited to be a part of keeping track of these brilliant athletes and their stories. Boxing is a prime sport; it’s drama at its purest. Two gladiators doing their thing and it’s has stories that we all as human beings connect to.
Since you brought up Iron Mike, I have to ask: Tyson vs Ali?
If they were to fight in their prime, Tyson would win. He was just built different and he’s an absolute animal that ripped peoples’ heads off when on top of his game. But the better boxer was Ali. He was an ambassador for the sport and for human kind. He was just such an important person outside of the sport. [Ali] used his platform as the most popular athlete of the time to fight for change. So, Tyson would when the fight Ali wins the glory for all time.
That’s very diplomatic of you. Last question: You are now a professional actor, you’ve been a motivational speaker, and a slam poet. You have a time machine and can go back and talk to ten-year-old you. What in your career arch could little you not believe?
None of it. None of this was on my radar at ten. I kind of fell into all of this by accident. I moved around a lot as a kid and when you move around you always need to make new friends in different ways and my way was always to join a sports team.
One year I moved across Canada to a school in British Central. I moved too late to join any of the teams that were going on at the time and the only thing that was available was the play. So I joined up thinking I would open some curtains and that would be that. But, Mrs Carol Mann, who I adore, can be credited as being the one who helped shape the person I’ve become today and help put me on this path.
She made everybody read a monologue. Regardless if you’re behind the scenes or an extra. Being in grade twelve in a high school play, if your voice can project… you’re a star. You don’t have to know anything else, if they can hear you, they want you. There was a guy that had to drop out of a role and [Mann] offered it to me and first night, I was a hit I supposed.
Before that, my plan was to go to university, get a partial scholarship in track and field or cross country then open a business, as most children of immigrant parent would believe. But after that night [on stage] everything changed.
Got into spoken word poetry as a way of dealing with nerves. Thought if i can get into standing in front of a group of people and performing spoken word, it would help me be better with auditions and better with plays. Then someone saw me performing in Toronto performing a piece and they work for Feed the Children and they asked me come join their team as a motivational speaker… so ten-year-old me, wouldn’t believe any of it.
Very dope! I love the organic flow of it all. Any parting words?
When you look at Marvel and super heroes, they are extraordinary human beings. And when I think about why I love boxing so much it’s because they are our heroes: their super powers are their skill and their strength and their speed. And we get to watch these super heroes battle each other.
***Magically Hamza brought the conversation full circle tying us back into super heroes. I’m glad I had the opportunity to speak with him. He was incredibly warm and genuine and I look forward to seeing his face on the screen more down the line.
Watch Hamza in action in Marvel’s Helstrom, all episodes available for streaming right now on Hulu.