Exclusive: Hisham Tawfiq Talks The Blacklist

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Exclusive: Hisham Tawfiq Talks The Blacklist Season 2
Posted by Wilson Morales

September 22, 2014

The Blacklist season 2 poster

Returning for Season 2 on NBC, Monday, Sept 22 at 10/9c after The Voice is the critically acclaimed series The Blacklist, starring James Spader, Megan Boone, Diego Klattenhoff, Harry Lennix, Hisham Tawfiq and Amir Arison.

Former government agent Raymond “Red” Reddington (James Spader) has eluded capture for decades. But he suddenly surrenders to the FBI with an offer to help catch a terrorist under the condition that he speaks only to Elizabeth “Liz” Keen (Megan Boone), a young FBI profiler who’s just barely out of Quantico.

For Hisham Tawfiq, who plays Dembe, Reddington’s right-hand man, coming back for a second season gives the Harlem, NY native a chance to stand out and broaden his horizons in the entertainment field. A former Marine who served two tours of duty as well as worked as a corrections officer and a firefighter, Tawfiq has certainly worked his way up from stage productions to short films and a few feature films; but with The Blacklist, it’s a role that may get others to start looking at him for more opportunities.

Beyond The Lights Urbanworld 2014 - Hisham Tawfiq 2

Blackfilm.com recently spoke with Tawfiq about the second season of The Blacklist as he attended the 2014 Urbanworld Film Festival to support his role in a short film that played there.

Are you excited for the upcoming season?

Hisham Tawfiq: The Blacklist is going to be super exciting! It’s going to be an exciting year, starting from the first episode. I’m looking to see what they are going to do with my character, Dembe. So far, from what we have done already, it’s turned it up a notch as far the storytelling, the criminals, and getting deeper into everybody’s characters.

When you shoot a new episode, do you worry whether Dembe will be killed off?

HT: As an actor, we always worry about be killed off, especially when it comes to TV. With this show, and I don’t want to say it’s safe to say, but it’s about the blacklister and that person on a list. That’s the person in a scope and sometimes it spills over to the team but there’s always some nervousness about it.

Hisham Tawfiq and James Spader 2

How’s working with James?

HT: It’s unbelievable. For myself as an actor, it was like a master class experience where you get to watch a veteran who’s very specific with his choices, doesn’t take anything for granted, combs through the scripts, talks about the scenes, and I’m stealing all of that.

How would you best describe Dembe? He doesn’t say much but is always in the shadow of Reddington.

The Blacklist - Season 2

HT: It’s funny but I had a conversation with James when I first got on set and his description of the character was saying that there are bodyguards who are big and muscular and they have to beat somebody’s ass and then you have those bodyguards who don’t say anything, don’t have the muscles, but you know you better stand clear. If you get in their way, your life is basically over. It’s more of an internal power and internal truth and when he express that to me, I took it and ran with it. The funny thing about it is that it makes the audience, from what I can see on Twitter, when I do say something, it’s like “Oh my goodness, he said “Nice” or he say this and that” and it makes it bigger than if I had a monologue. As an actor, in the beginning, my face was a bit frowning, but I learned to marinate in it and accept and I’m actually having fun with it now. When fans see the show, and then they would see something else I did and they would be like, “I didn’t know he could talk;” It’s actually turing out to be a experience.

Gun Hill cast Hisham Tawriq

For those who don’t watch The Blacklist, what other projects of yours do you think they would remember?

HT: The last thing I did was ‘Gun Hill’ with Reggie Bythewood, which is now on Netflix. I have done a lot of Moon Molson’s projects including ‘Crazy Beats Strong Every Time’ and his latest short, ‘The Bravest, the Boldest.’ I have done the Law & Order’s and was in ‘Notorious.’ I have done a lot of work but The Blacklist is my first national ongoing current character that put me in the spotlight. I’ve been in the trenches.

Blacklist Scandal

Have you been able to parlay the success of the show to other future projects?

HT: I would say that it’s definitely opening a lot of doors. I have had a lot of great auditions and met a lot of great directors from this experience and I have faith that there’s some big things coming up.

Are you ready when The Blacklist moves to Thursday and goes against ABC’s Scandal?

HT: I think we have to be ready for it and accept it and it’s going to be definitely interesting, especially since the Blacklist has turned into this Twitter war and now you’re going to have Scandal with their Twitter war, I think Twitter may get shut down that night.

Hisham Tawfiq and James Spader

What’s good reason to start watching The Blacklist if one hasn’t done so already?

HT: You’re going to learn something new. You are going to learn about criminals. You are going to learn about their passions. You will learn about deception and then you will learn about compassion; and it’s a nice mix of all of those things.


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