As part of a wave of revival shows, NBC’s Quantum Leap has stood out as one that has forged new paths and introduced new characters while staying anchored to the original series.
With exciting adventures, an intriguing long arc narrative, and solid cast chemistry, Quantum Leap Season 1 won over fans of the 1980s series and added legions of new ones.
Speaking with TV Fanatic via Zoom, executive producer Chris Grismer answered our questions about the new season, premiering on October 4 at 8/7c.
With directing credits on shows like The Unsettling, Freakish, and The Vampire Diaries, Grismer is no stranger to the weird and wonderful world of the unknown. He was also familiar with the original Quantum Leap series before directing four episodes in Season 1 of the revival.
“I did like the original series. I wasn’t an obsessive fan, but I had watched a bunch of the episodes when I was younger.”
One of the key differences from the O.G. series is the ensemble cast supporting star Raymond Lee.
“I feel so grateful every day going to set on this show. The people just click really well, and they’re all just such good souls, so it’s amazing.”
As Ben does not return home after his leap at the end of Quantum Leap Season 1 Episode 18, Season 2 is rife with possibility as he continues the seemingly random leaps through time and lives.
From a theoretical perspective, can anyone ever return home?
“Yeah, Ben wants to return home, obviously. Home has changed, though. I don’t think it’s the same as it was.”
That being the case — and still on the metaphysical aspects of Quantum Leap that were heavily hinted at in the later seasons of the original series — is there a divine presence directing the leaps?
“I don’t know exactly what Martin (Gero) and Dean (Georgaris), the showrunners’ intentions are with it. But I know that we get to explore it in a way that we hadn’t in the first season.
“It becomes more of a device and more something that Ben is trying to get to the bottom of.”
As Ben is an established atheist, this will be a fascinating development to watch unfold.
TV Fanatic was provided screeners for the first three episodes of Season 2, and they each present as distinctly different genres. Does Grismer have a favorite genre piece in the season?
“Well, obviously, you know I’ve done a bunch of sci-fi and horror shows. I directed Episode 3, the UFO episode, and obviously, I love anything UFO-related. I think it was one of my favorites, for sure.”
As seen in the Season 2 trailer (below), Ben leaps into an FBI UFO investigator à la X-Files, treading the line between skepticism and belief. Did Grismer feel that tension as he directed?
“Yeah, absolutely. Even though belief has changed since [with] the government’s declassifying all this stuff, and we have Congressional hearings telling us that aliens are real.
“That’s my favorite part of the show – in the old series as well – is when you don’t know exactly if there is something more going on. If the demon is real. If UFOs exist. I really like it when we go in those directions.”
On Quantum Leap Season 1 Episode 7, Ben found himself in the body of a priest hired to exorcise a demon from a young girl. Grismer helmed the direction on that one, which aired coincidentally on October 31. Will they air something as fitting at Halloween this year?
“There is definitely something around Halloween, but I don’t think it lands on Halloween this year. I could be wrong. But last year, it was so cool that my Exorcist episode landed right on Halloween night. I was so excited about that.”
Much of the drive behind the Quantum Leap project is grounded in faith that the leaper can be brought home. Is there something in the science that fuels that faith? Why would leapers choose to cast themselves into that danger?
“I’m not sure. You’d have to ask Martin and Dean that question. I know that in our show, they weren’t ready to leap. The leap was done almost as a passionate action. I don’t think that there was a plan in place yet to leap. That’s a question for the showrunners.”
So far, one of the most exciting parts of making Season 2 has been going to Egypt to shoot Quantum Leap Season 2 Episode 8.
“The production went to Egypt. I mean, not all of the production. I went there, and [so did] the actors and some other crew members.
“It was a really exciting and challenging shoot. We figured out a way to do it. We had this international producer who figured out how to hire crews in different countries, so we got an Egyptian crew.
“We got to shoot in places you can’t even see as a tourist, and the Egyptian people were really welcoming to our show. It was exciting.
“I scouted there by myself for a few days. Then we came back and picked where we would shoot everything, figuring out how to bend the story to fit the locations that I thought were most shootable. We shot there for three days but were there about a week.”
With Grismer directing, how heavily costumed is this adventure?
He laughs, “Not as costumed as you’d want. Trying to avoid the Michael Jordan shirts, especially in a period piece, was one of the bigger challenges, but it worked out.
