Back to His Theatrical Roots
Wednesday, March 29, 2006; 1:00 PM
Dr. Sam Beckett of "Quantum Leap." Capt. Jonathan Archer of "Enterprise." "Designing Women," "Murphy Brown," "American Beauty."
Scott Bakula has played or been in all of the above and now he takes on the role of Charlie Anderson, the family patriarch who tries to keep the Civil War at bay and his family safe, in the Tony Award-winning musical "Shenandoah," now playing at Ford's Theatre in Washington.
Bakula was online Wednesday, March 29, at 1 p.m. ET to discuss his current role and all of his past ones.
The transcript follows.
Washington, D.C.: Hello Scott ....
It is great to have you here in Washington. How did you come to join the cast of "Shenandoah"? The role of Charlie Anderson is so different from everything else that you have done.
Scott Bakula: The director, Jeff Calhoun, called me about a year ago and said he wanted top do this show with me at Ford's Theatre. He had previously directed Big River at the Ford's Theatre and they asked him to come back. The role of Charlie Anderson is a part that I've wanted to do for along time. This show was actually my first job in the business in 1976. So I've had a long association with it.
This role is a wonderful challenge because he is a man in the midst of the Civil War. He has six sons and he's determined to keep his family out of the war and his sons safe. Obviously, most of the roles that I'm known for have been men who don't have families or children, so it's a much different kind of part to play.
Rockville, Md.: Hi Scott!
I saw the original production, as you did, and was wondering, did John Cullum's performance influence or inspire you for this role?
Scott Bakula: Yes it certainly did. Shenandoah was the first Broadway I ever saw and I subsequently was hired in another production of it but I have always remembered his performance and ironically, years later John Cullum came on to Quantum Leap as a guest star and I was lucky enough to get to work with him and tell him how much I admired him and was a fan of his.
Morristown, N.J.: How difficult is it to carry "your" son all the way offstage in Act 2? Has he ever slipped out of your grip?
Scott Bakula: Well, Aaron is a big boy but fortunately I'm able to carry him off. One night, however, we added a new coat for him and he did slip halfway off my shoulder but I managed to get him off stage on my arm pretty much and was able to stand up and continue the show, fortunately.
Alexandria, Va.: Hi, Scott! Thanks for taking my question! I'm looking forward to seeing 'Shenandoah' in a couple of weeks!
Pardon me if you've been asked this a million times already: Why do you think that The-Powers-That-Be pulled the plug on 'Enterprise' and, ultimately, the entire Star Trek franchise? I was enjoyed the show from Day 1, and was quite disappointed to see it end so soon.
Scott Bakula: That's a long and complicated answer but the shortest answer is that almost all the people at Paramount who were fans of Star Trek and the franchise were either fired or let go in a big changeover. The show basically was lost in that shuffle.
Norwich, U.K.: If you could have had written the last episode of Star Trek Enterprise how would you have ended it?
Scott Bakula: Well, I wouldn't have. We'd still be on the air and still out there performing our mission. In my mind the show ended prematurely.
Boston, Mass.: I'll be there Saturday night for the show! I'm bringing two teenage cousins because I think this is a show they should see considering the state of the country right now.
Did your older two children see it and what did they think?
Scott Bakula: My oldest child has seen the show and she loved it and I agree with you that it is a very important show right now, given the current world situations, and I think it's terrific that you're bringing teenagers to it -- not just to see this show but to get young people in the theater. It's a very thought-provoking night and hopefully will inspire a few good discussions.
Denver, Colo.: Do you know why they didn't give Quantum Leap a proper finish -- specifically letting Sam leap home? I heard that they left the series finale open so they could make some movies, but then they never did.
Scott Bakula: You are correct. The show was left intentionally open because at the time that the last season ending episode was written, we didn't know what our future would be so that episode was a very successful attempt to serve a variety of possibilities, including being the last episode ever. I know that many were disappointed that Sam didn't make it home but there was some comfort in knowing that he is still out there doing what he does best.
Boston, Mass.: Scott, you wrote the song "Somewhere In the Night" which appears on the "Quantum Leap Soundtrack". Have you written anything else and what would your fans have to do to get you to record them?
Scott Bakula: The only thing I've written since then that I can think of right now is that I wrote the last song in Papa's Angels (CBS movie-of-the-week) that aired a few years ago. In terms of recording, I have no plans to do anything in the immediate future but I appreciate the support and encouragement.
Delray Beach, Fla.: Coming up to see the show soon. Can't wait. Congrats on the great reviews.
