Sci-fi icon Bakula (Quantum Leap, Star Trek: Enterprise) came down to earth in a big way when he signed on to play the stuck-in-time cocksman and struggling (read: failed) actor Terry in Ray Romano’s painfully real portrait of the stagnant middle-aged American male, Men of a Certain Age. Season 2 of the darkly comic TNT series starts tonight, so we talked to Bakula about the show, his own experience with middle age, and why he deserves to be the star of a Quantum Leap movie, but won’t be.
The characters in your show capture a very interesting moment. These guys have witnessed the age of the sensitive seventies man, then the eighties Rambo archetype, and it’s as if the show is saying, This is where men have wound up, someplace in the middle.
That’s a wonderful way of putting it. These guys are a product of those eras, and have come out of it somewhat dazed and confused.
The show, aside from being an interesting document of its times, has got to be the most interesting Chevrolet commercial I’ve ever seen, what with Andre Braugher’s character running a dealership.
We “joke” about that all the time. We certainly are walking a fine line, let’s put it that way. But at the end of the day, you can use the same brand of car every week and not comment on it, you can do what Damages did and hide some crucial plot information inside a Cadillac, or you can do what we’re doing, and base it in the plot organically. Terry works in a real dealership, Rydell Chevrolet, which is in the Valley, and they’re selling real cars. And ultimately, by not running away from it, we’re promoting it, in a funny way.
It’s interesting to try to gauge Braugher and Ray Romano’s characters’ feelings about Terry, who has been making them jealous with his sexual exploits since college — there’s envy there, but it’s also like they’re shaking their heads.
The idea was always that yeah, they’re envious, but at the same time wondering, “Hey, when are you going to get it together?” I think you tolerate that in your friends that you’ve had for a long time, but if you meet somebody like that today for the first time, I don’t think you’d go out of your way to befriend him.
Terry turns 50 on the show this year. How does he handle that?
Not well. True to the way our show works, the events going on his in life wind up profoundly affecting how he’s feeling at a particular moment on that day, and that’s what life is like. You can get all wound up to have a big celebration, and something else happens and skews it.
What was turning 50 like for you?
it wasn’t a big dramatic thing for me. I met some friends in New York, we saw some shows and went to some good restaurants and had a ball. I was in the middle of shooting Enterprise and had a nice paycheck coming in every week. I was in a good place then.
I understand Donald Bellisario is writing a Quantum Leap film and that you and Dean Stockwell may have cameos. Why not just cast you two in it?
That’s a great idea. I was at Comic Con, and I got asked about a Quantum Leap movie about every twenty minutes, but that’s not what’s been proposed to Don.
I used to joke that, Yeah, they’re going to make a Quantum Leap movie, but it’s going to be with Tom Cruise and Jack Nicholson, and we would all laugh, but there’s a part of me that’s thinking that’s probably what will happen.
It’s all about the demo …
I would say that about 80 percent of the movies made from TV shows that way are flops, and you wouldn’t want to see that happen to this franchise. It still has a big following, it’s a great memory for so many people, so my hopes are high that if they do it, it’s great.
As you play a guy on Men of a Certain Age who won’t grow up, I feel okay asking this adolescent question: When you were a kid, did you catch a lot of abuse around Halloween time because of your last name and what it rhymes with?
Halloween time? My entire life! I was “Count” or “Drac,” but my poor brother got “Count Chokula” and “Chocky.” Unfortunately, when I was younger I had this streak of white hair in the front of my head, so I not only had all the Dracula references, I had “Grandpa” and “skunk” and “stinky.”
Could’ve been worse; imagine what Bob Saget must have gone through …
Yeah, well, he’s a friend, so knowing him, he would’ve started it himself just for the attention.
So, just so I’m clear, you’re not of Transylvanian descent, then?
We are from close to that area; we came out of Prague. We’re actually Bohemians. It’s sketchy. That’s all I want to say. I don’t want to talk about it anymore, because then people will want me to do a vampire Quantum Leap movie.
Well, sooner or later Men is bound to do a Halloween episode …
We have one this season! But I’m not a vampire. They blew it.