Get to know the man starring in Quantum Leap’s return to television.

Raymond Lee is bringing family-friendly time travel back to TV as Dr. Ben Song in the new Quantum Leap

When Quantum Leap showrunner Martin Gero met Raymond Lee while making a short film together in 2019, he was blown away by his talent. "When we started to think about our Ben, his name came right to the front because he's an incredible actor with this tremendous innate empathy," Gero says about Lee. Born in New York City and raised in Los Angeles, Lee will lead the new series that sees a team working on the Quantum Leap project. 

According to Gero, Lee's ability to play the humor in moments while still keeping them grounded, emotional and optimistic was something they saw right from his audition, making him a perfect fit for the role. "You need the audience to cheer for this guy. They need to be on his side right away in various situations," he explains. 

Quantum Leap
Raymond Lee on 'Quantum Leap'
| Credit: Ron Batzdorff/NBC

Deborah Pratt, an EP of the original series, said there are four "H's" to tell a Quantum Leap story: hope, heart, humor, and history. "He has that hope, he has that heart, he definitely has the humor, and we have a history with him," Gero, who recalls Pratt's sentiment, shares. That combination was present in Scott Bakula's Sam Beckett and will be in Dr. Song. "What's great about his casting is if you're a fan of the original, you're going to feel at home in this performance without [him] feeling like this is a photocopy of Sam. [Ben's] his own character that has an enormous amount of emotional overlap with the original one, but it's a different vibe," Gero explains. 

Ben is a brilliant physicist with a high IQ, but in a world of flying superheroes and physically impressive action heroes, there's a relatable aspect to Quantum Leap's central time traveler. "Why the original show worked was you as the viewer, regardless of who you were, would think, 'This is how I would be in that situation'," says Gero. "This is a person who is dropped into a different scenario and time period every week and through his wits alone, has to figure out how to solve a problem."

We spoke to Quantum Leap star Lee about some of his earlier work, what to expect from the new series, and more. 

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: When did you first get interested in acting and performing, and what are your earliest memories of it?

RAYMOND LEE: My mom put me in a children's choir when I was about five. I just remember really diggin' it. It was much later in life when I decided to take acting seriously, but I remember that being a very formative feeling and moment in time. 

What was your first professional project?

How I Met Your Mother was my very first professional TV role, and I remember being so stoked. I had made a living off of playing the stoners, and I got to play the ultimate stoner. I was very proud of my one line. The day it aired, I had my then-fiancée-now-wife and my mom at my house, and we watched it on TV together. 

Is it true that you switched from kinesiology to acting while in college?

My dream was to tape up Shaq's foot. I played sports growing up and was obsessed with how the human body worked. I remember Sports Science on ESPN was a really big show at the time. It showed me how things worked. I was like, "That's how that ligament lines up there. That's really interesting," so I wanted to become a physical trainer or therapist for a professional basketball team, and the Lakers are my favorite. 

I read that you co-founded an acting troupe called The Four Clowns. What role did that play in your journey as an actor?

It was theatrical clowning. When I was in theater school, we had a clown course, and it was completely transformative in terms of treating an emotion like it's a muscle. You've trained the crying, anger, and nervous muscles, so these all become more accessible to you. It was so revolutionary that me and my friends started to clown around town together. Like busking, without the money. We gathered enough material at that point because we had tested it out so much to create a show. We took it around to all the fringe festivals we could in and around LA. That's where I cut my teeth, basically, and then I got into theater after that.  

What is your favorite thing about Ben?

Ben's a better person than I am. He's constantly risking his own life to save another person. He's very altruistic, brave, and smart. Ben's a selfless guy, and I'm learning how to be a better person through him. 

Quantum Leap
Credit: Ron Batzdorff/NBC

How is Dr. Song similar to and different from Sam Beckett?

They're similar in the sense that they're both physicists, and they have decided to take this leap for better and for worse. He's different because perhaps Sam took a leap for different reasons than Ben. What we're trying to figure out in the show is why Ben took this leap. Also, Sam Beckett only had the help of Al Calavicci, while Ben has the help of an entire team at headquarters, and they're all trying to pull him back to the present day. 

How daunting was it for you to take on bringing back this iconic series?

I wouldn't say it is daunting. I would say there is pressure, but it's good pressure, and we have the benefit of having a great property to our name. This was generally unanimously beloved, and for all the right reasons. It was a show where families were able to watch together and rally around a character doing good. There are no real nefarious things going on. When people come up to me and tell me that they're so excited for Quantum Leap, the energy I get is not like, "You better do this right." It's more, "I'm so glad this is going to be back on air."

What is the best career advice you've ever received?

I was taking pictures with Tsai Chin because we had been in a movie together [2013's A Leading Man], and she was standing behind me. She tapped me on the shoulder and said, "Hey, you're good-looking. You're young. Do you want to keep doing this?" I said, "Yeah, I want to take this seriously." She asked me if I read and traveled, and I told her not much. She said I needed to read and travel because it's not good enough to just be [good-looking]. I needed to get culture. I took that to heart. I understand now, many years later, what she meant by that is you've got to be well-rounded.

What does it mean to you as an Asian-American actor to be playing the lead in the next chapter of a beloved TV show?

It's beyond me. I do this because I love doing it, and I look this way because I have no choice. I hope to be a reflection of not only the work I'm capable of, but also what folks like me are capable of. 

What's your favorite project you've worked on thus far in your career before Quantum Leap?

I got to do a play with Sandra Oh called Office Hour, where I spent two-and-a-half months with one of the greatest actors of our time. I got to absorb all of her knowledge and mirror her for several hours a day, which impacted my life and career. 

Before Quantum Leap, you played Sam on Kevin Can F**k Himself opposite Annie Murphy. What was your takeaway from that experience?

Another great number one. Annie Murphy is an exceptional human being. I'm honored to have even been in a chemistry read with her, let alone share a series with her, and it made being in rural parts of Massachusetts really fun. It was not fun often, but being with her made the experience very memorable, and she's so good. I would work with her any day. 

What are you excited for viewers to see from Quantum Leap?

Audiences will get a kick out of how much action there is. There's some deep mythology, time travel, and that kind of stuff, but also pure action. Viewers will be surprised at how much it'll get their heart racing. 

Quantum Leap premieres September 19 at 10 p.m. ET/PT on NBC.

Make sure to check out EW's Fall TV Preview cover story — as well as all of our 2022 Fall TV Preview content, releasing over 22 days through Sept. 29.

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