411mania Interviews: Scott Bakula
Scott Bakula is a four time Emmy nominated and Golden Globe winning actor best known for his leading roles on the TV series Quantum Leap and Star Trek: Enterprise as well for films like Necessary Roughness and The Informant. Currently he stars with Ray Romano and Andre Braugher in the critically acclaimed TNT drama Men of a Certain Age.
Al Norton: Were you looking to do a series when you got Men of a Certain Age?
Scott Bakula: I’m always looking for anything that’s good. I didn’t know anybody involved in it but the script came around and, to be quite honest, there aren’t that many good scripts that come around. When something with a bunch of good characters, and having Ray attached, it was a pretty good carrot to entice me in, and it paid off.
Al Norton: Do you know guys like Terry (Bakula’s character)?
Scott Bakula: Oh Yeah, don’t you (laughing)? I know a few guys like Terry and certain Ray and Mike Royce (the show’s co-creator) have a guy who used to work on Raymond that they modeled him on. They’ve told him, too, so it’s not like it’s a secret. I get a kick out of Terry. My friends who are living this life, I’m always kind of astounded by them. It’s pretty amazing to live the way they live at their age but I tip my hat to them.
Al Norton: What was it like the first time you and Ray and Andre were all sitting at the table together?
Scott Bakula: It was really quite amazing, actually. Our first day at Norm’s diner, when we had our first little conversation, it was one of those moments. It was weird because everyone from the network was there, it was a big moment that wasn’t planned out to be but it everything fell into place and all of a sudden Scott Winant who was directing came up and said, “look, we’re just gonna turn the cameras on and let them run. Try and hit the main points of the scene but don’t really worry about it. Do what you’re doing; everybody’s loving it. We’ve got the scene so just go play.” Something happened that day and people were just sort of flipping out.
Al Norton: When they put the show on DVD are there going to be some quality outtakes from the scenes at Norm’s?
Scott Bakula: Oh gosh, yes. Listen, anything that Ray is in, the outtakes are worth watching. The reality is he hardly ever says the same joke twice. I think that’s the stand up in him; once a joke works and it gets a laugh, he’s trying to find a new one, a better one. There’s a lot of that going on during the scenes, between the scenes, it’s constant. He’ll come in the next day and go, “I thought of a better joke on the way home.” If our gag reel at the wrap party was any indication, the DVD will have some great stuff.
Al Norton: Ray has been a shockingly good dramatic actor.
Scott Bakula: I think that’s the biggest surprise of the series. His chops are great and he handles it all well. He’s got really good instincts for it and he’s very determined. At the beginning people were saying the show was a comedy and the hair would stand up on the back of his neck and he’d yell, “it’s not a comedy.” He really was trying so much to separate himself from Raymond, and I understand that, and create a new character. He’d didn’t want people to say, “oh, I’ve seen him do that before.” A lot of people I’ve talked to were big Raymond fans and weren’t sure about him doing something so different but they’ve really loved it. I really appreciate what he’s trying to do and I think he’s really doing a fantastic job.
Al Norton: The show is funny at times and the reason it’s funny is because it comes from the characters; it never seems like you are pushing for the joke.
Scott Bakula: I totally agree. A, it’s on the page that way and B, he and Mike Royce are nuts about that. They tell us not to try and be funny, to let it play and be as real as possible. They’re in charge of the tone of the show and they’ve managed it well. I think that’s why the show stands out, because it has that tone.
Al Norton: I got the first three episodes on a screener and after I watched them I called my brother and said, “you’ve got to watch this show because in the second episode not only is there a Billy Jack reference but later on they play the theme song.”
Scott Bakula: You’ve got to love it (laughing). And not everybody knows that reference but they way they throw that stuff in there…I love when people write and they’re not writing for everybody. They’re writing for themselves and some people get it, some people miss it. My kids don’t get that joke but I do. I really like the style of writing.
Al Norton: When Terry gets in the car at the moment, and then when he pulls over and the guy is still chasing him…
Scott Bakula: That was a crazy day (laughing). “Man that guy’s fast. Steroid fast.” That’s one of those times when Ray comes in the next day and says, “you know what we should have said? Instead of steroid fast we should have said vampire fast.” He got another vampire joke in later on.
I can’t tell you how many couple come up to me and the wives says, “you know when you did that, my husband always wants to do that.” The husband’s like, “no I don’t” and the wives go, “yes, you do.” People are relating to the show as couples, and that’s pretty cool.
