Quantum Leap: Acting Exercises in a Television Series

Quantum Leap is an American television series that was broadcast on NBC from March 26, 1989 to May 5, 1993, for a total of five seasons. The series was created by Donald Bellisario, and starred Scott Bakula as Dr. Sam Beckett, a quantum physicist from the near future who becomes lost in time following a time travel experiment, temporarily taking the places of other people to “put right what once went wrong”. Dean Stockwell co-starred as Al Calavicci, Sam’s womanizing, cigar-smoking sidekick and best friend, who appeared as a hologram that only Sam, animals, young children, and the mentally ill could see and hear. The series featured a mix of comedy, drama and melodrama, social commentary, nostalgia, and science fiction, which won it a broad range of fans. One of its trademarks is that at the end of each episode, Sam “leaps” into the setting for the next episode, usually uttering a dismayed “Oh, boy!”–Wikipedia.com

There’s one thing Wikipedia left out. It’s one of the greatest television series to incorporate basic acting exercises. When actors were little kids, they probably played “make believe” like all the other children. What we actors didn’t realize at the time was, we were actually doing some of the most basic acting exercises. We’d play the teacher, the mother, even the animal. One of the theater/improv games I still enjoy is “freeze” where a performer is able to tag anyone out of the scene and start a new scene. Essentially, that’s what Quantum Leap was as a series. The main character is often disoriented and needs time to re-gain their footing and adjust accordingly to the circumstances around him. Scott Bakula played everything from a young kid, to an animal, even a different gender and race without the use of special effects or offensive makeup. He played the characters as they were, all of the time, we as an audience were seeing him as he actually looked. The most basic of acting games was now utilized in a complex television series.

What I love is that Bakula was able to play all these different characters while maintaining is primary character of Sam. However, the most interesting parts may just come from the supporting cast around him. The actors who had to act alongside Bakula and treat him as if he were a kid, woman, animal or gangster. It’s amazing to look at the series from an acting perspective because it reminds me of scene study classes. Part of me wishes that all series were as amazing as this one. If you’re an actor, watch it. It’s a great learning tool and a wonderful reminder how much fun pretending is.

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle: The “Law & Order: SVU” Guest Spot

Actors Reg E. Cathey & Dean Winters on “Law & Order: SVU”

Many actors (some of my friends included) have appeared on television series. Sometimes they appear on the same show more than once as different characters. I am specifically talking about  Law & Order SVU, which just happens to be one of my favorite shows. It has been one of my personal goals to get on the show for the past five years to be on the show  (Philip Huffman, seriously, I’m still around. Once you have the right role for me, call me.) The Law & Order franchise has always been famous for reusing actors in different facets. Diane Neal, who played A.D.A. Casey Novak, first appeared on the show in a 2001 episode called “Ridicule.”  One of the guest stars, Reg E. Cathey,  in the most recent episode entitled “Undercover Blue” has appeared on all of the various incarnations of Law & Order. He first appeared in an  SVU episode in 2008 playing an undercover cop. Since then, he has appeared in four episodes as an attorney. I have a friend whom I did the play Trailerville, has appeared on the show twice. P.J. Marshall first appeared in a 2001 episode as a homeless man. He had what is known as an “Under 5” which literally means the role is under five lines.  A year later, he appeared in the episode “Mother” playing one of the lead guest stars. There are so many people who have appeared on the various different shows as completely different people I can’t even list them all.

I am happy that actors are getting work. It’s great. YAY for employment. However, I think that I could have swapped out   actors who have appeared on the show more than once with several actor friends that I know. Hell, sometimes I look on the screen and say, “I could have done THAT. Geez.” I think that we need to have more diversity in casting. That includes the tendency to reuse people in different roles. Do they think that we don’t notice? Avid fans of the show certainly do. New York has wonderful actors. Dear casting people, give us other people a chance. Thanks.