‘Quantum Leap’ Star Says NBC Reboot Is a ‘Fish-Out-of-Water Story Injected With Turbo Juice’ (Exclusive)

Quantum Leap is taking a leap into the modern day with NBC’s update of the classic ’90s sci-fi action drama.

The new series picks up nearly three decades after Dr. Sam Beckett (Scott Bakula) stepped into the Quantum Leap accelerator and disappeared, never returning home. A new team, led by physicist Ben Seong (Kevin Can F**k Himself‘s Raymond Lee), has been brought together to restart that same project with the aim to understand the mysteries behind the accelerator and Beckett. Of course, it being sci-fi and all, things take a turn for the unexpected when Ben makes an unauthorized leap into the past, leaving the team behind to solve the mystery of why he did it and try to successfully bring him home.

“It’s 2022 and the world looks different onscreen and off. It’s important that this show represents that to show how far technology has come and just how life has elapsed in general, how time has elapsed in general. There’s a lot of history in the past 30 years to also go back into and a lot of wrongs that could be turned right. So, it was ripe for a comeback and now it’s here,” Lee told ET. “History, a lot of times, has the answers. So, it’s important for us to feel comfortable at times when it’s very uncomfortable. A show like this has such a loving fanbase and the themes are so relevant to what’s happening in the world now. I feel like it is a soothing balm, a salve for perhaps all of the chaos that is happening outside. I hope this show can be that to the world now.”

Ahead of Monday’s series premiere, ET spoke with Lee about leading the charge on a modernized Quantum Leap, if he foresees an opportunity for Bakula to ever make an appearance and why it’s significant for an Asian actor to be headlining the sci-fi remake.

ET: First of all, how excited were you, personally, to be an Asian actor headlining a network show with such a legacy behind it? 

Raymond Lee: It charts progress. We both know how important representation is — not just in entertainment, but entertainment is usually the thing that people see — and it’s ubiquitous to what’s out there. So, it’s important to see Asian people in these parts and I’m very fortunate to have been given this opportunity by our creators and by NBC and by Universal Television and everybody involved that are a part of the decision making. They all are like-minded in the way that we’ve always viewed ourselves. We have no choice but to make ourselves the center of our own stories because that’s what our individual lives mean to us. The fact that that hasn’t been represented for so long is… Disservice is not even enough of a word. It’s very unfortunate that that hasn’t been there. So, I feel very fortunate. It’s a big responsibility, but it doesn’t feel that way because I have so much support. Their support allows me to do my thing. It’s just exciting and charts progress. I’m thrilled.

Your character, Ben, goes through the wringer in the first episode. What has the experience been going through all of these different chaotic situations through your character?

It’s the best. It’s honestly the best. I don’t think I would get cast in a law procedural anyways, but if I was doing a law procedural week in and week out, I’d be, first of all, very fortunate to have a job and very thankful, but second, at some point, I’d be getting bored being in a courtroom every day. For me in my personal life, I seek excitement. I love it. Although, I could probably eat an In-N-Out cheeseburger every single day, I choose to mix it up. I love that my work life gets to mimic my actual life, where I like to see the background change day to day, week to week, episode to episode. It’s been so much fun. I get to check off an actor’s bucket list with each episode.

This Quantum Leap also lives in the same world as the original series. How much of a chance is there for legacy characters like Scott Bakula’s Sam Beckett to come back around? 

Our show’s creators are immense fans of the original. It’s very important to them that we honor the original with as many Easter eggs and character connections, and expanding on the mythology that surrounds Quantum Leap. There are definitely going to be a lot of that and we’re going to create more opportunities for that. For the original fans, if they’re really looking out, there’s one at every turn. But, as far as finding Sam Beckett or running into him or co-leaping, one could dream. I would love to share an episode with the original leaper. 

Looking ahead, is there an episode or a scene down the line that you want people to circle or is a personal favorite of yours?

They’ve all been my favorites in different ways, right? Episode 3 is something that… Who I get to be and what I get to do in that is an extreme passion of mine. The one that I’m in currently might be one of my favorites. Episode 5 was so, so much fun, but it was also so, so hot — just temperature-wise hot during that episode. Whatever acting you see, that’s not fake sweat. That’s real sweat. That’s real agony. That’s real dehydration you’re seeing. The cracked lips are all real. But, yeah, I guess so far, all the odd number episodes stand out to me, but they’re all great. I can’t pick. They’ve all been really special for different reasons.

Quantum Leap
Ron Batzdorff/NBC

You’re also working with an amazing ensemble cast. Has there been a memorable moment on set so far that has bonded you guys on a deeper level?

We’re very bonded. When we shot the initial pilot out in Vancouver, it felt like we were at some fun actor camp. We couldn’t believe how fun it was. Every night, we were out having dinner and hanging out. Out here, one memory that stands out is when we’re at some of the newer stages at the Universal lot. We got to put the plaque of Quantum Leap on Stage 40. That was a really memorable moment because we were all there and we got to put it up. We have pictures from that day, and we’re all just beaming.

What can people expect when they sit down and tune in on Monday nights?

It’s going to have heart and it’s going to stay true to the themes of the original. But, I think at the end of the day, it’s just going to be a lot of fun. You’re seeing a fish-out-of-water story injected with turbo juice. We’ve all been there to feel out a place and to feel like you have no memory of anything and you’re grasping for words and grasping for air and trying to figure out your way out of a situation. I think it’ll be fun for audiences to see someone getting themselves out of a pickle over and over and over, and also to go into the mythology deeper with the Headquarters world. The entire world that didn’t exist before is now the world of Ziggy has opened up to the audience. What happens there informs what happens in the leaps and they supplement each other. There’s so many rich dynamics and drama and storylines to play in that world. I think it’s going to be relentlessly fun and exciting.

Is there a point in history you’d want to see Ben leap to next?

The writers are so much better at coming up with this than me and the worlds that I’ve already wanted to see, surprisingly, somehow they keyed in on it and we’ve already done them. Episode 5 was one of my big actor dreams to exist in this world. When that script landed, I was like, “Really, already? I get to check that off the list? OK.” So, I don’t know. Now, everything is just going to be gravy now because now they’re thinking of things that’s beyond what I could think of. I’m just eagerly awaiting what their brains are going to do.

Quantum Leap premieres Monday at 10 p.m. ET/PT on NBC.

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