"Quantum Leap" Revival on Network Television Gives a Rare Asian American Lead

A rare Asian American lead appears in the “Quantum Leap” revival on network television.

The theme of the program is “jumping into other individuals and potentially having a different experience from your own.”

Raymond Lee initially believed the show’s creators had erred when they approached him to appear in “Quantum Leap,” a follow-up to the adored sci-fi series that ran from 1989 to 1993. He was asked to take on the role of the main character as opposed to a supporting one.

In a statement to NBC Asian America, Lee said, “I got to play the lead on theatre, [but] I didn’t know if the landscape was there for me to do it in television, let alone network television.” “But lo and behold, the opportunity presented itself, and I immediately felt compelled to take the swing. The position I’ve been looking for is here.

The new NBC television series “Quantum Leap” stars Lee as Dr. Ben Song, a quantum physicist who discovers a way to travel through time and space and correct mistakes from the past by momentarily leaping into the bodies of other people. The story is set nearly three decades after Scott Bakula’s Dr. Sam Beckett entered a time machine and disappeared.

For Lee, who recalls viewing the original with his best pal in sixth school, it is a dream role. He praises Martin Gero, the showrunner, for giving him the opportunity to carry on the show’s history after they had collaborated on a short film together in 2019.

NBC crime drama “Blindspot” creator Gero claimed the revival’s creative team, which also includes original producers Donald P. Bellisario and Deborah Pratt, was eager to recruit a non-white actor as the lead.

As they had previously performed the narrative with two white dudes, “we knew we wanted a varied actor for Ben, and part of modernizing this is portraying a bigger story,” Gero added. The purpose of the show is to “jump into other people’s experiences and have ones that may be different from yours.”

Lee defies a Hollywood convention that has historically limited Asian characters, especially in the sci-fi genre, to sidekicks of heroic protagonists by exuding all the traits of a starring man.

The best thing about the show, according to Gero, is that it’s almost like watching a different TV show every week. Nevertheless, the program requires consistency. “Raymond actually has the ability to disappear into these settings like a leading man. He is incredibly gorgeous and earnest, but he also has a lot of comedic potentials. While still very freely entering these other people’s lives and walking a mile in their shoes, [he brings] the constancy that is so difficult to achieve.

For Lee, who grew up in a portion of California with a sizable Asian population but rarely felt represented in mainstream media, it is especially meaningful that newer generations of Asian Americans would be able to identify with elements of themselves in his character.

Lee, a Korean American, stated, “I’ve always regarded my appearance and upbringing to be a superpower. “I had a lot of powerful Asian role models in my life growing up. About 20% of the population in Glendale, where I grew up, was Asian. One can only hope that with a role like this, we can generate the kind of energy I had access to growing up among many great Asian brothers and sisters in that neighborhood.

Lee emphasized that the burden of portraying one of the few Asian American protagonists on television at the moment is not lost on him, even if he tries to avoid thinking about it when the cameras are running.

For anyone to see themselves represented in a position of leadership and [as] a person who is actively going out and doing good and saving lives, representation “means so much for not only our business but every industry,” he said.

In the pilot episode, Ben, played by Lee, takes an unapproved leap and loses almost all of his memories, which forces him to piece together bits of his own past as he leaps from person to person. Ben will begin to re-establish ties to his cultural roots as he begins to recall the events that led to his independent time travel.

In a manner that he’s also kind of learning about it [again as he goes], it’s an opportunity for us to convey an incredibly specific story about what it’s like to be a Korean immigrant, according to Gero.

According to Lee, “some immigrant story that was related to [Ben] that was extremely present” when the pilot’s initial draught was being written. But as of right now, Lee has decided to gradually unveil his past during the first season, which he believes will ultimately make the character and his story more approachable to a wider audience in the long run.

The global relatability of this guy, who is adrift and a fish out of the water, is where you should start, Lee added. Everyone can identify with the fact that he simply feels extremely out of place.

Not everyone can immediately identify with an immigration tale. It was quite wise of them to withhold that, as it’s a soft introduction to a person with a really shady past. Several aspects of Ben’s past will be important at the end of the first season.

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