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'Quantum Leap's' Nanrisa Lee unpacks Jenn's big holo adventure with Ben in latest episode

Jenn Chou gets her chance to be the hero in "Ben Song for the Defense."

By Tara Bennett
Nanrisa Lee in Quantum Leap

One of the most appreciated new elements of the Quantum Leap revival series is that we get to see, and spend time with, the The Quantum Leap project team every week. Led by Herbert "Magic" Williams (Ernie Hudson), one of his MVPs in helping guide Dr. Ben Song (Raymond Lee) safely through time is Jenn Chou (Nanrisa Lee), the Quantum Leap head of security. A former hacker who ended up in the slammer for a bit, Chou is now redeemed and handles the cyber security needed to keep Ben safe. She's become the prickly fixture of the group, who doesn't suffer fools or like when he routine is changed up.

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And that's why this week's episode, "Ben Song for the Defense," is such a treat because Jenn gets to swap places with Addison (Caitlin Bassett) as the hologram helper for Ben this week because he's leapt into a lawyer, and Jenn has a prison-earned law degree to help get him through it. SYFY WIRE got on a Zoom with Nanrisa Lee to get some intel on her big episode, including getting to see the more tender side of Jenn.

Nanrisa Lee in Quantum Leap

Let's start with your experience working on such a sci-fi centric series like Quantum Leap. You did episodes of Picard and Westworld, so is landing sci-fi TV work a big thing for you, or has it been more of a learning curve?

It's a genre that I'm less familiar with, but it is really fun getting to be in a show with people like Ernie and Mason Alexander Park, who come from that genre and are very well-versed. Ernie was just giving me the rundown about the conventions. The two of them have definitely made the rounds in that way. Mason is a part of The Sandman family. So for me, it's more about just sort of getting schooled a little bit on this stuff which has been really fun. I think probably my favorite thing about working in this genre now, honestly, is the enthusiasm that a lot of the viewers carry.

Sci-fi storytelling historically also features more competent women characters, which Quantum Leap certainly does too.

Absolutely, I mean, look at my character and Caitlin's character. Jenn is a bit of a rebel. She's got a very colorful past. Jenn's gonna do what she does. And sometimes you just can't tell her. She is certainly independent. She has a strong point of view. She can take care of herself, because she always has. And I think that she's not afraid to express her opinions, even if they're unconventional or unpopular. But you look at Addison who was supposed to be the leader and do the leaps. She's such a strong character with her military background. Even just Caitlin, her presence and her personal history. To have the two females in the main cast both be two formidable women, I couldn't agree more.

When did the producers let you know that you would have an episode where you get to be the holo helper?

In the beginning, you hear things. There's a million great ideas, so there was always kind of like [thought] of maybe more involvement or something. A few episodes before this one came up, I got a phone call just saying casually, "Hey, we're kind of kicking around this idea. Do you think Jenn could have gotten a law degree while she was in prison?" We discussed that and I was just thrilled about it. I didn't know how much involvement there was going to be in the actual episode until it came in. I didn't realize the extent until I got the episode. I was just thrilled.

Prior to this episode, Jenn hasn't had many scenes with Ben. But you get a full out leap adventure together. How was it finally working in scenes with Ray?

Personally, that was the thing I was most excited about. It was just so fun to be able to work with Ray.  I just knew that when Ray and I were going to work together, it was just going to be so fun. His comedic timing is amazing. And I think in life, we often riff off of each other and give each other a hard time. We have a little bit of a sibling / cousin kind of relationship. And I think that crosses over into the character, for sure.

(l-r) Michael Garza, Raymond Lee in Quantum Leap

Jenn is very uncertain about taking Addison's place initially. Why do you think she's reticent?

For Jenn, I think there's so many emotions that are going on. She's coming in feeling unsure about her position as the hologram. And that brings up other things in terms of her feeling out her place in the team. Because her background is so different than everybody, where everybody's such a hero. Jenn was a felon. She was in prison. She gets confronted with that in the beginning, and then we see the arc of that by the end of the episode. But really, I think her relationship to Ben, there's so many feelings coming in. It's different to see him almost in real life, to almost to be able to touch him. And then to almost be rejected because he doesn't remember her!

That was a little bit heartbreaking to watch!

Yeah, Jenn is gonna cover it in the way that she does, with a little humor. But these are all real time things that she's dealing with very quickly, all at once. And then on top of that, the circumstance is that the clock is always ticking. So it's like, "Shelve that! We've got to do this other thing. We'll get back to that later. I'll yell at you later for not remembering me." [Laughs.]

In the episode you get some funny scenes and then the ending scene where we see a really emotional Jenn get to close out the leap and get a big Ian hug. Do you have a personal favorite in this one?

I really love that ending scene. And I had some fun moments. I probably had either the most fun shooting the scene with Rey when I tell him to make the bet. That one is just so fun because I also feel like [that shows] the relationship between Jenn and Ben. But I think it's that ending scene. Romy Loor — who wrote the episode and did an amazing job — she and I had a conversation about that. I was a little bit confused as to why Jenn would get so emotional at the end. We had this really, I think, very important conversation which then really highlighted Jenn's arc for the episode. I was worried that Jen sort of identified herself as somebody who was falsely accused, which isn't the case because she did those things, broke the law and did some time for it. But it's more about what I was speaking about earlier. that everybody else on the team is so clearly, so obviously a good guy. I think that there was a part of Jenn that maybe didn't believe that about herself. The end scene, the reason why I love it so much is because Jenn realizes that in that moment that she does have a place on his team. She does deserve to be there. She does contribute. And she's a good guy.

New episodes of Quantum Leap air Mondays at 10 p.m. ET on NBC, then stream next-day on Peacock. A second season is currently in development.

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