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Eliza Taylor, Quantum Leap Creators Talk That Surprise Kiss & Oppenheimer Connections
Quantum Leap showrunners Martin Gero and Dean Georgaris, and stars Raymond Lee and Eliza Taylor, share tales behind the big romantic reunion for Ben and Hannah.
Spoilers ahead for Episode 6 of NBC's Quantum Leap Season 2!
Eliza Taylor is back, and she's shaking up everything in the world of Quantum Leap.
Earlier this season on NBC's Quantum Leap, in the episode "Closure Encounters," Ben (Raymond Lee) leapt into 1949, New Mexico inside the body of "Project Sign" Agent Cook investigating a possible UFO encounter. During the mission, Ben crosses paths with waitress Hannah Carson (Eliza Taylor), an enthusiastic and super smart former programmer stuck in a dead end, post war job. By mission's end, Ben recognizes her talents and recommends that she contact a Professor Yates at Princeton University who is opening his physics program to women. Taken aback by his belief in her and their shared appreciation for science, Hannah tells Cook/Ben, "Don't say goodbye, but see you later."
Well, "later" is now in this week's new episode, "Secret History," which has Ben leaping into 1955 New Jersey, and the body of Professor Henry McCoy. A renowned Princeton physicist and war hero, McCoy facilitates Ben's unexpected reunion with current Princeton physics student, Hannah Carson. Their adventure unfolds like a mash-up of Christopher Nolan's Oppenheimer, a The Da Vinci Code style history mystery and a lost Indiana Jones quest.
Quantum Leap meets Oppenheimer
"You know, Chris Nolan called us and said he had an idea for a movie," co-showrunner Dean Georgaris joked with NBC Insider about the Einstein and overall era connections in this episode to the summer blockbuster, Oppenheimer. "The truth is, we built Ben and Hannah's story and it required a very specific place in time. It also required very specific evolutions in the story. We always knew she was going to go into science, and we always knew we were gonna have an episode in the '50s. But it was our fabulous writer Drew Lindo who actually pitched the idea to the room and we just ran with it."
The setting of the story at Princeton University not only allowed for the inclusion of the Atomic Energy Commission storyline, but the inclusion of the lore behind "Operation Paperclip," the notorious U.S. recruitment program that brought Nazis scientists into classified government research projects.
Fellow series showrunner, Martin Gero said the episode allowed the writers to mix up a bunch of fun genres together. "We hadn't really done a big, fun, swashbuckling puzzle episode," he said. "The idea that there is some hidden Einstein formula, and of course that the Nazis' would want that just timed out. It felt like a very Indiana Jones episode already. To have the Nazis in there as the bad guys and to be able to foil them, literally, with a foil all grew from a need, if that makes sense, and the excitement of the room."
The spark between Ben and Hannah
Getting to solve a mystery together serves to highlight all the things that connect Ben and Hannah, including their mutual stanning of "Al" Einstein and passion for physics. Observing Hannah's "can do" attitude — despite misogynist attitudes about women in science at the time — is something Ben gets to admire in real time, and spurs him to want to protect Hannah so she remain vital and productive long after he's moved on to his next leap.
Getting to do a deeper dive on Hannah this episode, Taylor said she immediately loved the character because of her woman out of time qualities. "She sees the world very differently and doesn't see limitations as something that's going to stop her," she said. "She just says, 'Okay, I'm gonna do it anyway,' and I love that about her. There's something really playful about her as well, which is just a dream to play."
For Ben, who is wrestling with such profound loneliness in the wake of losing Addison (Caitlin Bassett) with the three-year time jump, Hannah is not only a leaping anomaly, but she's also a kindred spirit.
"I think initially, as Ben grows throughout his leaps, he meets a lot of fascinating people. But he hasn't run into anyone that really shares the enthusiasm of physics in the way [Hannah] does," Lee assessed. "And not only is she extremely beautiful, but there is an effervescence and a positivity there. There is a light that Ben needs to see at this point in his life and in his journey as a Leaper."
Lee said that when they reconnect in this episode, it points to "something divine at play" for Ben. "And then that's when your imagination starts to run, right? That's when everything gets a little bit fantastical, and that's what falling in love feels like. I think Hannah takes Ben's breath away."
Watching the pair's chemistry bloom in this episode, Georgaris said, "I completely believe that one of the things that makes Hannah special is that she is a woman who already looks at the world without the boundaries of a normal person. So when Ben, is forced in a very compelling way to admit he's a time traveler, I love that she's relatively quick to accept it because that's true to her."
Bonding between Eliza Taylor and Raymond Lee
The pace of "Secret History" really put Lee and Taylor through their paces. But Taylor said that it also allowed her to really bond with Lee as they worked on long scenes of dialogue and character interactions that allowed them to really invest in selling Ben and Hannah's pull towards each other.
"One of the things about this episode in particular that I really, really enjoyed was a really rare moment to me," Taylor shared. "For two of the scenes, which was about nine pages, we block shot them, which means we shot them as one. Doing that and working out the choreography of it with Ray, it felt like we were doing a play. It's really intricate, fleshing out all those beats because so much is happening in those scenes. It was a real dream."
She continues, "On the day that we went to shoot it, Ray said, "Do you mind rehearsing it with me at lunch?" And I was like, 'Absolutely!' It was so much fun. We went to the set and took our lunches with us. We just spent the whole lunch hour going over the scene so it was ready for the crew. Putting in that extra effort and just feeling really settled in our skin for that scene felt so good. It was really special because we don't do that very often [in TV]."
The Quantum Chip Mystery
Back at home, Ian's (Mason Alexander Park) predicament with the shadowy maker of their necessary, and bespoke, quantum chip also gets more dire. Thankfully, Ian finally asks for help from Jen (Nanrisa Lee) and his partner Rachel to figure out a plan to wriggle out of their dire blackmail scenario.
But Georgaris teased that particular mess is still very much at play going into the back half of the season. "Everything this season, there's cause and effect for pretty much every choice people make," he emphasized. "That's the kind of thing that the three-year time jump allowed us to do. As Martin likes to say, it builds secrets and it builds backstory, and it builds tension. You can't just have a secret chip, doing weird things, and not find out eventually what's really going on."
Do Ben and Hannah have a future on Quantum Leap?
In the most carpe diem of moments, Ben initiates a romantic kiss with Hannah before he leaps, which may surprise some viewers. But Georgaris said it really said so much about Ben's need to connect.
"I believe the kiss, and especially the way Pamela Romanowsky directed it, shows he's so lonely and he doesn't even realize how lonely he is," Georgaris explained. "As much as he probably wants to believe maybe there'll be a third [meeting], in his mind it's 99 percent likely that I'm not going to see her again. I find the kiss to be one of those wonderful explosions of emotion. It's exactly the kind of thing Ben has not been able to do this entire journey."
Lee agreed and added, "You hope for those meetings to continue to happen. I'm really excited at the prospect of where this can go. Not only is Ben physically able to be with somebody now, for the first time, but they can now build on possibly changing the future of the world. We're playing with some really big ideas here in a very small, tight knit world of physics. It's pretty fun."