Chris Van Vliet recently interviewed Marc Copani, who portrayed the controversial Muhammad Hassan character from 2004 to 2005 in WWE. Copani talks about his WWE run, if that character could work in 2020, the genuine fear his character caused, and his friendship with the late Shad Gaspard.
Copani designed a graphic novel with Gaspard titled, “Assassin and Son,” that is available through scoutcomics.com with all proceeds going to Gaspard’s family.
Why he never went back to wrestling after he left WWE:
“I didn’t get over wrestling until probably 10 years later. I probably didn’t get over wrestling until I got back in the ring a few years ago. And I remember people asking me questions about why I did that, they thought it was some planned thing like I was going to go back to WWE. No. I think I was 38, I needed to see if I could still do it. And I did it, and it was actually fun, I had a blast and then I’m like I’m never doing this again. I just needed to do it. And that’s when I started to get over wrestling and that’s when I think I started to mend. It was a huge loss. It was a huge heartbreak. And I think it took me a long time. And then I started a couple of years ago to do a few interviews here and there, I really hadn’t done much since. I guess I started to stop avoiding it because of how it made me feel, the thought of failure and everything that had happened from the character. I was always proud of it but now I don’t feel that when I talk about or think about wrestling.”
If the London bombings had not occurred in 2005, does he think the character would have stayed on TV?
“I think so for a little while until we started to push it too far. It was the masked men, it was treating Daivari as a martyr, it was carrying him out martyr style. It was everything about the character that was starting to draw heat with media, with Muslim American groups and eventually it started to change this heat from this genuine heat where the fans loved to hate this character to something that became a bit more. A little more political.”
Does he think he could still play a character like this in 2020?
“I don’t think I could. I know there’s been some different versions of the character but I don’t think I could. And I don’t think the character could be done the way it was done 15 years ago. I think it was insensitive. It became very insensitive towards Muslim Americans and Arab American people. The way that the character changed from being this Arab-American who was upset at the unjust treatment of his people to a more radicalized Muslim and Arab young man who was lashing out violently, I don’t think that would be appropriate at this time. I don’t think that would be fair to portray any Arab American or Muslim American in that way. So I don’t think the character would work in that capacity anymore. Some version of it, maybe. But not that version.”
The genuine fear that his character caused for people:
“What was this, 2004? We were just a few years removed from 9/11 and I remember a few instanced. One I remember was San Fransisco. I can’t remember the name of the hotel, Shawn (Daivari) and I were on the path walking from the parking lot to the hotel entrance and a lady was walking towards us and we had the full gimmick on and the glasses and my suit and 230 pounds at the time, so we looked intimidating. She took her daughter off the path and walked like five feet away. I mean there was plenty of room for us on that path but she was scared. And one time we were on a plane, Shawn and I, and we were sitting towards the front and I think it might have been Shelton. Somebody came up and told us that towards the back of the plane people were calling their families to tell them that they loved them. So there were times when there were people who were really frightened and honestly it made playing the character pretty easy.”
Why his character was so over as a heel:
“I wouldn’t say one of the greatest heels of all time. There were a lot better heels than me. Maybe on a relative basis for the 7 months [I was in WWE]. But I also had a great gimmick, I was pushed to the moon, I worked with some incredible veterans who wanted me to succeed, who wanted me to do well because they wanted to make money with me. So I was very fortunate for the position that I was put in and I was with Shawn Daivari who was great. Shawn was a heat magnet. I would not have got the heat that I got without Shawn. And I think that’s why the character did so well for that 7 months because it was a character that people loved to hate. It was genuine hate and genuine heat.”
The proceeds from the graphic novel he created with Shad Gaspard are going to Shad’s family:
“It was in Los Angeles that I started writing a screenplay with Shad Gaspard which is actually a graphic novel by Scout Comics. We spent years writing that screenplay and that was another thing, ups and downs. We almost got it made into a film and then we took a break for a couple of years and Shad came back to me and had this idea that he wanted to turn it into a graphic novel. And if you anybody knew Shad, what Shad wanted to do, Shad is going to do… and in May, Shad tragically passed away. I think everybody knows the story of Shad and the heroic actions that unfortunately led to his death. So Scout Comics had this idea to release an edition early, just the first book, but a tribute edition for Shad. It’s available at ScoutComics.com. I want to sell these out, because all of the proceeds from this go to Shad’s family.”