The original Quantum Leap series ran from 1989 to 1993 on NBC. The series would become a ratings winner for the network while on the air and after its cancellation, would garner the status of cult classic.
Of course, with a show as beloved as Quantum Leap, there has been talk over the years of bringing back the series and fan favorites Dr. Samuel Beckett and his trusted friend Al Calavicci.
Well, for the fans of the series, that dream is about to become a reality with a twist. Quantum Leap returns to NBC on Monday, September 19th at 10/9c.
This time, there is a new cast, new characters, but the same concept. One of the new characters is Herbert “Magic” Williams, played by veteran actor Ernie Hudson. We find out that Williams may not be so “new” after all.
We had the chance to sit down with the well-respected and veteran actor to talk about the series reboot, how his character has a unique connection to the Quantum Leap project and what he would say to fans of the original series who are on the fence about watching the reboot.
Ernie Hudson – I am happy to be part of this project and they were very nice and kind to me. I always appreciate when I don’t have to go begging for a job and they came to me and said they wanted me to be a part of it, so that’s 90 percent of it right there. They reached out to me and made it clear that they wanted me to be a part of this.
I was also happy to know that Don and Deborah Pratt, who was married to Don when the series was created, were a part of this. She is one of the executive producers on this series. They are both a part of this and that made me even more comfortable with being a part of this project. I knew the project would be done right and NBC is very excited about the show, so that is also exciting for me as well.
Pop Culture Principle – What can you tell us about your character and how he fits into the Quantum Leap universe?
Ernie Hudson – When I say I was a fan of the original series, I was, even though I didn’t watch a lot of the episodes, but I would watch from time to time. I was a single parent at the time, so when I could, I would watch the show with my kids.
The original series was mainly about the two main characters, Al and Sam and Sam leaping into a new situation each week. This show still has that element, but we also get a chance to meet the people who run the project and the guy who is in charge. I play a character who had been leaped into during the original series who is fascinated about what happened to him. He finds out about the project and gets it going again. A lot is riding on him to make sure that project works because there is a lot of money invested in the project. They focus on that part as well, which I don’t think they did a lot in the original which is the biggest difference from the original. Also, this cast is very diverse, which is a good thing as well.
Pop Culture Principle – The series will pick up 30 years into the future and doesn’t start from scratch. How important do you think it is to that the series start off that way instead of from the beginning?
Ernie Hudson – It’s kind of hard to do a reboot, unless you did something from the 1920s that people don’t really know about, then I think you could, but if people are familiar with the project, I think you open yourself up for some possible issues. This show ties into the original, it can respect the original, but it also moves on and it can be its own iteration of the show. When you pretend that the original didn’t happen, that can be a problem.
Pop Culture Principle – The idea of this character having the ability to walk in other people’s shoes each week is so relevant, particularly with what is going on in the world today. Would you agree?
Ernie Hudson – Absolutely. I think that’s part of the problem that we have today. Very few people have empathy for what other people are going through. I think understanding what pushes a person to get to a certain place, it always helps. I think as an actor we do that. You take on a character where you couldn’t imagine being in that situation, but then you have to try and figure out how you would get to that place, and you sort of have to develop that skill to understand it. This show allows people to see a guy and see the situation and hopefully the story is real enough where people will see beyond their own world.
Ernie Hudson – Yes. I have been very fortunate to be involved with projects like Ghostbusters that have had little kids and grandparents come together because of it. This is a family show where afterwards, you can come together and talk about the show. This is a show that you really have to think about and it’s not just a nice show, there is a lot of difficulty out there and hopefully this show will have people take another look, rethink some things, and consider other possibilities.
Pop Culture Principle – Social media really didn’t exist back when the original Quantum Leap aired, but now, social media is a huge part of people’s lives and in promoting projects. How important will social media be to the success of this series and what are your thoughts on social media?
Ernie Hudson – Well, I think it already is playing a role. I mean, people are already talking online about the show, which I think is great. I am probably the worst person to deal with all this social media stuff. I am just too old! 😊 But I know it’s important and I think it’s a way that people connect and support each other, which is great, especially since the beginning of this pandemic. I think it’s a great thing and it’s a great way for the Quantum Leap fandom to discuss the past show and now ours. Unfortunately, sometimes, people want to take it in a certain direction and control that, but I think the positives outweigh the negatives and I’m excited about that aspect.
Pop Culture Principle – Do you feel your version of Quantum Leap respects the core of the original series, but at the same time, bringing something new to the show and builds on its legacy without changing its essence?
Ernie Hudson – You said it perfectly. I do really appreciate the fact that the creators and everyone had such respect and love for the original show. They came with that kind of appreciation and wanting to get it right. In working on it, everyone wanted to respect the fans of the original show and honor that original show. I am surprised at how many fans loved the original series. I don’t think the fans will be disappointed. Raymond Lee, who is playing the lead, is a wonderful actor and he has this genuine spirit that I think a lot of people will be able to relate to.
Pop Culture Principle – The big questions is do you hope in the future that we get to see Sam Beckett appear in the series?
Ernie Hudson – I know the creators and producers would love to see that happen. I am sure they have reached out, but what Bakula thinks about that or what was presented to him, I don’t know the details, but I would love to see that happen. Actually, the young lady who played Dean Stockwell’s wife in the original series, she comes back as his widow in our series, which was wonderful, and she is great. I was really thrilled to get the chance to work with her.
Pop Culture Principle – The original Quantum Leap has become a cult classic over the years and has a very loyal fanbase. Signing on to this continuation of the series, did you have any trepidation or concerns about bringing back such a beloved series?
Ernie Hudson – Well, I think anytime you do anything in this business, people are going to hate and criticize and try to find reasons to not like it and that is just a part of life. When we take on a project, we do our best and put it out there and you can’t think about that other stuff. You just do the work and hope people are happy with the project.
Again, there is no way of actually knowing how people will respond to the project, but I know every effort on our part is being made to make sure that the fans recognize the respect we have for the original and connect with them, but at the end of the day, it’s up to people to decide or not to decide, but I feel good about the show!
Pop Culture Principle – What would you say to the fans of the original series who are on the fence about watching the new Quantum Leap?
Ernie Hudson – I would say, just check the show out for yourself and see what it is about. It’s not a lifetime commitment, but just give it a try. I know the respect to the original series is there. Don’t take someone else’s word, watch it for yourself, try and have an open mind and I think if they watch it, they won’t be disappointed. 😊
A huge thank you to Ernie Hudson for taking the time to talk with us. Quantum Leap returns to your television screens on Monday, September 19th at 10/9c on NBC!
**All photos courtesy of Ron Batzdorff/Brendan Meadows/NBC**