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Scott Bakula Shares Loving Words About Quantum Leap Co-Star Dean Stockwell After Actor's Death

quantum leap scott bakula dean stockwell
(Image credit: NBC)

Legendary actor Dean Stockwell passed away at his home earlier this week, at the age of 85. While many of his fans, friends, and co-stars have paid tribute to him since the news came out, people who became acquainted with the actor’s work because of NBC’s feel-good, time-jumping series, Quantum Leap, will be glad to know that his co-star on that show, Scott Bakula, has now shared some very loving words about Stockwell.

Fans who loved Quantum Leap know the friendship between Dean Stockwell and Scott Bakula well. The duo played Admiral Al Calavicci and Dr. Sam Beckett, respectively, and it was Stockwell’s cigar-chomping hologrammed best bud who helped Bakula’s character through his many adventures as he involuntarily time-traveled by randomly jumping into others' bodies. Now, Bakula has reminisced on his time working with Stockwell, in a statement provided to Deadline, and said:  

I met Dean at his audition for Quantum Leap in 1988. He had agreed to ‘read’ for the Network, I was already cast. We connected immediately and my career and my life were changed that day in [former NBC president] Brandon Tartikoff’s office. How lucky were we to get him? A few months later he would be nominated for an Academy Award for his role in Married to the Mob, but he was stuck with us. Serendipity? All I know is, he never tried to get out or complain, he loved the role and the show and the rest was history.

Though many fans only came to know Stockwell because of Quantum Leap, the actor had worked since he was a child and was already very well-known and respected in the industry. So, him agreeing to audition for the series was a big deal, and, as Bakula noted, helped to show how much he liked the premise of the series. Of course, after working since he was about nine years old, Stockwell found himself nominated for an Oscar right as QL was in its infancy, but he again proved his commitment to the show by sticking with it.

Bakula continued, noting how working with Stockwell impacted him and others on the Quantum Leap set:

He became a dear friend and a mentor and we grew very close over the next five, very intense years. Dean was such a passionate man…about life, his work, his art (he was an amazing artist!), his family, all kinds of causes, people, music, the planet, cigars, golf, and on and on! Having been a famous child actor, he had a soft spot for every young actor who came on our set. He was very protective of their rights and safety and always checked in with them to make sure that they were ok. His big hearted response to the kids made all of us take notice and be better guardians ourselves.

While there was likely a lot less understanding at the time of what it was like for kids to work in the entertainment industry, Stockwell understood it very clearly because of his life experience, and used that to try and make sure the child actors who appeared on Quantum Leap had the support they needed, which made Bakula and others take notice, as well. 

Bakula also reflected on how close they became off-screen, and those who tuned in for their now classic sci-fi show could tell you that it did translate to what we saw from Sam and Al in the show. This is so true, that their friendship could easily be noted as one of the aspects that made Quantum Leap so beloved to its fans, to the point where they’ve been hoping for a revival the entire 28 years the show has been off of the air. That’s an amazing claim to fame that not many long-departed shows get to have.

In the end, Bakula spoke about how enjoyable it was to work with his friend and see how he approached both work and life, saying, in part:

In spite of having a career that came and went several times during his seventy plus years in the business, he was always grateful and delighted to have the chance to keep working...He used to announce his presence on the sound stage (if we hadn’t already caught a whiff of cigar smoke trailing in behind him), with a bellowed, “The fun starts now!” Truer words were never spoken. I loved him dearly and was honored to know him. He made me a better human being…

While we won’t get the Quantum Leap reunion with Dean Stockwell and Scott Bakula that we wanted, it’s good to know that their time on the show was well-remembered, and led to a great real-life friendship that stood the test of time. 

Adrienne Jones

Bachelor Nation, Gilmore Girl; will Vulcan nerve pinch pretty much anyone if prompted with cheese...Yes, even Jamie Fraser.