After over 40 years working in Hollywood, Ernie Hudson knows a thing or two about the industry’s inclusivity of Black men and other People of Color — which is why working on NBC’s Quantum Leap is such a breath of fresh air.
The series — which was recently greenlit for another season — has been praised, not just for its rich and interesting storylines, but for its diverse and multifaceted characters.
“Diversity is a reality,” Hudson told The Nerds of Color over Zoom last month. “This is what we are and who we are. That’s one of the important things with this series is that we are able to show that. The series is perfect for that because we have a character [and] we have a system where we can actually enter into anyone — male, female, non-binary — and get a sense of what that reality is, especially at a time of crisis in each of these situations.”
In the series, Hudson stars as Herbert “Magic” Williams, the head of the Quantum Leap Project, who is trying to bring back their scientist Dr. Ben Song (Raymond Lee), who has mysteriously decided to leap without letting anyone know why. Hudson, himself, doesn’t know the answer to the mystery of the series and he prefers to find out as he reads each script.
“I find out slowly,” he reveals. “I get a sense of [where] things are going. We discover [the specifics] when the script is handed [to us] — and a lot of times it’s already lined up with some discussions we’ve already had. It’s discovering as we go along.”
But Hudson does know a bit about Magic’s history. Magic was a previously leaped character from the original series — being “saved” by Sam Beckett (Scott Bakula) and now feels obligated to pay it forward and bring Sam home. Magic knows he’s running on borrowed time, because in the original timeline — he died.
“His life is not the same,” says Hudson. “He was not one of those happy cases where he got leapt into and then the next day life was fine. He came out struggling to make sense out of it. He’s spent a large part of his life trying to make sense out of it until he discovered that this happened. Moving forward, I think he has issues.”
Hudson hopes to explore more about Magic’s history — his family life (“he has a daughter”) and dive deeper into his mental state and past trauma, as the series continues into its second season. It’s not easy knowing your life would have been different because of a program — especially during a time of war. Hudson believes his character had a past drinking problem and is having a difficult time holding it together as the in-between to the military and his team. As the leader of the team, Magic has always had to be the “strong one,” but Hudson tells us it could be a facade.
“I think for a lot of African Americans, especially when you see certain people, they seem like they didn’t have the struggle or they seem to have it all together,” Hudson shares. “But we’re struggling. I think it’s important that we show that part of Magic.”
Hudson would like to see Magic’s family and him trying to find a balance between his work life and personal life — though he may have no personal life due to his dedication to the military and project. He also would like to see Magic’s past explored.
“One of the difficult things for African American men, especially if you are successful, is how do you go back home to the hood and be okay,” asks Hudson. “How do you balance this world the way it is? I’d like to see that addressed because I think there are a lot of people who are going through that. We strive to be successful, but you have to leave a lot of people behind and some of those people are important people in your ecosystem, so to speak.”
The past series has not shy away from having episodes deal with social issues like Civil Rights, disabilities, sexual assault, and reproductive rights. Showrunner Martin Gero says the new series won’t be any different when bringing up these real-life situations that everyday people deal with. So to discuss mental health, particularly for Black men, doesn’t seem too far off. Hudson did reveal that gender will be discussed in a future episode, which he says is one of his favorites.
“It’s very touching,” says Hudson. “Very moving. It helps so much [for others] to understand some of the things [people go through].”
Hudson says a series like this will bring up conversations that are necessary and has even bonded with his sons on several of the episodes. “It allowed us an opportunity to have some deep discussions. So it’s an opportunity for us to have discussions in a safe space because we’re not really talking [about ourselves]. So I think that’s a good thing because [we aren’t] looking at each other as “others,” meaning different than who we are — we are looking at each other as part of [a] collective. We’re all in this together. And we’re all moving forward together.”
Quantum Leap returns Monday, January 2nd on NBC.