“The locations themselves, you can’t… I mean, you can create them on a volume stage or in a green screen to some extent, but I don’t think it feels like you’re there like when you actually shoot it there.”
Everyone that goes to war thinks the universe, God, is on their side. We can’t all be right.
One of the most compelling characters introduced in Season 1 is Martinez, another leaper out to stop Ben from fulfilling his objective of saving Addison.
Despite his apparent death on the Season 1 finale, could we see present-day Martinez recur on the show because Leaping Martinez is a Martinez from the future?
Grismer defers this potential spoiler to the showrunners. “That would be a question for Martin and Dean. So far, not to my knowledge.” (By which we can infer he does not appear in the first eight episodes of this season.)
One of the nostalgic throughlines of Season 1 was Susan Diol reprising her role as Beth Calavicci, the widow of the late Dean Stockwell’s Al Calavicci and Season 1 antagonist Janis’s mother.
In addition, Ernie Hudson‘s Herbert “Magic” Williams is a canon character from the original series Quantum Leap Season 3 Episode 2 who hosts Sam Beckett on his leap to save his brother during the Vietnam War.
While Grismer can’t speak to whether any other canon characters will appear, he hints at some intense developments for Magic.
“I don’t know if we’re going to reprise [anyone else]. We have not finished [Season 2] yet. There might be.
“It’s exciting, though, to watch Ernie struggle a little bit more with his motivations and what happened to him.”
As for the other team members, Grismer reveals that their participation in the leaps will be more involved.
“We spend more time in the leaps this season. We go and study the emotion in the leaps a little bit more.
“So far, we haven’t spent much time exploring the other characters’ lives, but the other characters become more heavily entwined in the leaps themselves. We get to explore those as they bring unique perspectives and skills to each of the leaps.”
For a show that uses a science fiction device like a quantum accelerator to send a person through time and space to set right history’s wrongs, Quantum Leap never takes itself too seriously. Some of the most memorable moments have been comedic ones.
Grismer shares that Season 2 continues that trend right from the start.
“The first episode [Quantum Leap Season 2 Episode 1] has that amazing guest cast, and I’m such a giant fan of a lot of the actors. P.J. Byrne, I find to be one of the funniest people on the planet. Even being on set and hearing some of those cast members roast each other was great.
“I think we’re lucky with our lead [Raymond Lee] that he can balance comedy, drama, and action.
“I haven’t found anything that he’s not good at. I’m like, ‘Can you play basketball?’ ‘Yeah, I’m pretty good at basketball.’ [as exhibited on Quantum Leap Season 1 Episode 12]
“When episodes come up, I’m like, ‘Can you do this?’
“He’s like, ‘Yeah, I can probably do that.’
“And then he can do it so well.
“Like in the boxing episode [Quantum Leap Season 1 Episode 3], the guy who was training him said he would train him to box professionally. That’s how good he was.
“But we’re really lucky with Raymond. He’s the same way with comedy. He’s just … He’s very funny, and his timing is perfect. I love being on set watching Ben and Addison or even Ray with the guest cast. He’s just absolutely hysterical.”
Is there a possibility of a musical episode? Grismer is aghast at the idea.
“Oh, please, God, no.”
Maybe singing will finally be something Raymond Lee can’t do. Grismer scoffs at the idea.
“Oh yeah, I’m sure, just accidentally, [he’s] an amazing baritone or something like that. He’s a multi-faceted human.”
What does Grismer think viewers will enjoy most about Season 2?
“I’ve enjoyed this season, and there’s a lot. We go back as far as the 1600s, which was never done on the show.
“We went to Egypt to shoot.
“It’s a bigger, more emotional, and more exciting season. I think viewers are going to enjoy it.”
Not long to wait now, Fanatics! What are you most looking forward to in Season 2?
What do you think prevented Ben from coming home? How do you think home has “changed,” as Grismer describes it?
Hit our comments with all your anticipatory theories and wishlist items, and we’ll discuss them all on the other side of the premiere!
Quantum Leap returns at 8/7c on October 4 on NBC.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Diana Keng is a staff writer for TV Fanatic. She is a lifelong fan of smart sci-fi and fantasy media, an upstanding citizen of the United Federation of Planets, and a supporter of AFC Richmond ’til she dies. Her guilty pleasures include female-led procedurals, old-school sitcoms, and Bluey. She teaches, knits, and dreams big. Follow her on X.