While covering the 2022 NBCUniversal Upfront Red Carpet, I had the opportunity to speak with Quantum Leap stars Raymond Lee, Ernie Hudson, and Caitlin Bassett. The series will officially premiere Monday, September 19 at 10 PM ET on NBC.
It’s been 30 years since Dr. Sam Beckett stepped into the Quantum Leap accelerator and vanished. Now a new team has been assembled to restart the project in the hopes of understanding the mysteries behind the machine and the man who created it.
We discussed their hopes for Quantum Leap bringing families together, their individual characters, what they love about the sci-fi genre, honoring the original show while making a whole new project, and more! Keep reading to find out what they shared.
So first off, what attracted each of you to the project?
Caitlin Bassett: I mean, I think the writing is fantastic, the history of the show is enormous, and the concept is right. It’s about going to live in someone else’s life for a second and actually be in that moment.
Raymond Lee: I love the script, I loved the original show, and I think more than anything, I thought it was such a strong pilot. As an actor, not to explain what being an actor is too much, but you read something and sometimes it feels so far away from you, and you’re like, “I really have to work hard at this to get there.” Then sometimes you read something, and it just kind of lifts up and the words just somehow fit easier, and this managed to do that for me. I just responded so viscerally to the script and also I have a lot of things in common with the character. He’s an only child, who is raised by a single-parent mother, an immigrant mother, and I didn’t end up going to MIT in the way that the characters went, but my mom maybe had aspirations of that for me. So kind of relatable, but yeah, I just thought it was a fantastic script and story.
Ernie Hudson: I, first of all, loved the script when I saw the pilot, but, you know, I have four sons and the TV we watch was kind of limited, but this was one of the shows that we would watch from time to time. We always love the idea of someone leaping into someone else’s world and their life, and what would be like to and there were some pretty wild leaps. So when I heard they were bringing back Don Bellisario and Deborah Pratt, I’d worked with years before and I’m such a big fan of their work, so the idea that was coming back was really exciting and then the idea that I would be a part of it was great. I love that we talked about the cross-generational thing and I think that holds, and I love sci-fi. But it’s a little bit different than you typically think of time travel, this is a bit different. This is being inside other worlds and not just inside the world, but inside of the person. All that made me really want to sign up. I had said it earlier, but Scott and Dean were so unique, you can’t replace that, they are who they are and they brought themselves. But when I met these guys, I mean this sincerely, you kind of go, “well, who is,” but yeah, this is — we’re on a whole new level. Any concern I had about, “how do we get there,” I’m not concerned now. This is gonna be really a lot of fun.
Going off of what you just said, I have such fond memories of sitting around the TV with my own family watching shows together. What does that mean to all of you to bring a new show like that to television, because it is rare to find a show that everyone can enjoy together? Is there a takeaway you want viewers to get?
Lee: I mean, the idea of unity, just the theme of it is so important, right? I feel like we’re at a time now where everybody’s watching shows at home and they’re sharing what they’ve experienced with the shows, which is cool. I mean, there’s a lot to consume out there, and we’ve been consuming television and movies in a certain way for the past few years. I can’t remember the last time I’ve sat together around a certain time a show was going to air to be like, “Oh, it’s coming on right now. It’s coming on.” Perhaps my dream of that happening with some friends and families. Of course, you can catch up on it on Peacock but how nice would it be if there can be a unifying show or movie, it’s nice that we are able to create something like that.
Hudson: There’s so much diversity in terms of topic and I mean, television, so what’s happening with families, they’re watching different things. So you can’t really have a discussion about it because my kids see stuff that I don’t; all my kids are grown up so I have no idea what they’re seeing, but I’m not seeing it, I’m with Call the Midwife, that’s me. So it’s nice to see the same show, then to be able to have conversations and this is sci-fi, so it’s out of the ordinary and I think it allows us to begin to share ideas because we talked about different people saying different things and being divided, families are, especially after the pandemic. So everybody’s stuck in the same house, but they weren’t doing the same things. So I have a son who’s there and I wouldn’t know he’s at home until I go look for him, he disappeared. So it’s nice to be able to have that and this really, to me, feels like that. Anything that we can converse on and share common conversation about I think is important and this show has the potential.
When approaching a project like this with such a legacy and history, how do you go about honoring it, while also making it your own, creating your own path for it to be unique, and adding to the original?
Lee: Yeah, we definitely go into it with reverence and we understand the cultural importance of that show, but we also can’t get mired down by it because we are creating our whole new project and it’s a whole new story. We have Deborah Pratt on board to honor some of those older themes of it, but in essence, it’s a brand new show.