Al Norton: So you’re on the set of The New Adventures of Old Christine right now?
Scott Bakula: I am.
Al Norton: Is it hard to show up on a set like that one, where the cast has such an amazing sense of timing, and have to jump right in?
Scott Bakula: It is, yes. The good news is this is my fourth episode. They’re so good and Julia is so smart, she’s such a smart comedian. Sometimes these shows work out and it’s such a great fit and other times you show up on set and they don’t want to play with anyone else. They’re very gracious on Christine and I always look forward to going back. I wouldn’t go back if it wasn’t fun.
Al Norton: When you do a guest spot on shows like Christine or Chuck, does it make you more likely to keep up with them after in case you do go back?
Scott Bakula: Absolutely. Certainly with Chuck; you’ve got to stay up with that show because there’s a lot going on there. In our business when you know people and form a relationship with them, you’re more inclined to watch their stuff.
Al Norton: Do you know how many Chucks you will be doing?
Scott Bakula: Two.
Al Norton: And you can’t tell me a thing about them, right?
Scott Bakula: You are 100% correct (laughing).
Al Norton: You’ve been doing the acting thing for a while now, with TV, movies, theater, musical theater all on your resume; I know you’re not going anywhere but are there things left on your to-do list?
Scott Bakula: I’ve tried so hard to do different things in my creative life and you never know where new stuff is coming from. I had this bizarre wonderful experience with Steven Soderberg and Matt Damon and everyone on The Informant a year and a half ago and made that crazy movie. I never could have foreseen that I would be in a movie like that. I try to be open and available to new stuff coming along and if it feels right, off I got. I feel fortunate that I get these interesting opportunities. I went to the Hollywood Bowl last summer and did Guys and Dolls and that just dropped out of the sky. I had a blast.
I want to get back to New York. I want to do more theater, I know that. That’s on my to-do list and that’s coming.
Al Norton: How long into making Quantum Leap did you start to get a grasp of how passionate a fan base you had and how long lasting the appeal would be?
Scott Bakula; I think we knew by the end of the first nine episodes, the first half season that aired, that we had a passionate fan base because the fans basically kept us on the air. When they switched us to Wednesday nights they made a big announcement and rallied the troops, back in the old days before there were emails and Twitters to use; the news went out the old fashion way, in newspapers.
We knew we had a strong fan base but I kind of marvel that we’re almost 21 years since we went on the air and as I go around the world, the amount of people that are still coming up and acknowledging the show is kind of amazing. I don’t think any of us anticipated that.
Al Norton: You talk about the old days but the fans are using today’s technology to keep the show alive; I think there are more than a few Facebook fan pages.
Scott Bakula: I love that, I do. It’s just so different now. When Chuck was making a big appeal to their fans they have access to this new way to reaching people that we never used to have. I remember NBC made a commercial with Warren Littlefield where they dumped letters on top of him throughout the commercial and he was like, “alright, alright, we’re bringing Quantum Leap back.” The idea of using that image of dumping letters on the head of a network in this day and age is just antiquity.
Al Norton: Is it just my group of male friends or do you find people still bring up Necessary Roughness on a regular basis?
Scott Bakula: Regular basis. That’s another movie that just caught with some people and is kind of a cult classic. People stop me all the time. It’s guys of all ages, honking their horns and yelling how much they liked the movie.
Al Norton: I was having a conversation with some friends about all the college bowls games last December and one of them said, “who are the Fighting Armadillos playing this year?”
Scott Bakula: That’s awesome (laughing).
Al Norton: People who have played Captains on Star Trek are in an elite club so I am curious if you saw the movie last summer and if so, what did you think of the job Chris Pine did?
Scott Bakula: I saw the movie last summer and thought he was fantastic. I though the movie was fantastic, I thought they did an incredible job of creating a new franchise for the studio. I thought it was great.
Al Norton: When you go to see the movie do you still feel a part of the whole ongoing Star Trek saga?
Scott Bakula: I know it probably seems goofy but yes. You’re part of the lore and history of this 45 year or so legacy. I don’t think there’ll ever be anything like it again and I have to say I’m honored to have been a part of it.
Al Norton: Can you give me a quick preview of the Men of a Certain Age finale?
Scott Bakula: Well, my career as an apartment building manager is in jeopardy and I’ve rekindled my passion for acting and movies, and that doesn’t go the way I hope it will.
Don’t miss the Men of a Certain Age season finale, tonight at 10 pm on TNT