from the SCI FI Program Sciographpy: Quantum Leap
Broadcast August 13, 2000
QUESTION: This was Don Bellisario's creation, his vision. How did he come across when you first met him?
SCOTT BAKULA: Well, we always kid about the beginning because Don has always been very careful with his material, and protective of it. When they sent the material to me, they sent two scenes from the pilot. And I said, what's this? One was the scene where I meet Dean for the first time and the second scene was with, I think, the woman who was playing my wife in the pilot, where we're driving down the road. It's a chase scene or something. And they said, Well, that's all there is. And I said, all right. So I went in and read the two scenes and they went well and I went home and the full script arrived like an hour-and-a-half later.
I went back the next day and started getting to know Don a little bit, but he was kind of businesslike, he didn't say very much in the meeting. He said it was great; I don't remember him particularly directing me a lot, just one of those moments that click in an audition process that worked for him and for me. I certainly loved the material from the get-go, I mean I read these two scenes and I thought, "I don't have a clue what this really is but it seems it's very well-written, these two scenes." So from that I was very happy to get an audition and then when I got the whole script I really started to get excited about it. When it was time to go to the network and then read with the guys to play Al, then it kinda just took off from there. But I don't remember early kind of contact, big contact, with Don, except he was very supportive and encouraging.
QUESTION: How do you explain this odd, complicated concept to your loved ones?
SCOTT BAKULA: I don't think I ever successfully explained the show to anybody. That's always been the difficult, challenging task that Don seems to be most successful at. People basically want to know, especially in this town, "Tell me what the show is in one sentence." And you can't do it with Quantum. I've tried to break it down for years and I usually just say, "Ask Don, he'll tell you." Or, "Ask Dean [Stockwell]," and Dean will tell you it's all about him, so it works that way, too.
QUESTION: Did you have any idea about shows he had done?
SCOTT BAKULA: I knew all about Don, I knew of and had been a fan of those shows and certainly knew he was a big gun in this town, certainly at Universal. I was very much in awe of him and his success in the business and felt very fortunate to get the job at all, much less to be on NBC. I was very excited about it and at the same time nobody really knew what it was gonna be. I don't think anybody really knew what the show would evolve into, because we had [an] order [that] was something like the pilot, and then they were going to review the pilot and then decide if they were going to order nine more, and it played out in a funny way. It was a pilot but then there was a kind of a look-see over the holidays. We didn't have a huge commitment or anything, everybody was curious. Brandon [Tartikoff, president of NBC at the time] certainly was. We all were. Everybody was kind of going out on a limb but it was turned out to be a big, sturdy branch.
QUESTION: Where did you come from, your childhood being perfect training.
SCOTT BAKULA: That worked out really well and it wasn't something that was planned. I grew up in St. Louis and I kind of did everything I could do when I was a kid. I played every sport I could. I had a rock 'n' roll band, I sang, I studied a couple of other instruments, I was in a choir, I was in all kinds of extracurricular things.
So I played the piano. When all of a sudden when this happened and they started looking for things that they could give backstory to Sam Beckett, they just kept pulling on things that I did or could do. Fortunately, I'm relatively athletic, so they felt, basically I used to say by years three or four that the writers were trying to kill me! They just sat around and said what can we give him that we could possibly get rid of him with? The worst thing was the trapeze, which I've talked before about. It just worked out that I could play the piano so we could do a blind pianist episode. I sang, so we could sit on the front porch and do [John Lennon's song] 'Imagine' in an episode. I played basketball, football and baseball, I did all these different sports. So we could infuse the series with a lot of different looks while at the same time telling those same kind of simple, human, emotional stories that worked really well for the show in many ways the simpler the better but it just worked out that I had all this history. It wasn't like at the interview they said, Now, before we give you this part, guys, can you swim, can you hike, can you climb mountains, can you rope a cow, can you hang from a trapeze? They didn't ask any of those questions. [For example,] at the beginning it was just a baseball episode. It turned out for some reason that he had to be a left-handed batter in the pilot because it gave him a better chance to get to first base on a pass ball. ... I bat right-handed, so I just turned around and I kind of grimace every time I see my swing in slow motion, which is even worse in the title sequence because it's just, it's not my swing, but we faked it. And we faked a lot things and we faked them pretty well. My background really lent itself to this kind of a show and they certainly pulled out all of the stops to get me to do everything they could.
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