Bassett: And look, it starts with the writing too. The writers honor and love the original show, and you’ll see that love in it because they adored it. Also, Dean Stockwell was the best, he was the best, and he was one of the best American actors in history. Scott Bakula is phenomenal, he’s still phenomenal. But we’re different and us trying to play versions of them would never ever work. I think it’d be disrespectful to what they did, so we just got to do our version and do it the best we can.
Hudson: We love Scott, we’d love to see him come and make an appearance.
What can you tell me about each of your characters? Is there a specific aspect that you personally enjoyed bringing to life?
Bassett: So Addison is ex-military, as am I, ex-intelligence, who’s been working for Magic and brought Dr. Ben Seong on to the project. Then when he leaped, she’s really a bit of a bulldog, her mission is to bring him home, keep this alive and keep him safe. Something about the focus of that has been very fun for me. I think it aligns with me a bit, but everything that’s going on for her, needs to go here because she has a job and that’s been really exciting for me as an actor.
Hudson: I’ve been working for a very long time. [A legend.] Thank you, and so now at this stage of the game, I say, “what is fun to do? what is interesting to do,” and I don’t kind of want to do the same thing. So when I see a role that could be interesting, but I’ve done it or it’s sort of one-note, I don’t want to do it. This guy Magic, who was a part of the original iteration of this show that Sam leaped into, so that part of his life was very unsettling and it put him on life’s mission to find out about this project to get this up and running, to explore these mysteries and secrets, and how it will benefit the world now. So that’s something that I really haven’t played and he has so many things going on in his personal life, that leap has changed his world in not all good ways. When a character is complex like that, when he has responsibility, but on the other hand, he has a great relationship with his team, but not a good relationship with his family, or whatever it is, he has issues and to me, that’s real, and to get a chance to play that is really exciting.
Lee: I’ve grown up watching — my favorite characters were Indiana Jones and Marty McFly, a lot of fish out of water characters, because that’s a lot of times how I felt in my life. I’ve always felt a little bit out of place and I’ve felt like I was kind of always punching up. I just gravitate towards characters like that and I don’t necessarily always get to play characters like that. So when I read the script, and I saw that this character was constantly a fish out of water, I just said, “How fun, what an opportunity to always be lost and to kind of stay in the same headspace that I’ve kind of been in most of my life.” So I liked the idea of a person grasping to gain control. That’s just really fun for me.
Lastly, what is one thing that each of you enjoy about the sci-fi genre, whether that’s acting wise or watching it on screen?
Bassett: I love that there is real art-led life and science, which is phenomenal, and I think what’s exciting about sci-fi, and what’s exciting about this, is that we’re always pushing for the cusp of what could be possible, right? Sci-fi gives you the latitude to explore what’s possible, and I think there’s something so exciting and exhilarating about that because at the end of the day, what you see a lot, all the sci-fi things is all about, like, “how can we make it better? How can we do that?” And what a wonderful attempt, so that’s my favorite thing.
Hudson: For me, sci-fi as well, I remember I was in sixth grade and the teacher said, “if you can invent something, you can become very, very rich. You have to think of what hasn’t been invented.” And I thought, “Okay, I’ll invent something.” It was really hard! I couldn’t come up with anything, I was like, “Man, everything has been invented!” I mean, this is 1956, nothing’s gonna change. Then Star Trek came, I got Dick Tracy’s watch on, you know, so it’s open up the possibilities of what is possible and we really need some of what’s possible. This might help socially. Technology is moving ahead, but we’re kind of digressing. So I love the fact that it does open up the imagination to explore what can happen.
Lee: Sci-fi, in essence, is allegorical a lot of times and you’re exploring the impossible. What do we have if we don’t have our dreams? And what is possible? It’s just generally centered around altruistic people who are striving for something better. So yeah, and who doesn’t like future stuff? Who doesn’t like time travel? Who doesn’t like stepping into something and imagining that, “Oh my God, I’m being beamed up?” That’s crazy! There’s a hologram, you know, it’s just cool. You can watch something go, “That’s really cool.” The great feat is they can ground that in reality, and now you’re really cooking with gas because you’re like, “Oh, wow, now everything’s going.” Your imagination’s constantly at play.
Hudson: And to be able to see, you know, I mean, vision, to be able to see. My grandmother would tell me, “Don’t ask God to move the mountain, just ask him to let you see it differently because it might not even be a mountain. It’s just how you’re looking at it.” Sci-fi helps us to see, “oh, maybe that is not all that we… maybe there’s,” to tell a different story.