By Alamin Yohannes
July 18, 2022
Let the leaping commence because Quantum Leap is coming back!
Set in the present, the new Quantum Leap restarts the time travel from the original with a new set of characters. When Dr. Ben Song (Raymond Lee) makes an unauthorized leap into the past, his team begins searching for answers, scrambling to bring him home before he gets in too deep.
Having grown up on the original Quantum Leap, showrunners Steven Lilien and Bryan Wynbrandt are massive fans, something they kept in mind when creating their show. “It was important to follow in their footsteps by continuing the legacy and introduce our audience to a new set of characters and new story while connecting the two worlds,” Wynbrandt says. For star Lee, a childhood friend introduced him to the original series. “I remember distinctly in sixth grade, it was my best friend’s favorite show, and I thought he was such an adult watching something like Quantum Leap. By watching with my friend, I became a fan,” Lee shares.
Described as a spiritual scientist, quantum physicist Dr. Song has a specific approach to time travel. “He is compelled over and over again to make the right decision, even if his own life is at stake, so he is a much better person than I am in real life. He’s something to strive for,” Lee says. Dr. Song immigrated from Korea with his mother, which will be integral to the story Quantum Leap is telling. “We’re telling an immigrant story at its core, and it is how Ben is experiencing life moving forward,” Lilien explains.
Dr. Song’s partner will be decorated Army veteran Addison (Caitlin Bassett), who assists in the form of a hologram that only Ben can see and hear. While the pair’s dynamic has the banter of Sam Beckett (Scott Bakula) and Admiral Albert Calavicci (Dean Stockwell), the new iteration will be different. “Their relationship runs deeper than just being a hologram. They have a close relationship,” Lilien teases.
Fans of the original will recognize the name of the person running Quantum Leap: Herbert “Magic” Williams. The father figure of the Quantum Leap team, played by Ernie Hudson, is a character from one of the original series’ most powerful episodes. After failing to save his brother’s life after leaping into himself as a teenager, Sam leaps into Magic, a member of his brother’s unit in Vietnam, and is able to save him. “Those are memorable episodes, so it wasn’t hard to gravitate toward that world and find a character we always responded to,” Lilien says. It also allows the show to answer questions viewers may have had about the impact of Sam leaping into someone. It is a government program, so it would make sense that a decorated war veteran like Magic would have their career trajectory impacted after surviving because of this project. Ben’s unexpected leap at the start of the new series puts Magic in a bind with his superiors, who will want answers about Ben’s breach of protocol.
Rounding out the team is Ian Wright (Mason Alexander Park) and Jen Chou (Nanrisa Lee). Head of artificial intelligence Ian has “a philosophical and engaging point of view on both technology and humanity, which gives a cool depth to the core group,” according to Lilien. Jen, who runs security at Quantum Leap and has a long history with Magic, is described as cynical and questions Ben’s motivations for leaping.
The new iteration will spend more time with the team members back at Quantum Leap than the original series. The team will investigate the larger core mystery of why Ben leaped without them knowing, adding a serialized element to the procedural. “This is a family that is being thrown into upheaval because someone they love and trust has done something unexpected by leaving without telling them. It has a huge ripple effect on all their relationships and lives,” Wynbrandt says.
Telling the next chapter of the Quantum Leap story in the present means the show will have an opportunity to explore things the original did not. “There are so many incredible events to touch on from the last 30 years,” Lilien says about the “new playground of history” the new show can explore. “To hear the music, to remind people what we were wearing and how we wore our hair and talked. It’s exciting to tell this story right now, to look back and to bring it to a modern audience.”
Lee, for one, is excited about telling stories set in the decades he grew up in — Sega Genesis controllers, vintage caps, and all. “I had a really wonderful childhood. I miss the days before computers and iPhones when you would be bored,” Lee says. “And boredom creates creativity.”
Quantum Leap premieres September 19 at 10 pm ET on NBC.