1989’s Quantum Leap had a somewhat complex concept that was easy to digest for television audiences. The show is about a scientist named Dr. Sam Beckett, played by Scott Bakula, who steps into an experimental time machine and vanishes. Sam finds himself in the past, “leaping” into a body, and discovers his mission with his friend’s help, Rear Admiral Albert ‘Al’ Calavicci, played by Dean Stockwell. The plot circled Sam changing the lives of the people inhabited and leaping onto the next person ran for five seasons and garnered a devoted fanbase.
The series finale in 1993 hit hard for many audience members. Sam never made it home; however, with the scientist’s help, Al was finally reunited with the love of his life. The writing, catchy opening credits tune, and dynamic between Sam and Al made Quantum Leap one of the most memorable television shows. NBC Universal took the show’s recognition and decided to catch lightning in the bottle twice with the 2022 revival.
The 2022 version, Quantum Leap, continues the lore of this experimental time machine and those affected by it. It stars Raymond Lee as Ben Song, the scientist who steps into the machine and is set on a similar path as his predecessor. The revival doesn’t erase the ’89 version but uses the series as a building block in creating a hit show. We got to speak to cast members Ernie Hudson, Mason Alexander Park, Nanrisa Lee, and Executive Producer Deborah Pratt at this year’s WonderCon regarding many aspects of the series.
Ernie Hudson plays Herbert ‘Magic’ Williams in the revival. The head of the Quantum Leap project has been one of the show’s driving forces and a connection to Sam Beckett himself. Hudson discussed discovering that his character would play a pivotal role in Quantum Leap.
Your character, Magic, has a connection to Sam Beckett. Did you know that would be part of character creation before you signed on?
Ernie Hudson: Yeah. I knew it before I signed on. I didn’t know it when they first approached me, but obviously, I looked into the character, and I remember the episode. I didn’t realize that was a character. Part of that whole preparing the character and doing what little research you can. “How do You move that story forward? What happens to this guy? What’s happening to him now and how it impacts positive and negative.”
All that was really a large part of why I really wanted to do it. “What would that be like? “His commitment to this team is to get Sam back to make sure this program works.” But in the meantime, the sacrifice of your personal life takes its toll because everyone doesn’t understand why it’s so important. So all those things just make it a really fun character to try to live through.
Yeah. I didn’t make that connection until that episode because I used to watch the ’89 Quantum Leap show. Then I saw ‘Salvation or Bust.’ That’s when I went, “Oh s**t.”
Ernie Hudson: Yeah. I mean, because we leap in someone else every week, especially with the original, but what happens to these people? Once that, you’ve sort of turned the world around, and now they’re back to live with it. That’s part of the excitement of the show.
Deborah Pratt has been part of the revival as an EP since the beginning. The EP was a part of the writing for the ’89 Quantum Leap series and knew the inner workings of what makes both versions successful. As a result, she was able to share her hopes of past characters appearing in the 2022 version and her outlook on continuing the show in other avenues.
The revival has a couple of characters from the ’89 Quantum Leap series show up. Are there any other characters Sam has affected in the ’89 series that might appear in the revival?
Deborah Pratt: I hope so. (Laughs) I always say this; this is just the beginning of Quantum Leap. It’s back. It’s doing well, thanks to people like you. We’ve reached out and found a bigger, newer audience. I don’t see why we can’t do everything that Star Trek has done. Nine series, nine movies, and video games – let’s play Quantum Leap. I’m really asking all the writers at this table to reach out to your fanbase and say, “What do you see? What would you like to see?” Because we are into interactive, so bring it on. Inspire us.
Mason Alexander Park is no stranger to notable projects. They’ve appeared in Netflix’s wildly successful show, The Sandman, and played an essential role in the streaming services adaption of Cowboy Bebop. The non-binary actor has been picking up steam with their presence and continues to do so with Quantum Leap. Park discusses the importance of representation in film and television and how the role of Ian specifically called for their acting talent.
So, you’re non-binary, and your character is non-binary. Was that always set for the character at the beginning stages of Quantum Leap? Or did the writers and production shift things around to better fit you?
Mason Alexander Park: I think they came to me because they always wanted to find someone who was non-binary or gender non-conforming. It was written that Ian explicitly was a non-binary character. So when they approached me about it, and I was very thrilled because I’ve watched a major shift just in the last five years of roles that are like actually explicitly described one way that really was not there when I was in the industry 10 or 15 years ago.
So it was really exciting for me to see myself reflected in a character. Granted, the show exists in a sci-fi world, but the character is a very normalized individual. So it’s not like I’m not playing an anthropomorphic personification or something.
Yeah, that trans-themed episode in Quantum Leap called ‘Let Them Play’ was very relatable for people within and outside that community.
Mason Alexander Park: Yeah. So, it’s really cool. I think that all the creatives and the writers have a really nice understanding of the humanity of trans individuals. They’re very dedicated to allowing me to exist and breathe in a space that we’re not really invited to take up space in.
Contributing writer Kelsey Loiselle jumped in and asked Park and Nanrisa Lee an interesting question circling genres that the two appreciated.
You’re on this show right now, and it sounds like a dream for both of you. Where do you guys see yourselves going as far as what genres, and would you want to stay in television or go into film? What would be your dream role or your dream genre?
Nanrisa Lee: I don’t have any one particular thing, but I love it, and I think multi-cam is really fun to do. I’ve had a little taste of it, and it’s just such a fun amalgamation of TV and theater. It’s because you get that energy from the live audience, and multi has a different rhythm – a musicality to it. So I just really enjoyed it in the one experience I had. But I do think that I would love to do some character drama during our break.
Because I think, and this is more of a strategic point of view and less of a dream point of view, but in the breaks that we have, there’s just enough time to do a film maybe. I think with the more and more writers, filmmakers, directors, DPs [there is] a wider representation of people these days on the other side of the camera. So I think it just provides more and more opportunity for somebody like me to be able to play a character that I feel like is an aspect of me that’s multi-dimensional.
Mason Alexander Park: I’ve been very lucky that I’ve gotten across many of those things off of my list in terms of theater and television dreams – that sort of thing. I would want to do more films, and I’ve always wanted to do a romcom cuz I just grew up on that kind of stuff. So I think that that would it’d be really fun to do. Like another series that isn’t sci-fi or fantasy but maybe a comedy.
NBC’s Quantum Leap recently premiered its season finale and has been greenlit for a second season. You can find the show on their Peacock streaming service.