Faruq Tauheed: “I wish I could get paid to play video games”

Be comfortable with who YOU are. Be confident in your skills/talent. Be courageous with your choices. Over the last 8 years, I’ve given up. Given up on caring about what people think about me and trying to please everyone according to their standards. Ever since then, my career has taken off and I’ve been more […]

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Be comfortable with who YOU are. Be confident in your skills/talent. Be courageous with your choices. Over the last 8 years, I’ve given up. Given up on caring about what people think about me and trying to please everyone according to their standards. Ever since then, my career has taken off and I’ve been more successful than at any other stage in my career.

I had the pleasure of interviewing Faruq Tauheed.

Faruq is the host of the new NBC series ROOTS LESS TRAVELED. Produced by Ancestry, the series follows two family members searching for information and historical facts about family and relatives long since past. Sure to educate, inform and create plenty of emotion, the series will premiere on April 4th, 2020.

Fans of television will also recognize Faruq from his ring announcing gig at the helm of the popular Discovery Channel series BATTLEBOTS. In each episode, homemade robots battle against each other in an elimination competition until only one winner remains.

Born and raised in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Faruq earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts while studying in both New York City and London. Upon graduation, he relocated to Los Angeles where he began his professional work in radio, film and television. His distinct and recognizable voice can be heard in various commercials, animation projects and video games including the voice of HOTWIRE, the BIOSHOCK INFINITE series and Cartoon Network’s WE BARE BEARS. He has also worked as an actor in the film SELMA, LORD, SELMA for ABC/Disney and on the popular series BROOKLYN NINE-NINE, NCIS, COLD CASE, THE SHIELD and NEW GIRL.

Check your local television listings to watch Faruq Tauheed in action in 2020.

Follow him on Instagram @faruqadelphia

Thank you so much for doing this with us. Can you tell us the story of how you grew up?

You’re most welcome, it’s my pleasure and thanks for having me. Imagine a one-block radius, 30 plus kids from ages 4–16 and your street is the hub where the majority of kids reside. There’s no internet and video games were in their infancy stage. We were always outside playing neighborhood games and sports. Some of the games we made up and the sports were played on a two-way, one-lane street. We played basketball in the alley with a milk crate as the hoop and hung out all night long on the steps in front of our friends’ houses. There were snowball fights, sleepovers, and tackle football in the snow. I moved around a lot. In my high school years, I moved every year and became very independent working after school some days and going to acting & dance classes other days. I even left high school early in my junior year to dance at an amusement park in Virginia professionally for the summer. That’s a broad stroke of how I grew up.

Can you share a story with us about what brought you to this specific career path?

I was sitting at home playing video games and I said aloud to myself, “I wish I could get paid to play video games.” I promise you, within a week I had an email asking, “Do you like football? Do you like video games? Can you host live events?” and I thought to myself, “Absolutely!” I had no hosting experience but I’m an actor, right? I can play a host. Later that day or the next, my best friend Maurice and I met at his house and we put together a submission tape. He grabbed bed sheets and pinned them to the wall, pulled in two plants for ambiance complete with a Jill Scott clap track he had on a CD. Grabbed his handheld video camera, VHS not digital, and we proceeded as if I were hosting an open mic. I submitted my audition tape for a national video game competition. I did not get selected that season but the very next season they brought me on and I’ve been hosting ever since.

Can you tell us the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

I would have to say the story of how I got my last gig. I was home battling with myself and searching for my purpose. One day I woke up feeling better than I had felt in some time because I woke up with a word, a word about my purpose which was, ‘For the Family’. I felt resolve, committed and energized by my new found purpose of doing content that is for families — bringing families together. Within a week of living with my new purpose, I got the call that I booked a show where I take family members on a journey to discover their ancestry. If that’s not crazy enough, what’s crazier about this story, is that while I was in a bit of mental turmoil struggling with my purpose, for an entire year there had been a team working behind the scenes to find a TV show for me to host. I didn’t audition, they booked me for a new series off of my reel and that rarely happens. I’m reminded of that picture where a gold miner is digging, for what looks like forever and he quits. He throws his pickaxe over his shoulder and heads in the opposite direction. The rest of the image shows us how close he was to the gold. In this industry, don’t give up. You are always one swing away from striking gold.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

