Quantum Leap is back—or at least, a reboot-sequel that introduces a whole new cast into the show’s preexisting time-travel set-up. Rather than Scott Bakula’s Dr. Sam Beckett, the new series follows Dr. Ben Song (Raymond Lee) as he leaps between decades, helping out people in need, while his lab team back in 2022 tries to figure out how to get him home.
At a recent press event ahead of the NBC series’ premiere next week, showrunner and executive producer Martin Gero (Kung Fu, Blindspot) spoke to io9 and other outlets about the show’s much-anticipated return. In particular, he focused on how its original characters and fresh approach to the material, blended with some returning elements, will hopefully please both old-school fans and Quantum Leap newbies.
“Deborah Pratt, one of the original creators and executive producers of the show, was with us every day on this version. We’re so lucky to have her,” Gero said. “She really says that the four tenets of Quantum Leap are hope, heart, humor, and history, and [new lead character] Ben really inhabits the first three of those. He’s an incredibly hopeful character. He has a tremendous heart. The show is about empathy at its core, and he has a ton of that to give. And then also, and most importantly, because we wanted to make a really entertaining and fun show, is the humor. The humor was a big part of the original Quantum Leap [and] it’s a really important part of this one. And I think this entire cast, Ray especially, has really taken that on, [in] trying to find a grounded way to bring an incredible amount of hope, heart, and humor to these episodes.”
The new Quantum Leap fully acknowledges the existence of Dr. Sam Beckett. While Gero wouldn’t comment on whether the character might play a part in the new series eventually (Bakula said today on social media that he has no involvement in the new show), he and his fellow creators knew from the start that they didn’t want to do just a straight reboot of the series. “The show is so iconic and beloved, it felt crazy to just do a version with a new Sam and a new Al [Dean Stockwell’s character in the original series]. It would set up to fail, essentially,” Gero said. “For all of us that were involved at the beginning, it really made sense for this to be a continuation of the story with a brand new set of characters—one that could honor the old show, pay service to the old show, but have a really low bar for entry for new viewers. And I think that’s the tightrope we’re walking, right? We want all of the rabid fans of Quantum Leap to watch the show and have it feel like Quantum Leap. Like, ‘Yes, this is Quantum Leap.’ It’s an evolution of Quantum Leap, but it [still feels like the original show].”
He continued. “But also we know there’s an enormous amount of people that are vaguely familiar with the title and are just going to check the show out clean. We didn’t want to weigh the show down with a lot of mythology immediately that would make it feel like ‘Oh, I need to watch 90-plus episodes of Quantum Leap before I can start this.’ So this you can start fresh. And then slowly over the course of the season, there’s an enormous amount of backstory and mythology from the original show that we’re really excited to share with fans—but it’s done in a way that it will feel like a different view on past events for old fans. And so it’s new information for them, and for our new fans, it just feels like we’re still in the middle of the story and it’s coming out organically.”
One big difference that OG Quantum Leap fans will notice about the new series is that Ben’s co-workers in the time-travel lab—Magic (Ernie Hudson), Jenn (Nanrisa Lee), Ian (Mason Alexander Park), and Addison (Caitlin Bassett), the latter of whom happens to be Ben’s fiancée and his Al-style hologram helper—are also a big part of the story. In the premiere episode, which io9 viewed prior to the press conference (we’ll have a review up soon!), the action is fairly evenly divided between Ben’s journey to the past—which he does without telling anyone, on equipment that’s not quite ready to handle his actions—and his understandably confused and concerned team’s work in the present.
“The original Quantum Leap is basically an anthology series with a very thin through line. Obviously [there was] a lot of character development, but not a lot of serialized stories. And I think everyone kind of felt, from the studio side, the network side, like they needed some sort of serialized aspect,” Gero explained. “I think the modern day part of it allows us to have that flexibility to [ask] ‘Why did Ben leave? What’s going on? Why didn’t he tell anyone?’ That mystery pulls you through week to week without alienating casual viewers. The idea is for it to be pretty balanced. It will mostly be the leaps; every now and again, if there’s a huge event that needs to be talked about in the present-day, it gets closer to like, 40% of the episode. But the show’s called Quantum Leap and we’re going to be focusing predominantly on the leaps.”
Quantum Leap premieres September 19 at 10 p.m. ET and PT on NBC; it will stream the next day on Peacock.
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