This article contains spoilers for Quantum Leap episode 14.
When Quantum Leap cast Brandon Routh to play Caitlin Bassett’s father, XO Alexander Augustine, in episode 14 “S.O.S.,” the show selected a dead ringer for Captain Addison Augustine’s dad. Routh looks like an Augustine as well as a distant relative of the late Christopher Reeve, which is fitting as he is the only actor to play two DC superheroes (Superman and The Atom) and to have attended high school with Aquaman (Jason Mamoa).
In “S.O.S.,” the battleship housed at the USS Iowa Museum on the L.A. waterfront serves as the set for an active naval vessel engaged in war games on the East China Sea in the year 1989. Quantum Leap’s military episode doesn’t just look the part, it gets it right.
Quantum Leap is indebted to the background and experience of one of its leads – U.S. Army Veteran, Caitlin Bassett. According to IMDb, Bassett enlisted in the United States Army at age 18 and spent 7 years as an intelligence analyst, attaining the rank of Staff Sergeant and completing three combat deployments – two of which were to Afghanistan.
We spoke with both Bassett and Routh about crafting one of the best episodes of the Quantum Leap revival yet.
Den of Geek: Thank you, Caitlin, for your service to this country. Along the way with Quantum Leap, have there been moments where your military background and knowledge has helped to shape, or even correct, a piece of the show’s narrative?
Caitlin Bassett: Oh certainly, I think the showrunners are kind and lovely and they rely on me to feel comfortable. When you’re playing and representing someone who you’ve been in real life…to a certain extent, I think the bar raises. I can’t say stupid things! I can’t say things that are just like, you know, totally incorrect. The showrunners are really kind about that, and they give me a lot of latitude. But truthfully, they’re very good. [Showrunner] Dean Georgaris has done a lot of military shows and movies and they work to get it right, and so they welcome [my experience]. They’re like: this is good right? And I’m like: yeah, just a little tweak here or a little tweak there. It’s been really collaborative and a wonderful working environment in that sense.
Brandon, seeing you on the screen in “S.O.S.,” XO Augustine and Addison are spitting images. What was your experience like guest starring as this character?
Brandon Routh: Thank you. It was wonderful. I’ve been on a lot of crews, and it was really excellent to walk on the set and be welcomed by the cast and the crew—that’s not always the case. It’s a team effort and sometimes you have people come in just for one play, an episode, and sometimes you don’t get included on the team. So, all the kudos to Raymond Lee and Caitlin for creating such a warm environment that an actor can come in and feel part of the team and do the best job they can: make friends and be creative and make a good product. The crew and Dean and Martin [Gero, showrunner] were very welcoming from the beginning. It was a great place to be.
I noticed in this episode that Addison mentioned that her father never smiled, and I don’t believe that XO Augustine smiled much at all throughout the episode. But your range of what you did have to express from talking about your family problems to trying to prevent World War III–it was just so well done. What was it like for you to have an opportunity in such a short amount of time to really go through that range of expression and emotion?
Brandon Routh: You know, dramas are never my first choice usually. Most people probably don’t believe it or don’t know it, but comedy is my first choice. I have the most fun with it, and it comes more naturally to me than the dramas. I’ve really been concentrating and working to build dramatic muscle, and to do less is a big thing to become more authentic. This was really a great opportunity to practice that. When it’s well written, that makes it much easier. And when you have fantastic actors around you–not pulling faces and doing too much–that all helps you stay in it. I think in talking with Dean Georgaris before I took the role, I really understood how important this character was to the lore and to Caitlin’s back story and future story. From that moment, I kind of had locked him in–his sincerity and his genuineness in wanting to do the right thing whether it be for his family or for his country, so I just held onto that.
Your range really came through too because Addison set us up that her father was very stoic and hard, and then it was really the opposite of that.
Brandon Routh: Stoic and hard are two adjectives to describe the character, but what’s what’s the emotion behind that behavior? Then you can kind of start from there rather than just labeling it. You know, it’s more that are the events that would lead to that kind of behavior?
How is Addison feeling right now about things? Apart from the tension around Addison and Ben’s relationship and the fact that he rogue leaps, how does Addison feel about being the hologram and doing all the things that she has to do in that role?
Caitlin Bassett: In so much of season 1, she’s just holding on. There’s a necessity that continues to drive behavior, and how she feels has to be secondary to what she has to do to get Ben home. It’s very reflective of military service, which is why this episode in particular was especially wonderful to play as an actor because the stakes are even more personal. It’s everything about who she is on the table. If we had ever gotten a chance to meet our parents at the same age, we would probably have a much deeper understanding of what they were going through because you have now gone through enough to have more empathy. To me, playing that moment was maybe one of my favorite moments, if not the favorite moment on the show. Especially as a daughter of a Vietnam Veteran myself, I talk a lot about the intergenerational aspect of service and war and to have been able to have a conversation like that in that way from one generation to the next, dealing with things, I felt like I was talking to my dad.
Ziggy is on the fritz lately and yet there’s so much human ingenuity that seems to be really what’s shaping the leaps and what’s making things happen. For instance, Ben’s calculations by hand in “S.O.S.,” I think this is the first episode where math has saved the day, which was really cool to see. How’s Addison feeling about Ziggy right now?
Caitlin Bassett: Ziggy is just doing the most and will continue to do the most throughout this season. At the end of the day you still have got to get the job done. Sometimes stuff doesn’t work, and Ziggy doesn’t work a lot! But that gives us as actors and us as characters the opportunity to prove to ourselves every time that we can figure this out. It’s much more fun to play that as an actor, everybody using their own abilities to solve the problem rather than a computer giving it to you. That’s more fun anyway and from the character’s perspective Addison’s like: alright, Ziggy needs to get its stuff together. But, either way, Addison has a job to do, so she’s going to do that job either way.
Addison had a great moment in episode 13, “Family Style,” when she commented about how Ziggy can’t predict unscrupulous behavior very well—Ziggy can’t predict what bad people are going to do.
Caitlin Bassett: Yeah, it can’t. Ziggy’s not a person. There’s too many probabilities and then you just get bogged down. Sometimes you just gotta pick one and go.
Caitlin, you’re an equestrian. Do you see any horses in Addison’s future?
Caitlin Bassett: I was so mad…
Brandon Routh: You had a Western episode, right?
Caitlin Bassett: They didn’t let me ride a horse. They didn’t let Ray ride one either. I would’ve been super jealous if Ray got to ride one. But I’m trying, we’ll see.
Brandon Routh: TV show reality in having horses is essentially—OK, actors get on the horse. OK, turn the camera. OK, they’re standing. OK, do your lines. OK, everybody get off and put the stunt doubles on.
Caitlin Bassett: I’ll try though. I’ll try my hardest to get one race across the field. I’ll try.
Quantum Leap is always doing groundbreaking things. Are there more groundbreaking moments happening in the next few episodes–things we’ve never seen before on the show?
Caitlin Bassett: Oh, we’re going to break some ground. Stay tuned–we’re gonna break it. It’s fun. I’m really excited for people to see the rest of the season. It just gets more and more exciting, and I’m pumped. I think you’ll be really excited about where this is going.
Quantum Leap airs Mondays at 10 p.m. ET on NBC. The sequel’s episodes, as well as all five seasons of the original show, are available to stream on Peacock.