It was my 1st day to report to a set-off my 1st major movie and I was running late. I arrive 10 minutes late, get escorted to my trailer and I’m told to change into my wardrobe and head to hair & makeup. Wardrobe-check, hair did, face beat and with plenty of time before they needed me on set for my 1st scene. The 2nd AD walked me to the on-set breakfast food truck. Y’all, I didn’t know the protocol, this was my FIRST major gig. I kept it simple and ordered a turkey bacon, egg and cheese sandwich on wheat. “Sorry Sir.”, the gentleman in the food truck said. Wait for What…Sir? I’m 20 and you’re a grown man, I thought to myself, I should be calling you Sir. The gentleman continued, “We don’t have turkey bacon but I will make sure I have some for you tomorrow.” Okay…that’s odd, I thought again, you’re going shopping for ME?. “I’ll just have an egg and cheese sandwich, please.” I proceeded to reach into my pocket for some cash to pay for it. Mr. food truck man Sir told me everything was free. The next day and every day following, not only did they have my turkey bacon as promised, my orders sounded like this, “Veggie omelet with hash browns and turkey bacon” or ‘Blueberry pancakes with 2 over medium eggs and turkey bacon”, etc. I wasn’t just ordering a sandwich anymore, I was ordering combos! OooooooO I ate and ate and ate on set. You don’t tell a college student ALL the food is free! Three lessons in this — 1: Don’t be late. Not only is it unprofessional but, if you’re like me, it can really stress you out. Being on time is late and being early, is being on time! 2: Food on movie sets is free and the most important lesson learned is 3: DO NOT eat everything you can while on set because you will gain weight and end up in the wardrobe department like, “Uhmmmm, excuse me I cannot button these jeans any longer” Unless your character is supposed to gain weight throughout the film, watch your food intake with all the free food and snacks around.

What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?

As soon as we recover from these unusual circumstances, I’m looking forward to getting back inside the Battlebox to announce for our 5th season of Battlebots on Discovery. Until then, catch my new show, Roots Less Traveled Saturday mornings starting April 4th on NBC where I take family members on an amazing journey to discover their family history.

We are very interested in diversity in the entertainment industry. Can you share three reasons with our readers about why you think it’s important to have diversity represented in film and television? How can that potentially affect our culture?

One of the things I’ve come to understand about human beings is that we want to be seen, we want to be heard and we want to love. Those three basic desires are why we need diversity and representation in film and television. Seeing someone that looks like you or someone that you identify with on-screen can be empowering and spark purpose in life. Like the 8-year-old African-American girl that watched “The Josephine Baker Story.” Seeing a black woman on TV made her say to herself, “I want to do that. I can be like her.” That 8-year-old girl is a grown woman today. She’s my wife and she’s an actor.

Having YOUR story told makes one feel heard. If you identify with a particular group or groups(race, gender or sexuality, etc) you want to hear a story that you’re familiar with, one that resonates with your experiences so that you feel heard. We not only need a physical representation of diversity but the storylines have to be inclusive, void of stereotypes. Watching a TV show or going to the theater and hearing your story being told is like being invited to the party but you’re not allowed to speak.

In America, we produce an overwhelming majority of the world’s entertainment in the TV/Film industry. Therefore, the stories being told need to be told with love and show diversity in the content because in many cases, if not most, that’s the way the world is informed about a group that they may not experience in their own lives/cultures. For example, when telling the stories of African-Americans, the biased narrative we see a lot is that the majority of us are drug dealers and ‘Baby Mamas.’ Much like not all gay men act one way, not all lesbians look one way and not all women are helpless objects of men’s desires. An extensive narrative is just as important when it comes to diversity, if not more important. We are multi-faceted human beings in our appearance, experiences & lifestyles, and the entertainment industry has a responsibility to show more than just one perspective.

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why? Please share a story or example for each.

1. Stay ready so you don’t have to get ready. In this industry, things can change overnight. This can apply to many things but not my weight. If you’re not at your goal weight or looking your best, get there because you can audition on Monday, book the job on Wednesday and be shooting by Friday. Trying to lose 20 lbs in 5 days is nearly impossible. When I booked “The Noise” on Universal Kids, I wasn’t where I wanted to be physically for TV and I didn’t have the time to get in the kind of shape that made me the most comfortable. When I feel my best, I do my best.

