Interview with producer Deborah Pratt of “Quantum Leap” on NBC by Suzanne 9/26/23
What makes this interview interesting is that Deborah worked on both the classic “Quantum Leap” as well as the new one. In fact, she was married to the creator of the show, Donald Bellasario. I’m sure she has many stories beyond what she revealed in our interview. I love both versions of the show, and I can’t wait to see what happens the rest of the season.
Suzanne: So, how many episodes are filmed already for the season?
Deborah: Eight. Are we lucky or what?
Suzanne: Oh, that’s good. Yeah, there’s so few scripted shows right now.
Deborah: Yeah, I think it was a great idea of NBC Universal, Martin, Dean, everybody said, “Let’s just keep moving forward.” And I’m really excited that we did.
Suzanne: Yeah. I just watched the first two episodes, I enjoyed them a lot.
Deborah: Oh, thank you.
Suzanne: I’m a big fan of the old Quantum Leap and the new Quantum Leap, and I know you’ve worked on both.
Deborah: I did. I was there from the beginning.
Suzanne: Wow. You should write a book about that?
Deborah: You know, I can’t tell you how many people have asked me to write a book about my experiences and how I got to where I got to, and when I brought Quantum Leap to Don and how it evolved the way it evolved. It’s exciting. I was very young and got to learn how to make a series.
Suzanne: And seems like now would be a good time to come out with a book since you‘ve got the new show.
Deborah: Yeah, yeah. Well, I have two new books coming out.
Suzanne: Oh, cool. That’s right.
Deborah: I’ve got Warrior One, and I’ve got the fifth book in my Vision Quest series. And truthfully, I started a Quantum Leap book, but it was not the history of. Matt Deal has that covered. I don’t know if you’ve ever read any of his books. He’s so good. He goes into all kinds of detail, and he just had a sequel come out. So, it’s really worth checking into. He’s from London.
Suzanne: It’s about Quantum Leap?
Deborah: There are things I read in those books that I either forgot.
Suzanne: So, he’s got a second book about the making of the original Quantum Leap, or is it about the new one?
Deborah: I don’t know if it’s come out yet. It’s called Beyond the Leap. And it’s the revival, so it gets into the new show.
Suzanne: Great. So, how have the strikes affected filming other than the obvious way?
Deborah: Well, yeah, of course, we shut down, which is the obvious way. In that sense, you know, how quickly will we be able to – knock on glass; I have a glass desk – How quickly will we be back up and running? And we’re standing by the the Screen Actors Guild, in that they have a lot to fight for…in the sense that creativity needs to be protected. But your voice, your face, your body are, are on the line here, and you need to have your rights to control them.
Suzanne: And now that they’ve got a tentative agreement with the Writers Guild, will the writers be returning to make more Quantum Leap scripts?
Deborah: Well, it’s got to go through the process of the legalese straightened out. The board of directors – I used to sit on the board of directors for the Writers Guild – will meet and vote on it, and then it goes out to the membership. All of that happens.
Suzanne: Does that take a few days, a few weeks, few months?
Deborah: It’s a process, it can be as short as, you know, this is, I think, my third strike that I’ve been involved with in my career. So, sometimes it happens quite quickly, and other times there are little snigs and snags. Right? I have great hope that the AMPTP is going to understand that they can’t make anything without us. Right. And truthfully, AI can build a streamer for you. [laughs] So, it’s not like it’s not in danger.
Suzanne: So, what can you tell us about what’s going on with Ben and the rest of them this season?
Deborah: Ben didn’t get home at the end of season one. I can tell you that. If he did get home, we wouldn’t have a series. Ben did not get home. You got to see Episode One and Episode Two you said. So, he’s got a real reality check. He’s been out there by himself. He hasn’t seen anybody. He’s still asking for Addison. So, he doesn’t realize or understand why. “Why am I alone on this on this leap?”
Suzanne: And would you say would you say things are ramped up more this season? Usually the second season is like more action, more this, more that, more twists and turns.
Deborah: Well, we certainly got a lot of that in in those first episodes. I know if you looked at the trailer, which is wonderful kudos to marketing at NBC Universal, we went to Egypt, literally got on a plane and went to Egypt. So, that’s really fun and exciting. We also went further back in time then the show has ever gone. I won’t tell you when. It’s further back.
Suzanne: Yeah, I think I saw that in the trailer. I don’t remember the date. But I remember seeing an old [unintelligible]
Suzanne: Yeah, that was it.
Deborah: I know. I’m supposed to remember all that stuff. [laughs]
Suzanne: That’s fine.
