NBC reimagines classic television sci-fi series “Quantum Leap” with a new cast and new missions, beginning Monday.
The show, helmed by “Blind Spot” executive producer Martin Gero, stars Raymond Lee as Dr. Ben Song who ends up – just like Dr. Sam Beckett in the original show – leaping into the bodies of various individuals on a mission to right some wrong before he can move on. But, unlike Sam, Ben has lost some of his memories, which makes his journey a little trickier.
Luckily, he’s got Ziggy and his fiancée Addison (Caitlin Bassett), who he may not remember, but who is there to help, and hopefully get him home.
Ahead of Monday’s series premiere, TheWrap spoke with Lee about what’s ahead, and whether his character’s memory loss will impact Ben’s focus on getting home.
TheWrap: I would love to know a little bit about how this role came about and how secretive it was. Was it a blind audition?
Raymond Lee: It was not a blind audition. It wasn’t so secretive in the sense that I was given the pilot script to read first. So, I was pretty well-versed into what I was getting myself into. And as far as the audition is concerned, I had to audition for the network and the studio, and it was a character that I felt kind of close to. So, the pressure was off in terms of if I needed to be somebody else, other than to be a physicist, which I’m not. The person felt close enough to me where I’m like, maybe I just have to be myself.
Why did you feel close to Ben Song?
Just because it’s a fish out of water story, and I’ve always felt like a fish out of water in a lot of situations and I’ve always had to, you know, understand my surroundings and get better at knowing my surroundings and I just understood. I understood even though I’ve never had my memory wiped clean, I could understand what it’s like to just like, learn everything from scratch, which I love doing.
What do you mean, you feel like a fish out of water?
Fish out of water in every sense. Like, I love learning things I don’t know. My favorite thing is to like, throw myself into a hobby where I have no business on a rock climbing wall. I’ll figure it out. [At] first, you’re always tense because you don’t know what you’re doing, and then you figure out how to relax in those situations. And when that happens, I get like a euphoric burst of serotonin surges that happen. I’m just like, ‘Oh, my God, I know how to do this.’ … And there are moments in the script, repeatedly, where Dr. Ben Song goes, ‘I know this. I know how to drive a stick shift now.’ And so those moments I can understand and relate to.
The original show is actually still on the air in syndication. If you have regular television, if you have an antenna, you can see it regularly on certain channels. … Were you familiar with it?
I was, yes. I watched it the second time around, I believe it was on USA at that time. My best friend in sixth grade, this was his favorite show. He kept on playing baseball, we’d play at the playground, and we’d come back all sweaty and then we’d gather around and watch the show. I was only into cartoons at the time. So he was watching like, a real show. It was actually my first exposure to sci-fi. Yeah, I was brought into the universe in a very special way. It has a special place in my heart.
So tell me a little bit about the approach that you guys are taking with “Quantum Leap,” because I imagine, you know, it being 2022, the stakes are raised. Technology is completely different these days.
The way that we’re able to manipulate the quantum accelerator has advanced exponentially, yes. Even though we don’t know when Ben Song is going, we might know where he’s going and we might be able to control some aspects of that. We just don’t know how to get there yet in the story. And also, Ziggy has had a massive improvement as well. … Math has come a long way since then as well. So yeah, new algorithms. And our writing staff is just extremely smart at excavating those details. So we’re excited to show that.
And then in terms of approaching, you know, jumping into other bodies, do they approach that in a different way than the original?
You’re still just like all of a sudden trying to figure out who you are?
Yeah, that mythology is the same. He gets to learn how to use his body. What we’re now able to couple with that is Ben’s photographic memory; we’re able to couple that with [Ben’s] insane ability to process physics in real time. And so, we get to kind of see the most optimized version of Ben leaping into a prize fighter and all of a sudden this prizefighter … has everything available to him.
And also, he has to try and help solve some of the world’s problems, because in the original series, and it sounds like in this series, too, he’s got a mission. He leaps into someone to fix something, correct?
That’s right. He has to do good in order to leap. It’s figuring out what specific good he has to do with the aid of Addison and Ziggy that’ll help him to his next leap.
How much of a help is Addison?
Ben would not be able to function without Addison and [in] the original show it was a bromance, and now it’s a romance. They very much have a history together. Ben might not remember that history, but Addison sure does. And how much she can try to conjure up those memories is going to affect the story. So, she might not be able to say everything that she wants to say, because it might be for [Ben’s] own benefit.
Sam Beckett – he’s known in this story, and he’s disappeared, he never came back as far as anyone knows. Correct?
Does Ben want to do that? If he doesn’t have his memory, does he have a reason to go home?
Yeah, that’s a big part of the show. That’s what we’re finding out – why he left, where he’s trying to get to, does he want to come home?
“Quantum Leap” premieres Monday, Sept. 19, at 10 p.m. ET/PT on NBC.