When Raymond Lee first obtained a proposal to star in “Quantum Leap,” a sequel to the beloved sci-fi sequence that aired from 1989 to 1993, he thought the present’s producers had made a mistake. As a substitute of a supporting character, he was being requested to play the lead.
“I received 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 instructed 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 practically 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 strategy to journey by means of time and house and repair errors of the previous by quickly leaping into the our bodies of different folks.
It’s a dream position for Lee, who remembers watching the unique along with his greatest good friend 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 greatest identified for creating the NBC crime drama “Blindspot,” mentioned the inventive staff, which incorporates authentic producers Donald P. Bellisario and Deborah Pratt, was seeking to solid a nonwhite actor to headline the revival.
“We knew we needed a various actor for Ben, as a result of that they had achieved the 2 white guys model of it earlier than, and a part of modernizing that is telling a broader story,” Gero mentioned. “The present is about leaping into different folks 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 pattern in Hollywood that has traditionally lowered 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 distinct TV present each week, but it surely wants that consistency,” Gero mentioned. “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 might nonetheless be actually humorous. [He brings] the consistency that’s so difficult whereas nonetheless very freely getting into these different folks’s lives and strolling a mile of their sneakers.”
That youthful generations of Asian Individuals will be capable of see elements of themselves in his character is especially significant to Lee, who grew up in an space of California with a big Asian inhabitants however seldom felt represented in mainstream media.
“I’ve at all times thought of the best way I look and my background to be a superpower,” mentioned Lee, who’s Korean American. “I grew up with a whole lot of sturdy Asian figures in my life. I grew up in Glendale, the place it was about 20% Asians. … I had a whole lot of cool Asian brothers and sisters to look as much as, and there was a neighborhood there, and one might solely hope that with a job like this, we will create that form of power.”
Whereas he tries to keep away from occupied with the importance of this challenge when cameras are rolling, Lee reiterated that the accountability of taking part in one of many few Asian American leads on tv proper now is just not misplaced on him. Illustration “does a lot for not solely this trade, however each trade — 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 mentioned.
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 elements 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 may also start to reconnect along with his cultural heritage. “It’s a method for us to inform an extremely particular story about what it’s prefer to be a Korean immigrant in a method that he’s additionally type 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 choice 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 individual, who’s misplaced and a fish out of water,” Lee mentioned. “He simply feels actually misplaced — everybody can relate to that. Not everyone can relate with an immigrant story proper off the bat. So it’s a smooth opening into this one that has a really sordid previous, and I feel it was very good of them to withhold that. Earlier than the tip of this primary season, a whole lot of Ben’s background will come into play.”