2. If you can, put some cash to the side. New expenses pop up and some expenses increase, like union dues & fees. I remember my 1st good year financially as an actor & host. I was living it up until the union dues came around. It was far more than I had ever had to pay. I had to save up and change my spending habits to pay my dues. If I had been putting a little something to the side from all my checks, it would have been no problem.

3. Be comfortable with who YOU are. Be confident in your skills/talent. Be courageous with your choices. Over the last 8 years, I’ve given up. Given up on caring about what people think about me and trying to please everyone according to their standards. Ever since then, my career has taken off and I’ve been more successful than at any other stage in my career.

4. Be Nice. Work is work, even if you’re doing what you love. Being nice to people, you never know who you can help, inspire or what impression you can make for future relationships. During the 3rd season of Battlebots, I was encouraged by my Life Group leader at church to drop random notes of kindness to people. I went to set with a full sticky note pad and marker to write words of encouragement for everyone on set. Not only did most people keep those notes on their tech stations, lanyards, dressing rooms and cameras but many people expressed how much they needed to hear whatever I wrote to them, some with tears in their eyes. We are ALL going through something or battling some demon of fear, doubt, shame, guilt, etc., and a kind word just to let people know that they’re seen and not alone can go a LONG way. Be nice, it can change a life.

5. Some stories can be about overnight successes, most are not. Keep grinding. Easy come, easy go and nothing lasts forever. I have friends in the industry that hit big within a year or less. I’ve been in LA for almost 20 years and the last 5 or 6 have been the best. I’ve had intermittent success along the way but not like now. When I did my 1st movie over 20 years ago I thought, “I’m on my way, this is it!” 2–3 years went by before I did anything else significant. Don’t give up!

Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?

Learn something new. Don’t be afraid to add notches to your belt. When I came to LA it was for on-camera TV and Film as an actor. I was doing okay my 1st couple of years but then I added hosting, and a couple years after that voice-overs. Now, hosting and VO’s are my bread and butter. With so many aspects to this entertainment industry, explore, learn and try different things on and off camera: directing, writing, producing, hosting, and VO to name a few. Whatever you do make sure you love it.

You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.

Financial literacy movement. When you know better you do better. I feel like many people in this country, in the world, do not know how to manage money and how the financial world works. I didn’t know. I had no one to teach me and if I did, I didn’t know who they were. There’s a security to financial freedom that many people never get to know.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

It took a village, a village of strong black women and my mentors/teachers at Freedom Theater in Philadelphia. Too many people to name but they were all instrumental and responsible for me being the person I am today. At different times in my life, there was always one or more there to guide, protect and propel me through to my current season and on to the next one.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

There are actually 2 and my Mom is responsible for both. The first is, don’t knock it until you try it. My mom would always tell us that as kids, especially when it came to trying new foods, but I now apply it to EVERY aspect of my life, it’s universal. I say it to someone else or to myself almost weekly. The second would be something that I picked up off of a little decorative plaque my mom kept in the bathroom when I was a kid. It read, “The secret to failure is trying to please everyone.” Think about it…many of our failures, no matter how big or small, come from trying to please EVERYONE. It cannot be done, someone will be adversely impacted by many of the decisions you make or don’t make. Trying to please everyone can lead to your dreams and ideas failing or even worse, causing mental paralysis, unable to move forward because you haven’t figured out how to make everyone happy. Charles Barkley says something often, “No matter what you say, do or who you are, half the people are going to love you and half will hate you, so just do you.”

Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them.

Being from Philadelphia and a HUGE sports fan, it would definitely be a Philadelphia sports figure or celeb from Philadelphia. Top 5: Charles Barkley, Allen Iverson, Will Smith, Carson Wentz and Kevin Hart. Then I have my cooking passion as well which leads me to some of my favorite celeb chefs like G. Garvin, Sunny Anderson and Gordon Ramsey-even though I met and worked with him already on Season 1 of Masterchef. Kevin Hart, is my main motivator and someone I would most like to break bread with. I love that he shows the work he puts in on social media. Not to be a weirdo, but we have had many conversations in my dreams about motivation, purpose and being great! Seeing Kevin, knowing we are from the same city and we’re the same age, really pushes me on the days that I feel like I just don’t have it.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

@faruqadelphia on IG, Facebook & Twitter

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