TV

Scott Bakula: "Every role is another life you have to live"

Star Trek, Shirley MacLaine, the 'unique' city of New Orleans - and why Quantum Leap has not been remade

Fellini’s influence plays a large part in Elsa & Fred, a sweet romance that gives a big nod to La Dolce Vita…

It’s about two older folks: Christopher Plummer, who’s lost his wife of many years before the movie starts, and his neighbour, Shirley MacLaine, who is – for want of a better word – a free spirit. They develop this unique, funny, touching and complicated relationship.

You play Shirley MacLaine’s character’s son. Could you ask for a better screen mother?

I couldn’t imagine one. She’s a fascinating gal. I’m in awe of her. Theatre has been around forever but the movie business is still relatively young. I love being around people who created so much of what made me want to be a part of the business.

The film was made in New Orleans where you now make NCIS: New Orleans. How important is the city to the series?

It’s correct to say the city is a character in the show. There had been an attempt to make another spin-off the year before. The pilot was not picked up so I think they were looking for something to give it a different look and vibe.

Does the city match its reputation?

It’s a unique place. I grew up not far away on the same river in St Louis. I watched the Mississippi flood and wash out the people who lived down there almost every year. As a kid I didn’t understand why people who lived there would get flooded out, then go back again. In my ignorance I thought the same after Katrina. Why live in the path of hurricanes? Now I meet people and hear stories and understand how going through that brings people together.

Is Quantum Leap – in which you’d jump into the body of a different person each episode – a perfect analogy for acting?

Every role you take is another life you have to live. That’s a lovely way of putting it. It’s human nature to wonder what it would be like to be another person. Even what we’ve just been talking about, we did a hurricane episode in Quantum Leap and we did a New Orleans episode. As an actor you think back: what if I’d taken that role? When I auditioned for the first Batman movie that Michael Keaton got, what would have happened if I’d gotten it?

Reboots are fashionable at the moment. Why hasn’t Quantum Leap been remade?

It’s a long, complicated story. There were rights issues for some time. A few years ago Universal were talking about making a movie and the marketing people in their wisdom came in and said, “We can’t sell that title.” A couple of years later Quantum of Solace came along. They couldn’t figure out how to market Quantum Leap, known around the planet, and Quantum of Solace goes out?! It’s a crazy business.

You are one of the captains of the Starship Enterprise, which makes you part of a very exclusive club.

Oh, it’s great. I know everybody a little bit. They’re all a bunch of characters. I’ve worked with Bill Shatner, I’m so fond of Patrick Stewart.

It’s been 10 years since Star Trek: Enterprise ended. Is it time for a new Star Trek TV series?

Certainly the fans are ready. But the movies are so successful right now, I don’t think Paramount would jump into that. All the old shows still play on TV but they wouldn’t rock the boat.

Elsa & Fred is out in cinemas and on DVD now. NCIS: New Orleans airs on Fridays on Channel 5

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