Lots of actors claim that playing the bad guy offers them the best opportunities for juicy moments yet while your roles over the years have run the gamut from hero (super and otherwise!) to villainous, you seem to predominantly play the good guy. Is that something you court? How concerned are you about presenting yourself as a role model?
Scott Bakula: My goal has always been to search out a variety of roles to avoid being locked into a stereotype and to continue to challenge myself and expand my skills.
My main concern about being a role model is more in my everyday life, how I lead my life, my relationship with my children, their friends and the community that I live in. I think it's important for everyone to feel a responsibility to the younger people on the planet and I set out to lead by example and not by any grand design.
San Francisco, Calif.: I hope someday I'll see my dream movie: Joanna Pacula and Scott Bakula in Alan Pakula's Dracula. Can you make it happen?
Scott Bakula: LAUGHS. That's always been a fantasy of mine -- to see a marquee that has Bakula as Dracula. Ironically, I just met a week ago the quintessential Dracula, Frank Langella, who came to see the show here in D.C.
Albany, N.Y.: Will you be available to sign autographs?
Scott Bakula: Almost every night I am available after the play if people are patient enough to wait. I've been signing autographs since the play opened.
Baltimore, Md.: Mr. Bakula:What is Shenandoah about and does it include the popular song by the same title?
Also, what is it like to do a Civil War play at Ford's Theatre?
Scott Bakula: First of all, it does not include the song. That was only in movie. Secondly, if you were to design the perfect theater to put this show into, it would be the Ford's Theatre. It works beautifully in the space and the historical overtones are unmistakable and haunting.
The show is about, briefly, a father who is also a widower who has been raising his family of seven for 12 years since his wife passed away. He's a farmer who believes that his sons do not belong to the state and since he is not a slave owner, he does not feel compelled to have them enlist and fight. As this piece takes place in Virginia, he is the center of controversy in his community.
As fate would have it he and his family are dragged into the war with some disastrous consequences which forces him to reexamine everything he believes in.
Alexandria, Va.: Scott, thanks for doing this!
Which of your many television roles did you enjoy the most?
Scott Bakula: I guess overall it would be Quantum Leap because of the wide variety of issues and situations we were able to examine and the constant variety week to week that everyone was thrown into. We all scrambled and worked unbelievably hard for four and a half seasons. And the show seems to hold up over time.
Washington, D.C.: It's great to have you in the beautiful District of Columbia. Does it inspire you to think about entering politics? P.S. Saw you in the play Opening Night -- wonderful.
Scott Bakula: Well I think you can't help but be in D.C. and be consumed by the political landscape. But I doubt that I will ever enter the political field.
Huntington, N.Y. Seeing Shenandoah was a fantastic experience and I will be returning to D.C. to see it again. It's just wonderful to have you back on stage. But since this is a limited run, I wanted to ask how long we have to wait to see you on the stage again when this is over. What will be your next few projects? Are there any TV appearances coming soon? Is your goal to return to New York and Broadway? I hope to see a cast album, too.
Scott Bakula: I don't have anything planned at this point. I am looking for more theater projects and I would love to come and do something in New York. I have no TV plans at this point. There are no plans for a cast album at this point.
Washington, D.C:. Is there one character in musical theater you have always wanted to play?
Scott Bakula: Yeah, the one character I've wanted to play for a long time is Sweeney in Sweeney Todd. I've come close a couple of times but it hasn't worked out. And I used to want to do The Music Man a lot and I've never had a chance to do that.
Scott Bakula: One of my favorites that I have played but it was 30 years ago is Don Quixote in Man of La Mancha. I am looking forward to playing him again some day.
North Reading , Mass.: I have heard rumors that you are in negotiations to appear at the Las Vegas Star Trek convention thus summer, any truth to that rumor?
Scott Bakula: No. I have been asked to appear but I don't know what my schedule will allow.
Florida: I have seen "Shenandoah" twice; it's wonderful. Thank you and congratulations! What interests me is to know how a typical day in live theater differs from working on a weekly TV show like "Enterprise"?
Scott Bakula: Well, anytime you do a musical your days revolve around the status of your voice and your health. Obviously because you are live there is a tremendous expectation that you try to live up to every night. The hours aren't as long but the focus of energy for that time you are on stage and getting ready to go on stage typically far outweighs your day on a TV or movie set.
Sterling, Va.: The promo for this chat lists Quantum Leap, a show you did 10 years ago, before Enterprise or the Oscar winning American Beauty. How do you feel about how strongly you're associated with that show? Do you think it's helped or hurt you in making your career go where you wanted it to? If it's a positive thing for you, what's your fondest memory about working on that show?
