Photo by Russll Baer

Faruq Tauheed of Roots Less Traveled Teaches Us the Ins and Outs of TV Hosting

Jimmy Kimmel, Oprah Winfrey, Faruq Tauheed, Ellen DeGeneres, David Letterman, James Corden.

Do you recognize all of the above names as television show hosts? You betcha’!

We spun the Wheel of Fortune and it landed on Faruq Tauheed! Yes, THE Faruq, the host of Battlebots! And now he’s the host of a new show on NBC called Roots Less Traveled.

Hosting a gig is not simple task. Sure, you may not have to build and portray a character, but you still need to entertain the audience. You still keep crazy hours, travel to parts of the world you never would have gone to, sit in hair and makeup memorize the script and probably a lot more than can think of as I write this run-on sentence.

Faruq Tauheed takes us through the steps he went through to become one of television’s top hosts.

Your show Roots Less Traveled just started airing on April 4, 2020. What attracted you to this series? How were you chosen for the role of host?

I found out about Roots Less Traveled when I booked it. Normally, when you get an audition for any project it comes with a breakdown containing all the details on role(s) being cast and what the project is about. I never auditioned for Roots Less Traveled in the traditional sense. They booked me off of my hosting reel. Rumor has it, between the casting director, my agent and the production company they had been looking for a show for me and Roots Less Traveled happened to be the perfect show at the perfect time. Roots Less Traveled is scripted only for structure and organization. All the responses, reactions and conversations are not scripted.

Faruq TauheedRoots Less Traveled follow families who take the trip of a lifetime to discover their roots. Are you made aware of any backend production things such as: a) How do these people get enough time off of work to be on the show, which includes traveling? b) Do you get to help choose which families get on the show?

When it comes to choosing the families for our show, that is outside my jurisdiction. I have no say in choosing the families that appear on the show. Not sure of the specifics for Roots Less Traveled but when I participated in a reality show as a contestant, it was up to us to take the time off. Fortunately for our heroes, the time off needed was no more than a week in total which was split over time; 2-3 days here, 3-4 days there. In many, if not all cases, your own personal schedule and availability dictates the ability to participate.

You do a lot of traveling for the show. What’s it like being on the road?

I love being on the road and traveling. I would travel all year round if I could. While shooting the show, there were a couple breaks in the schedule that allowed time off by which I could go home or visit friends and family close to any of our locations. We stayed on the road knocking out 3-5 cities at a time. Our longest stretch was probably about two and a half weeks.

You’ve been in the entertainment field since 1998, having been born in Philadelphia, PA, then finishing your BFA degree in New York City and London. Why did you choose to move to Los Angeles after receiving your degree?

My options were New York, Atlanta or Los Angeles. After weighing my options, I chose LA because while I can act and dance, singing, well, I can only sing solo- SO LOW nobody can hear me! Broadway wasn’t going to work for me. During my time working on “Selma, Lord, Selma”, I received sage advice from some of my co-stars on the film and their advice was to move to LA if I wanted the best opportunity to be seen for major roles for TV/Film. LA it was! My college graduation ceremony ended at 9:30pm, I was at La Guardia airport headed to LA just seven hours later with a couple of really great friends to wish me well on my journey.

Tell us about your early years as a struggling actor in LA.

Never really viewed my experience as a “struggling” actor, more of an aspiring one. I’ve been pretty fortunate in my planning and work ethic to avoid the struggle. Been working all my life; through high school and through college, so getting to LA was no different. I had job interviews setup prior to my arrival and it took no time to land a day job. As for a place to stay, that was all setup and ready to go as well.

When and how did you find your agent?

Oh man! I’ve had my share of agents since being in LA. In most cases, you need a different agent for each area of the entertainment industry. In my career I’ve had a theatrical agent for on-camera TV/Film, hosting agent, voice over agent and commercial agent. I’m currently with my long time hosting and commercial agency, Commercial Talent Agency, 15 years and running. I have to mention my hosting agent Paul Barrutia. He saw something in me from the beginning. Something that I couldn’t spot or even dream. Paul and I met as I was searching for a hosting agent after building up some content for my reel. I submitted my reel to multiple agencies and Paul brought me in to Commercial Talent for a meeting, which led to me signing with him and their hosting department. It wasn’t long before they represented me commercially and then helped me get my voiceover agent, Micaela. My man, Paul, stuck with me from the beginning. The first eight years or so I booked a few hosting gigs but nothing major. Only recently, in the last six years or so, have I been working consistently on great projects. 15+ years I’ve been with Commercial Talent and I don’t think I could have done it without the support and the encouragement of my main man Paul and all of the agents that have invested in me.

Faruq TauheedYou’re known as the Announcer from ABC’s BattleBots, the robot-fighting series. How fun! What was a shooting day like on BattleBots?

Battlebots is now on Discovery as we head into our 5th season. A shooting day for me on Battlebots is a lot of fun! Call times aren’t too early and we don’t get out too late. I show up to work, say what’s up to the best fans in the world, introduce robot fights and then I get to watch destruction at its finest. I tell everyone if they get an opportunity to see a live taping, do it! Such a beautiful spectacle of robot demolition. My first season as the Battlebots ring announcer, I had no idea what I was really get myself into. I didn’t know what exactly was required of me so by the end of day two taping my voice was completely shot! I couldn’t talk to anyone. I could only use my voice when I had to do introductions. With a day and a 1/2 or 2 days of shooting left, I got through the rest of the taping with little to no voice. I learned a valuable lesson about preserving and protecting my voice.

