QUANTUM LEAP Director Deborah Pratt Previews 'Family Style' - Give Me My Remote : Give Me My Remote

QUANTUM LEAP Director Deborah Pratt Previews ‘Family Style’

February 27, 2023 by  

QUANTUM LEAP Deborah Pratt

QUANTUM LEAP — “Family Style” Episode 113 — Pictured: Raymond Lee as Dr. Ben Song — (Photo by: Ron Batzdorff/NBC)

Deborah Pratt has been a part of the QUANTUM LEAP franchise since the beginning—she voiced Ziggy and was the head writer/producer on the original series; she now serves as an executive producer on the NBC sequel series—but now she’s taking on a new role: director.

Pratt, who has directed GREY’S ANATOMY and shorts, steps behind the camera for the Monday, February 27 episode, “Family Style.” In the hour, Ben (Raymond Lee) leaps into a member of a close-knit Indian family, who is desperately trying to keep their restaurant afloat.

Here, Pratt talks with Give Me My Remote about the hour…

What led you to direct QUANTUM LEAP?
I very much wanted to direct the show. I absolutely love the actors: Raymond, Caitlin [Bassett], Ernie [Hudson]—he was an important casting for me—Nanrisa [Lee] and Mason [Alexander Park]. I had befriended them by being on the set and hanging out and going out to dinner. I really wanted to direct. When they brought me Aadrita [Mukerji]’s screenplay, it nailed a true QUANTUM LEAP. It had heart, it had family, it had hope, and it had humor. And history. My four “h”s. If a show has those things, it’s a true QUANTUM LEAP for me.

The fact that Ben leaps into a woman with cooking skills, I thought, “Oh my god, all of my foodie dreams are coming true.” I watch THE BEAR. I watched CHEF, which I thought was a brilliant movie. And we were shooting the show, I’d say “Break off C-camera! Get me a boiling pot. Get me a fire turning on.” So it was fun for me. I got to do just wild oners that you never got to do on television.

There’s a scene where the camera is doing what we call swingles. The one cook comes in and he puts his stuff down, and Ben and the other character are arguing…and then they turn around [and another character] is asleep at the wall. I did that like a sitcom, which is what the show has the capability to do. You can do high drama, you could do big action. And when we created the show, I wanted it to be able to be and do everything. And it always has been that way: Tell a great story, with a lot of heart. Universal emotions. And turn into any genre you want to tell the story in. And that’s what I think is so unique.

We have the most amazing set design. Each week is a new show, in a different time period. So it’s challenging in that respect. And as a director, the fun of directing a show that [could take] place in 2013 or 1890 is kind of cool. We’re really expanding the universe in that way. We could never really afford to build out headquarters [in the original series] and this design that Mayling [Cheng], our production designer, has created for us is a dream to shoot in. And the fans really love it.


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Absolutely. Looking at the kitchen scenes in the episode, were you able to film those on a set where you could lift walls, etc.? Or were you filming on location, navigating those tight spots?
We looked at two kitchens. One was ultra, ultra-modern, and really big and clean. And when we looked at this other one that’s in a place called the Smokehouse—it’s been around forever. It was like the go-to place for all the Warner Bros. stars in the 30s and the 40s. So it’s been around forever.

I walked in and it was just a little bit gritty and the wires were really there; everything that we needed, I said, you know, this is their kitchen. This is exactly what Aadrita wrote about in the script. And so it was tight. And the only thing that we could move was all the pots and pans that were there. We shot in about less than half of the kitchen. We made it a little bit smaller. And then we just really designed the shots to make you feel like there were different parts.

The restaurant itself was built and designed again by Mayling. But that was a real kitchen. I tried to use as much handheld as possible, just to keep the action going. But that oner was a real triumph for me and I kind of am a oner queen in directing. It makes it feel theatrical. And the actors, when they’re on their mark, are the best.

You got to utilize the backlot of the studio, as well. What were the challenges and fun of working within that space?
So, [in the episode,] it was supposed to be this whole outdoor space that had been a wedding. And we were going to do big drapes and whatnot. And then we got the weather report. I literally woke up at four o’clock in the morning and I said, “I need a tent.” Bless you, QUANTUM LEAP, the team put together a tent. I walked in and again, Mayling, just created this space that was so lovely. And it made it so triumphant.

While we were shooting, the rain came, and I’m trying to hold shots for the downpour, so we don’t have to clean that up. So there were some challenges, for sure. But it’s a great crew and an amazing cast. And everybody stepped up.

I had great luck with the show, from the very beginning, from when we created [the original series]. In the beginning when people went, “What are you gonna do?” I think we pitched it to [former NBC executive] Brandon Tartikoff three times. He kept saying, “There’s something here.” And with the first season, I said, “I want him to leap into a woman. And I want him to leap into a Black man.” And everybody went, “Oh, no, no, that season 3.” And I said, “No, it’s season 1. And I want it to be about Civil Rights and women’s rights.” And I feel blessed in the fact that I’m a woman of color—and especially at that time, it’s just not heard [of] on television [to be listened to]. And I go back to Brandon Tartikoff and [QUANTUM LEAP creator] Don Bellisario [trusting me]—Brandon said, “Yes, do it now.” And I think those [episodes] launched QUANTUM LEAP in a way that brought people to the table.

And I think that this episode, “Family Style,” is so true to that original storytelling. About immigrants who come to this country, who try to be successful, and who are up against people that take advantage of them. And it’s about food and family. And you know, I’m asking people, if you read this, when you watch the show, tweet to us about your favorite food. Even give us your favorite family story of how people come together around food. Because I think that’s so important.


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On a practical note, one of the fun things about the show is the tease to the next episode with the final scene of the hour. What collaboration did you have with the next director on how to set up the right tone?
Truthfully, the way that we work it is the director of the new episodes shoots [what is essentially] the opening [of the next leap]. So I shot the opening for the show before me. And then Chris Grismer shot the opening for the next one. But we work together so that the palate change isn’t so abrupt. We’ve got a great star in Brandon Routh in “SOS,” which is the next episode. And it’s a bigger QUANTUM LEAP episode for sure. But I feel like that’s the beauty of the leaps: You have to show where he’s going. And then it’s that great cliffhanger the network didn’t want us to do back in the day. But it worked so well.

Season 2 is already in production. Will you be returning to direct?
So I’ve heard, yes. Probably in August. And I’m very excited about that. It was fun. And again, we have the most amazing crew. There’s so much love on the set. We had that in the first show, and I give great kudos to Raymond. I said to him when we were doing the pilot, “Raymond, let me tell you something: You will set the tone of this show on the set. If you walk in having a bad day, everybody has a bad day. If you walk in and go, ‘Hey, how are you doing? How’s your mom, kids?’ There’s love on the set.” And on the staff, everybody loves this show. The fans love the show.

So I feel very proud of that. And you know I’m doing other things, as well. I’m developing a game show based on a series of books I’ve written called “The Vision Quest.” The game that spins out is called “Warrior One,” set in Earth’s not-too-distant future. And I have a graphic novel on “Warrior One,” coming out hopefully this summer. And I have a new book called “Mirrors”… and there’s always deborahmpratt.com.

QUANTUM LEAP, Mondays, 10/9c, NBC


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