When Raymond Lee first acquired a suggestion to star in “Quantum Leap,” a sequel to the beloved sci-fi collection that aired from 1989 to 1993, he thought the present’s producers had made a mistake. As an alternative of a supporting character, he was being requested to play the lead.
“I bought to play the lead in theater, [but] I didn’t know if the panorama was there for me to do it in tv, not to mention community tv,” Lee advised NBC Asian America. “However lo and behold, it introduced itself, and I used to be like, ‘I’ve to take this swing.’ That is the position I’ve been ready for.”
Set almost three a long time after Scott Bakula’s Dr. Sam Beckett stepped right into a time-traveling machine and vanished, the brand new “Quantum Leap” on NBC stars Lee as Dr. Ben Tune, a quantum physicist who discovers a method to journey by time and area and repair errors of the previous by briefly leaping into the our bodies of different individuals.
It’s a dream position for Lee, who remembers watching the unique along with his finest pal in sixth grade. He credit showrunner Martin Gero, with whom he had briefly labored on a brief movie in 2019, for entrusting him to proceed the present’s legacy.
Gero, a author and producer finest recognized for creating the NBC crime drama “Blindspot,” stated the inventive workforce, which incorporates unique producers Donald P. Bellisario and Deborah Pratt, was seeking to forged a nonwhite actor to headline the revival.
“We knew we wished a various actor for Ben, as a result of they’d executed the 2 white guys model of it earlier than, and a part of modernizing that is telling a broader story,” Gero stated. “The present is about leaping into different individuals and having an expertise that’s possibly completely different than yours.”
In Lee, the producers discovered somebody who exudes all of the qualities of a number one man, bucking a development in Hollywood that has traditionally diminished Asian characters, particularly within the sci-fi style, to sidekicks of heroic protagonists.
“The best factor concerning the present is that it’s virtually like a special TV present each week, however it wants that consistency,” Gero stated. “Raymond actually has this high quality of a number one man that may drop into these conditions. He’s terribly good-looking, he’s actually honest, however he may nonetheless be actually humorous. [He brings] the consistency that’s so tough whereas nonetheless very freely coming into these different individuals’s lives and strolling a mile of their footwear.”
That youthful generations of Asian Individuals will have the ability to see components of themselves in his character is especially significant to Lee, who grew up in an space of California with a major Asian inhabitants however seldom felt represented in mainstream media.
“I’ve at all times thought-about the best way I look and my background to be a superpower,” stated Lee, who’s Korean American. “I grew up with a number of sturdy Asian figures in my life. I grew up in Glendale, the place it was about 20% Asians. … I had a number of cool Asian brothers and sisters to look as much as, and there was a group there, and one may solely hope that with a task like this, we will create that form of vitality.”
Whereas he tries to keep away from interested by the importance of this venture when cameras are rolling, Lee reiterated that the duty of taking part in one of many few Asian American leads on tv proper now isn’t misplaced on him. Illustration “does a lot for not solely this business, however each business — for anyone to see themselves being represented ready of management and [as] an individual who’s actively going out and doing good and saving lives,” he stated.
When Lee’s character, Ben, makes an unauthorized leap within the pilot episode, he loses virtually all of his reminiscences, forcing him to cobble collectively components of his personal life as he jumps from individual to individual. As he begins to recollect what prompted him to time journey on his personal, Ben will even start to reconnect along with his cultural heritage. “It’s a method for us to inform an extremely particular story about what it’s wish to be a Korean immigrant in a method that he’s additionally form of studying about it [again as he goes],” Gero defined.
When the primary draft of the pilot was written, “there was an immigrant story that was tied to [Ben] that was very current,” Lee revealed. However now, his backstory might be slowly revealed over the course of the primary season, a inventive resolution that Lee thinks will in the end make the character — and his story — extra accessible to a wider viewers in the long term.
“You begin with the common relatability of this particular person, who’s misplaced and a fish out of water,” Lee stated. “He simply feels actually misplaced — everybody can relate to that. Not all people can relate with an immigrant story proper off the bat. So it’s a comfortable opening into this one who has a really sordid previous, and I feel it was very sensible of them to withhold that. Earlier than the top of this primary season, a number of Ben’s background will come into play.”