Deborah: I have to remember all that stuff. So, those things are really exciting and very adventurous, but the bigger things and what is Quantum Leap, is the heart of the show that the story’s really not just the the leaps. But the the stories with our main characters, Ben and [Addison], and Magic, Ian, and Jen. We get to know more about them, which is the fun thing. We get to know what’s at stake. You know, now that he’s been found, how did he get found? Those mysteries. Because we have the opportunity to solve those mysteries. And the first mystery, which was why he left in the first place, we solved it. We find out it’s to save his woman and ultimately, maybe even the world, and he gets to be a real hero in the first season. And Ben is so likable.
Suzanne: That’s true.
Deborah: Raymond Lee, I give huge props to him. Having worked with both Scott Bakula and Raymond Lee, I think the show will only accept exceptional people. It’s just how Quantum Leap is, you know.
Suzanne: And it was nice to go in a different direction then having to try to find a Scott Bakula clone, if you could even do that.
Deborah: If you could even do that. I don’t think you could even do that. But I think it, you know, it’s one of those things of time, space, Ziggy. I get to play a piece of artificial intelligence that, you know, needs more control than we know, that has more control than we know.
Deborah: So, all those things we get to play with, and we get to find out more of what happens to them when they go home at night. There’re two new characters. We know that Peter Gadiot, who’s now Tom Westfall is the United States officer, we meet him in the second episode and try to understand what magic had to give up to get the project going again, once they found him and then what Ian did to locate him and what Jen knows or doesn’t know. So, there’s all these arrays that are that are being set up to set the story threads for the tapestry that is Season Two.
Suzanne: Okay, and is there any chance – this is something that I’m sure all the fans have asked a million times, but is there any chance that we’ll get to see Sam Beckett again?
Deborah: There’s always a chance. You know, again, and I say this 100 times that, that I personally am working on this Quantum Leap movie. I think Sam could come back in a $100 million super star. I think that we have the opportunity to do what Star Trek has done. There are nine Star Trek spin offs and nine Star Trek movies. So, let’s expand the franchise to video games and motion pictures and rides. I always say, “Did you go to Comic-Con? Did you see the Quantum Leap ride?” I think the opportunity to really see what the show can do and let the imagination of not just the writers but also the fans write back and participate in it as they have always done, the stories that I’ve gotten, the letters that I’ve gotten, the important moments in history that teachers have used from the the original series to to teach history that is, in some cases, intentionally being forgotten. It is, I think, a great opportunity for conversation. And I think what the show has always done, and I so grateful for Martin and Dean is to give you both sides of the story. So, you have those two sides to figure out where do you stand on this emotional issue, this political issue, wherever we are in storytelling, right? And maybe you just stand in the middle as an observer. Maybe you’re just, you know, Addison now, and you are looking at what’s happening, but you’re looking at it from the perspective of a present day mind that knows some of this history. Then, there’s the fun of, you know, there’s a show, and it happened to be the year you were in high school. You get to hear the music and see the clothes, because it’s a little movie every week.
Suzanne: That’s true. There was an actor I recognized in the second episode we’ve just seen briefly. Vincent Irizarry. Will he be coming back? Do you know?
Deborah: The two characters that are coming back are Peter Gadiot, Who’s Tom Westfall, and Eliza Taylor comes into it. She’s Hannah in episode three. So, those are going to be our reoccur[ing] characters that are coming back. I don’t think Vince is –
Suzanne: He’s from the poker game. So, he’s not in the history part of it.
Deborah: Right. Right. Right. I remember him. And he’s wonderful, by the way. Are you a fan?
Deborah: He’s very, very good. You know, that’s the cool thing about the show. You never know. We can go back and find a character. That can be really fun to tell the story, because they have that recognition of time. So, it could happen.
Suzanne: Okay, I hope so. I hope so. You know, who would play poker with Jen? Do they not know what kind of brain she has?
Deborah: Thank you very much. Represent. Yeah, she’s smart. I love the women on this show. In that Addison and Jen and – And you want that opportunity. And then Sam gets to be a woman 50% of the time. I mean, that’s the other thing that is, I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but he leaps into, 50% of his characters are women.
Suzanne: Wow. I know he went often, but I didn’t know it was that high.
Deborah: It was funny. They did the episode where he was the stewardess, episode 107. And I’ll never forget, they came down in these incredibly comfortable shoes. And I said, “Those weren’t the shoes those women had to wear in the 60s. They wore pointy toes, spike heels. And Genevieve who’s a wonderful costume designer, said, “Oh, I was just trying to be kind.” And they did a whole bit on it in one of the episodes, but, you know, we as women wore those shoes, and it’s fun to let men experience it, you know, vicariously, more than vicariously, he gets to do it for real, and that’s some of the fun stuff. And again, I go back to Raymond’s physical comedy is just delightful.
Suzanne: It’s great.
