Quantum Leap Writer Says NBC Agreed To Transgender Storyline In Primetime With ‘No Hesitation'

Quantum Leap's latest revival has resonated with fans both new and old, and that's partially because of its continued efforts to replicate the feeling and tone of the original series. One of the ways it does that is by telling groundbreaking stories that highlight people from all walks of life. And NBC will continue that tradition with an upcoming episode called "Let Them Play," which puts a transgender teen front and center. The episode is written and directed by transgender activist writer, director, and actress Shakina Nayfack, who revealed that the network took on her idea with "no hesitation." 

I had the privilege of speaking with Quantum Leap writer Shakina Nayfack about her upcoming episode, which sees Dr. Ben Song put into the body of a transgender teen's parent. I spoke to Nayfack about how, even in 2023, it's rare to see such powerful transgender stories shown on primetime shows on network television. During our conversation, I also asked Nayfack about the process of pitching this episode and learned that the process was made easier due to the fact that NBC and the executive producers behind the science fiction series were more than willing to tell this story: 

When I pitched this episode to the Quantum Leap showrunners, there was no hesitation. It was like, ‘Absolutely. We’re gonna do this. We’re gonna take this on, and we’re gonna do it the right way.’ We brought reps in from GLAAD to consult on all the story pieces and we were talking with the studio and the network weeks in advance of when you would normally do that in the process of creating an episode.

It's definitely wonderful to hear that the Quantum Leap team was on board with the idea from the jump. And of course, what's also great is that the powers that be took all the steps to ensure they had people in place to ensure "Let Them Play" hit all the right notes in order to tell a compelling (and multifaceted) story that highlights the experience of a transgender individual. 

Why Sci-Fi Fans Should Check Out Quantum Leap

In "Let Them Play," Ben is transported into the father of Gia Mendéz, a transgender teen on the high school basketball team. As Gia's father and the coach of the team, Ben is in the position to let Gia play and live out her dreams but is up against a school administration that's pushing against it due to pressure from parents and other outside forces.

Ben is certainly faced with some hard decisions in the upcoming episode, and that runs counter to what Shakina Nayfack experienced. She explained that the special part of crafting this Quantum Leap from a behind-the-scenes standpoint was how easy it was to make happen:

What was so special about it, like you’re saying about the groundbreaking nature of telling the story on network TV at primetime is that it wasn’t a fight. Everyone was ready to take this step, and we did it in conversation, transparently, making sure that we were working with integrity the whole time. And I think that’s why the episode feels so solid. Literally, everyone from the grip and shop car guy to the executive producers were on board with what we were saying in the episode.

Quantum Leap viewers can expect a captivating story that explores a number of the situations trans kids as well as their parents, face amid everyday life. All the while, fans should also brace themselves for more details on the traitor-relate mystery happening in the present-day timeline, as Addison and the team work with Janice Calavicci to slowly unravel the mystery as to why Ben began this wild journey without warning. If ever there was a time to grab a Peacock subscription and catch up on Season 1 ahead of the already-confirmed second season, this is it. 

Quantum Leap airs "Let Them Play" on NBC on Monday, February 6th at 10:00 p.m. ET.  Those who can't catch the episode on premiere night can always check it out on Peacock afterward. 

Mick Joest
Content Producer

Mick Joest is a Content Producer for CinemaBlend with his hand in an eclectic mix of television goodness. Star Trek is his main jam, but he also regularly reports on happenings in the world of Star Trek, WWE, Doctor Who, 90 Day Fiancé, Quantum Leap, and Big Brother. He graduated from the University of Southern Indiana with a degree in Journalism and a minor in Radio and Television. He's great at hosting panels and appearing on podcasts if given the chance as well.