Why did you make the transition from actor to host / announcer?

I didn’t so much “transition” from actor to host, I just added hosting to my repertoire. One day I was sitting home playing video games and I said, “I wish I could get paid to play video games.” A week later I received an email asking “Do you like football? Do you like video games? Can you host?” I thought, well I’ve never hosted anything before but I’m an actor. I’m sure I can act like a host. I linked up with a friend of mine at his apartment, he grabbed the top sheet off of his bed, put it up on a wall, grabbed some house plants and had a Jill Scott track with clapping cued up to add applause where necessary. We proceeded to record my audition as if I was hosting an open mic. I didn’t get the job that season but the next season I was brought on as a host for EA Sports Madden Challenge. That’s where my hosting career began. Without a theatrical agent, I’m not actively seeking TV/Film projects but have always remained open to audition and accept any roles that come my way.

You’ve also done voice overs. Do you have to memorize a script for that or is there a board with the lines? Do you record your lines by yourself or are other actors in the room with you reading back and forth?

Voice overs are a lot of fun! Another discipline added after arriving to LA. You don’t have to memorize the lines in most instances unless you’re doing a MOCAP video game because you don’t have the lines in front of you. As far as recording with other actors, it depends on the production, the production schedule and availability of the performers and/or the director’s style. I’ve done jobs where the whole cast has been in the room and I’ve done jobs where it’s just been me.

You’re in the union SAG-AFTRA and have been an actor on shows such as Brooklyn Nine-Nine, NCIS and The Shield. What member benefits do you use?

As a SAG-AFTRA member I use the benefits every day from the contracts in place to protect us, to the rates that are negotiated, to how we’re treated on set. Every aspect of an actor’s career, professionally, is protected and covered by the union. I’m a very proud member of SAG-AFTRA. When it comes to the health insurance, you have to meet the annual earning requirements and we’ve been blessed to take advantage of that.

You have a great name, Faruq Tauheed! How about telling us a bit about YOUR family history?

My family history in America can be traced back to the South. A majority of my family currently reside in Philadelphia where I was born and raised. Faruq Tauheed is an Arabic name. I was born Muslim and named after the last King of Egypt. Faruq means one who can distinguish truth from falsehood and Tauheed is all-knowing of God. Professionally, I use my first and middle name. My Ancestry DNA places a majority of my origins in West Africa with over 50% traced to Nigeria.

Growing up, were you ever a bully or someone who was bullied?

I have experienced some bullying growing up. When I look back on it, nothing too major just kids being kids, I believe. I think bullying in today’s age can be more intense with the emergence of social media. With social media and cyberbullying, being able to reach a lot more people to gang up on you, makes it easier for the bullies. I was always taught in dealing with a bully you have to stand up to him and that does not have to be with violence or reciprocation. It can be tough to confront a bully because not everybody has a confrontational spirit. My advice, if you are someone being bullied, focus on the people that love you and know that the mistreatment is not really about you, it’s about the bully. They have some lack in their life and they’re looking to fill it by attacking someone else. When a bully enforces their power over someone that appears weaker it’s because they probably experience the same thing happening to them at home or another atmosphere. Hurt people, hurt people. Love is ALWAYS the answer.

Faruq TauheedWhat was life like for you as a kid growing up in Philly?

Man, I loved growing up as a kid in Philly. I grew up in a neighborhood where there were 30-40 kids that could get together at any given time. We were ALWAYS outside. We hung out all day and night, no matter the weather and played a lot of games and sports. We grew up with video games but 90% of the time we spent was with each other outside. High school was a blast! I went to a performing arts high school and it was pretty much like the old TV show Fame.

As a host / actor, do you have any fear about where your next paycheck will be coming from?

Being in the entertainment industry it can be debilitating to focus on lack and/or to have a fear when your next check is coming. For me, I don’t worry because it’s out of my control. I focus on what I can control and put my energy and faith in God knowing that He will provide. For the last six or seven years I have been able to work full time in this industry and that is how I count success. Prior to that I was working in restaurants as a bartender. I want to do it all! I want to do more acting in TV/Film, more VO in animation, commercials and promos. I want to do more shows like Roots Less Traveled, Battlebots, The Noise; hosting reality and game shows that families can enjoy together.

What’s your advice for young people who want to get into show business?

Continue to grind. Focus on YOUR journey and no one else’s. Run YOUR race. Learn something new. Don’t be afraid to add notches to your career belt. I came to LA it 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. Keep learning and keep evolving. Whatever you do make sure you love it.

Anything else you’d like to say?

Thanks for having me and taking the time to read what I have to say. We hope to bring you season 5 of Battlebots on Discovery later this year. In the meantime, please enjoy Roots Less Traveled on NBC every weekend. Follow me on Instagram, where I am most active, @faruqadelphia to see what I’m working on and what exciting things are next! Stay safe and healthy!

You can follow Faruq Tauheed on Twitter and Instagram.

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