Scott Bakula: It's definitely a positive element to my career. It put me on the map in a very good light in terms of critics, in terms of fans and in terms of how I am perceived within the industry so I am grateful that I had that experience and it remains a positive.
My fondest memory and it would be hard for me to pick one but I really enjoyed moving from episode to episode and the many, many challenges that were presented to me as an actor from roping cattle to flying on the trapeze to heavyweight boxing to playing a pregnant woman. The show allowed me to think outside the box in terms of my acting and helped me expand in all areas of my life.
New Hyde Park, N.Y.: Scott, I've read several stories about either a new Quantum Leap series or a made-for-TV movie. I've also read that both you and Dean have been willing to reprise your roles. With the two of you and the fans wanting this, what is holding this up. We are ready for Sam to come home! Is there something we can do to help out?
Scott Bakula: Well, thank you for continuing to support the return of the show. It is true that Dean and I are willing to reprise our roles. In terms of a new TV series or TV movie, I know of no plans and have not been contacted about any.
The rights for the show have always been a complication to further productions.
Wagoner, Okla.: I was wondering if you were going to be in the new Quantum Leap movie Sci-Fi is doing? Is there a chance we're going to see you in it?
Scott Bakula: I have heard conversations about something on the Sci-Fi Channel but I've heard those for two years and I have never been included or talked to about them so I know nothing more about that.
Brooklyn, N.Y.: Scott,
In Shenandoah, there are many comic scenes between Charlie and his children, but in particular cracks me up. I was wondering if your facial expression was natural or adlibbed. It is hysterical. It is after "Jenny" sings "Over the Hill" and Sam is about to tell Jenny something, but Papa Charlie lights up his cigar.
Scott Bakula: Hopefully natural and adlibbed are the same thing. And to an audience we would hope that it would all look as natural and real as possible.
Oak Hill, Va.: QL Season 4 on DVD was just released yesterday. Sales remain strong for a show that's been off the air more than 10 years! Would you return to TV to work with the same production team again?
Scott Bakula: Absolutely.
Irvington, N.J.: Before you had a family you were in a theater group that traveled. Now that you have a family, are you looking for a show that won't travel?
Scott Bakula: Yeah, I'm always looking to stay close to home.
Washington, D.C.: Living in Washington, D.C., I've heard over the years that there were ghosts at Ford's Theatre. Doing a Civil War play there would certainly bring them out if there were there. Have you had an eery experiences while working at that wonderful theater?
Scott Bakula: I haven't had any yet. I've heard about people that have had them in the past but there has been some conversation that the ghosts have left the theater.
Washington, D.C.: You seemed to have a special rapport with Dean Stockwell. Are you good friends with him offstage?
Scott Bakula: Yes, we still remain best of friends. I don't get to see him as much as I used to but we are very close.
Washington, D.C.: Hello ...In Shenandoah, I really liked the way you interacted with your "children" in the show. Did you make a deliberate effort to focus on the relationships with them?
Scott Bakula: Yes, I did. I felt it was very important for this father who had been basically a single parent for 12 years to be very close and connected to his children. I felt that that would add more weight to their situation when things went wrong.
Chicago, Ill.: Scott,
You have a rep as being one of the nicest guys in Hollyweird. Do you think not being fodder for gossip columnists has actually hurt your career?
The show is just great, by the way. Hope everyone gets to see it!
Scott Bakula: Well, it's never interested me to try and create a career based on gossip or bad behavior. I didn't get into the business for that reason. It's not a goal of mine to be on magazine covers for negative behavior. I don't think it's hurt my career, no, and if that what it takes to be successful in this business, I wouldn't be interested.
Rockville, Md.: What do Sam Beckett, Captain Archer and Charlie Anderson all have in common?
Scott Bakula: I would say passion and intelligence and a great love of life.
Arlington, Va.: Do you have a favorite scene in Shenandoah?
Scott Bakula: Probably my favorite scene is on the porch with the boy through the song, The Pickers Are Comin'.
Alexandria, Va.: Scott:
You were known for leaping in the series "Quantum Leap," and John Wilkes Booth, another famous actor, was known for leaping at Ford's Theatre. Is there some kind of connection there?
Scott Bakula: LAUGHS. I never leaped into John Wilkes Booth's body, so no, there's no connection.
Scott Bakula: The closest I ever got to portraying a presidential assassin was Lee Harvey Oswald in Quantum Leap and that was close enough.
Scott Bakula: Thank you to everyone for participating in this chat and especially supporting this run of Shenandoah at the Ford's Theatre. The theater's very important to me and I really appreciate everyone's continued interest.
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