Deborah: He went to school and studied clowning…If you look at his physicality and how he can interpret some of those characters, it’s magical. That’s a lost art. You look at people like Robert Downey Jr. and people like that, who have great physicality in what they do, and I think that Raymond has that. He’s a real find. We’re very blessed to have him, besides being a really nice person.
Suzanne: That’s good to hear. That’s always good to hear. So, any outstanding guest stars that you can tell us about?
Deborah: Well, the pilot we’ve got, oh my gosh, Melissa Roxburgh from Manifest. François Arnaud from Midnight Texas and Aaron Abrams from Hannibal and Blind Spot, and [PJ] Byrne.
Suzanne: I was trying to remember where I knew him from; it’s from Blind Spot. I remember now.
Deborah: [PJ] Byrne from The Boys and Shazam. And Peter Gadiot from Yellowjackets and Eliza Taylor. You know, these are going to be our reoccurs, our regulars.
Suzanne: Well as as executive producer, do you have any control over the writing or the stories or anything like that?
Deborah: I give notes; I give my thoughts. And I say this with great humility, in the sense that I want Quantum Leap and the franchise of Quantum Leap to expand. I want the fact that Star Trek has nines spin offs, three concurrently, right now. It had nine major motion pictures, and I fought 30 years ago to have that and could not get the team to see the potential that’s there. This is very exciting to me. And it’s very important for me to keep the lore and the core of the show true to what Quantum Leap is about. But it’s very important for me to let someone create it into a new entity, to create [unintelligible] But but let’s see what it can be. And in my mind, I know multiple other directions that the show could go. So, this is just the beginning of what Quantum Leap’s comeback could be if the fans are there, if people like you love the show and support it. We’re very blessed to have the press, who had their own childhood experiences, growing up watching it with their parents and their grandparents and having the opportunity to talk about what happened in time. So, to come back and have those those little morality plays that Quantum Leap can do sometimes, and little glimpses of history from a whole new side experienced through Ben, where we the audience, or Ben, when he steps into someone’s shoes, whether they’re high heels or flats, we get to feel what it feels like for him to to experience being a white female or a black male or a woman. And those are the things that I think will carry us into great storytelling, and then the story threads that are being created and pulled through. They’re going to weave a beautiful tapestry of what this Quantum Leap is and can be. It’s a great time.
Suzanne: I hope that you get your wish, because that would be great to see Quantum Leap go on for quite a while.
Deborah: I’m hoping so too, as well. You know, I’m being very judicious about bringing Ziggy back, letting Ziggy come back, other than doing her job.
Suzanne: Right. All right. Well, it’s nice to talk to the voice of Ziggy.
Deborah: Thank you very much. Thank you. Yeah, it was it’s it was really fun to create it to, to write that dialogue that people hear and get chills, because it brings back so many natural memories.
Suzanne: Right, right. Well, I appreciate you talking to me today. And I’ll keep my fingers crossed for you.
Deborah: Thank you so very much. I am grateful for you and what you’re doing.
Audio edited and transcribed by Jamie of SciFiVision
Season Premiere Wednesday, October 4 (8-9pm ET/PT) on NBC. Streaming next day on Peacock.
It’s been nearly 30 years since Dr. Sam Beckett stepped into the Quantum Leap accelerator and vanished. Now, a new team, led by physicist Ben Song (Raymond Lee), has been assembled to restart the project in the hope of understanding the mysteries behind the machine and the man who created it.
Everything changes, however, when Ben makes an unauthorized leap into the past, leaving the team behind to solve the mystery of why he did it. At Ben’s side throughout his leaps is Addison (Caitlin Bassett), who appears in the form of a hologram only Ben can see and hear. She’s a decorated Army veteran who brings level-headed precision to her job.
At the helm of the highly confidential operation is Herbert “Magic” Williams (Ernie Hudson), a no-nonsense career military man who has to answer to his bosses who won’t be happy once they learn about the breach of protocol. The rest of the team at headquarters includes Ian Wright (Mason Alexander Park), who runs the Artificial Intelligence unit “Ziggy,” and Jenn Chu (Nanrisa Lee), who heads up digital security for the project.
As Ben leaps from life to life, putting right what once went wrong, it becomes clear that he and the team are on a thrilling journey. However, Addison, Magic, Ian and Jenn know that if they are going to solve the mystery of Ben’s leaps and bring him home, they must act fast or lose him forever.
Martin Gero and Dean Georgaris serve as executive producers along with Deborah Pratt, Chris Grismer, Alex Berger, Steven Lilien and Bryan Wynbrandt.
Universal Television, a division of Universal Studio Group, produce in association with Quinn’s House Productions.
Proofread and Edited by Brenda