NBC's new version of Quantum Leap is only Caitlin Bassett's first television role, and she's already leading the charge.
That probably doesn't come as a surprise to anyone knows her. The formidable woman spent the better part of a decade in the United States Army, including completing multiple combat deployments. She also worked behind the scenes on a couple of documentaries and appeared in a short film when turning her attention to acting more recently.
Now, she stars opposite Raymond Lee's Dr. Ben Song as Addison, a woman who had been training to be the one who leaped across space and time, while Ben was going to stay behind in the present, assisting on missions as a hologram. In the series premiere, he flipped the script and took off without telling anyone (though he did leave Addison, also his fiancée, a video message), and she had to chase him into 1985.
When she got there — in hologram form — she couldn't touch him or interact with anyone else or anything in the space. She also couldn't pick up their relationship, including demanding an explanation for why he left, because his memory was wiped and he didn't remember her, let alone what the original plan was or what they mean to each other.
He ended up in the body of a getaway driver on a heist to steal the Hope Diamond, and the two of them had to work together to stop someone from dying during that robbery, effectively changing the past and hopefully allowing him to then leap home. She proved invaluable during the "leap of the week," both because of the access she had to modern technology to look people up online and share their secrets with Ben, as well as knowledge from her training that came in handy in diffusing a bomb.
Here, Bassett talks to Metacritic about the challenge of playing a hologram, what her stunt work looks like thus far, and what to expect as Ray and Addison develop a new relationship through the episodes.
It was really interesting to learn that Addison was supposed to be the one leaping, and it was interesting to see Ben's reaction when she told him.
He just forgot it. He was supposed to be the hologram; that was the team, and he switched it up.
It's an interesting emotional idea that this man was going to have to watch the woman he loves put herself in dangerous situations, and now the roles are reversed. In addition to the hurt she feels from him not letting her in on his plan, how does her concern over his safety creep in?
We're really exploring where the limitations are, where the line is between this betrayal and figuring out what he did and why he's doing it, while also having to decide at times to support him either way. It's a really interesting question for me to grapple with because, would it be different if it was a friend? It's a lover [and] I think it adds a layer of betrayal that's much deeper. I think we're definitely going to explore it more as the season goes on.
Is she going to start looking into the cryptic message he left more, even if on her own?
In the early episodes, there's an element of, we're just dealing with the crap pile that we've been given. But that is definitely something that we are going to be exploring once the temperature comes down just a bit. Right now, we're just so entrenched in what has happened and how do we keep him alive and get him home?
The premiere starts with a look at their relationship before he leaps. Will the show include flashbacks to show more of that?
They haven't yet. I think they also don't want to be too cheap about it, I think, but I'm sure they will at some point.
So thus far how did you and Ray further develop who they were in a relationship?
Even early in Vancouver [when we were filming the original version of the pilot] we started making choices about our relationship. The backstory we were talking about in Vancouver changed to the second iteration of the pilot we did — not dramatically, though. What remained is the same: We were work friends, we started dating, we became life and work partners. A lot of things, Ray and I decided on ourselves: We had started making decisions about our relationship based on our own personality traits and things like that. And what's cool is that, as we're getting a little trickles of backstory throughout the season, the writers seem to echo it. So, they're seeing what we had already talked about. But what's also interesting is that because we built that and it was amazing to use for the first scene, but we're building a new relationship. As he remembers new things, he's not going to get all all of it back: He's getting pieces back and every time he gets a chunk back, we shift, and then the relationship deepens, and we're building essentially a second relationship within the leaps.
It's very early in the production run for you, but how do you feel about whether, as Ben and Addison develop this new relationship, it's one that makes them both happy enough that they can still be together romantically at the end of the season?
I don't know yet. And I think that's the fun of it because there's a lot of questions that need answered, including why did he do it and why didn't he include me? I think a lot of it pivots on that. But at the end of this neither of us are going to be the same person, but what is clear is that we love each other very, very much, and that's that's enough — at least for now.
Tell me a little bit about filming scenes in the past where you are playing a hologram. Does it feel limiting to be unable to work with your surroundings? Do you shoot them differently to actually be a little further away so you don't accidentally interact with anything she shouldn't be able to?
Some of it is clever blocking. We're really intentional about, if I do pass through a person or an object of the room, using that intentionally. But honestly, as an actor it's interesting because I can't touch stuff right or interact with space, which is more challenging than I thought it was. [Using the space] is such an easy way to ground yourself. But at the same time, I get to play in a way Ray can't; I get to be inappropriately positioned in the room. He's in a higher-stakes situation; I can kind of be like, "What's going on over there?" You saw it a little bit in the pilot, but we play with it more as it goes on, and how we utilize the hologram's limitations and advantages.
It feels like, with your military background, the show should give you stunts. But it might change the tone too much if Addison is trying to get involved in combat and just can't connect because she's a hologram.
Ray definitely has most of the stunts because he's interacting with the world, but especially in Episode 3, they've begun to work in workarounds so that I can help and get involved physically, especially when it comes to dealing with Ben himself. But we have no answer so far to get me more physically involved on a permanent basis.
It does feel like an advantage of being a hologram, though, is that it allows her to be almost omnipotent for the past time periods she and Ben find themselves in because she has the internet at her fingertips. How does that affect their dynamic and how helpful she can be?
I think it can be really helpful, and Ben and Addison have to learn how to leverage that, but I also think it can be limiting. Addison herself is very capable: She was supposed to be the leaper; she trained to be the leaper. So what I love, and what Ray and I really like to play with, and the writers are writing for it, too, is how useful is Addison in the situation? Defusing the bomb didn't come from the internet, that came from Addison. So it's finding where to use the tech and where to use just our relationship and our own know how is is a really fun thing to play with.
And we did already see the hologram glitch briefly, which seems like it could be more of a hindrance at times.
That's a very valid question. Like any technology, it's gonna have its challenges, so stay tuned.
Quantum Leap airs Mondays at 10 p.m. on NBC.