Raymond Lee can now be seen in the "Quantum Leap" sequel series. Photo courtesy of NBC
NEW YORK, Sept. 19 (UPI) -- Raymond Lee says variety is the best thing about playing a time-traveling physicist -- who inhabits other people's bodies in different decades and places -- on NBC's Quantum Leap sequel series.
"I'm checking off a bucket list with every episode," Lee told reporters in a recent virtual press conference. "It's an actor's dream to not only be in different periods with different projects, but to do it all in one. It's the roles of a lifetime. I'm having so much fun."
The original sci-fi show ran for five seasons 1989 to 1993, with Scott Bakula playing Dr. Sam Beckett, a physicist whose experiments allow him to help people solve problems and correct mistakes.
Dean Stockwell, who died in 2021 at age 85, played Sam's sidekick Al, who appeared to him as a hologram only he can see and hear. Al brought with him valuable information Sam needed to complete his tasks.
The show ended with Sam stuck in the past and unable to get home.
Premiering Monday, the new version casts Lee as Dr. Ben Song, the scientist who revives Sam's work, with the help of Ben's fiancee, Addison, played by Caitlin Bassett, who also appears to Sam as a hologram when he leaps in time. Ernie Hudson, Jenn Chou and Ian Wright co-star.
"There will never be another Dr. Sam Beckett. But what we've created is a brand‑new show with brand‑new characters, and we're really excited to bring this show to you," Lee said.
"What connects Ben Song and Sam Beckett are the main tenets of their belief in doing good and what it means to be empathetic."
Lee recalled being in the sixth grade when his best friend was obsessed with the original Quantum Leap, which was playing in reruns in syndication at the time.
"It was the first real show I remember watching, and also my first introduction to sci‑fi. And, so, I have very fond memories of just playing and then going home and watching it with him," Lee said.
Deborah Pratt, one of the creators of the franchise, is an executive producer on the sequel and frequently on set to remind the cast and creative team about what makes Quantum Leap special.
"She really says that the four tenets of Quantum Leap are hope, heart, humor and history, and Ben really inhabits the first three of those," said Pratt's fellow executive producer, Martin Gero.
"He's an incredibly hopeful character. He has a tremendous heart," Gero added. "The show is about empathy at its core, and he has a ton of that to give. And most importantly, because we want to make a really entertaining and fun show, is the humor. The humor was a big part of the original Quantum Leap. It's a really important part of this one."
Bassett comes to the project as a real-life military veteran who served in Afghanistan.
"Still shocked I'm not fired," she joked about her new career. "No, I'm having a great time. It was a dream [of mine] since I was a kid. And I think a lot of people join the military for a lot of different reasons, right?
"But most of it's because that's kind of one of their best options. And I was in and it was an amazing experience, a growing experience. And, you know, you always dream, right?"
After Bassett left the U.S. Army Intelligence and the National Security Agency, she went to law school.
"I've made some smart choices," she said. "I was going to go to law school and I got my degree and I was going to go be a real adult. And then I got to New York, and I just was like, 'You know what? I've done hard things before. Let's give it a go.' And, I mean, by the grace of God, Martin and Bryan [Wynbrandt] and Steven [Lilien] found me."
Bassett said she thinks viewers will be able to connect to the characters and feel good about the stories in the series.
"It's a show that goes into people's homes, into people's families. It's about hope and it's a dream come true. I can't pretend like it's anything else," she said.
Gero described Bassett as one of the show's "secret weapons."
"She's literally never been seen before," he said. "The performances she gives in these episodes are so powerful, so incredible, and [she] doesn't feel like a novice in any way. It's a really extraordinary story that we're very happy to be a part of."
Bassett said it is fascinating to play a character who is a hologram because she has the unique position of feeling emotionally invested in what is happening with Ben, while also being aware of what is going back at Quantum Leap headquarters.
"But I can't physically affect anything, so there's an element of, like, me with my popcorn. And it's so much fun. You get to see something every week," she said.
Gero also confirmed that Hudson's character Magic Williams, who runs the Quantum Leap program, is the same character who appeared briefly in the earlier incarnation of the series.
"We were all looking for as much connective tissue with the old show without it being impossible to overcome for new viewers," Gero said.
"We don't want to give too much away, but one of my favorite scenes in the whole show so far is between Mason [Wright] and Ernie where we find out Magic's kind of backstory. I think it's really powerful and beautiful and, again, it's just a fresh perspective on the old show in a way that I think only our show can do."
Hudson said he remembered the character (played by Christopher Kirby) from when he watched the original series with his children.
"I was fascinated by that character," Hudson said.
"So, to step into those shoes and answer a lot of questions of what's happened to him and all that stuff, it's very exciting," Hudson added. "People say, 'You couldn't have been in Vietnam.' I went into the military in 1964. It's kind of, I guess, a compliment. But, yeah, it's great to be Magic."