The Complete Interview
with Trey Callaway
As seen in The Observer, Issue
30, October 2004
Special thanks to the PQL webmaster Jo Fox and Sharon Major for permission to reprint this interview!
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Also check out the Jo Fox website at www.joorl.com
Interview with Trey Callaway
[ Reprinted with permission. Do not copy or distribute. ]
The first suggestion that a spin-off series for Quantum Leap was being considered was in July 2002 when Bonnie Hammer, president of Sci-Fi Channel, announced that her network (part of Universal Television Group) wanted to diversify its schedule by developing first-run programming based upon existing Universal titles. Quantum Leap and Tremors were specifically cited as possible new series. Although the spin-off series for Tremors, with Michael Gross debuted March 27, 2003, there has yet to be an official announcement for a Quantum Leap spin-off.
But late last year, a "Quantum Leap" search at imdb.com pulled up a new entry, namely Quantum Leap: A Bold Leap Forward, with the production date of 2004. Trey Callaway was listed as the writer and a short synopsis was given. Earlier this year, Don’s name was added as executive producer and this summer, Dean’s name appeared as the only cast member. Unable as I am to ever reach Don or Dean directly, I contacted the ascribed writer—Trey Callaway, who to my knowledge had not been involved on the original QL series. I wanted to know, Who is this guy and what is he going to be doing to "our" Quantum Leap?
Trey seemed genuinely eager to respond to my request for a telephone interview and he was surprisingly forthcoming about the new incarnation and future of QL. A few details were hashed out in a follow-up e-mail that proved to be even more revealing. As Al might put it, it sounds like "a kick in the butt!"
Sharon: So are you a Leaper?
Trey Callaway: Yes, I am.
S: When did you "find" QL?
Trey: Back during the original first season. But if you had told me back then that I would one day wind up working on the next generation of Quantum Leap, I probably wouldn’t have believed you. Unless, you had somehow leaped me forward to prove it. Yes, I was a big fan of the original series.
S: Were you among the fans that were involved and picketed NBC, or were you sort of on your own as a fan?
Trey: I was on my own. I was a big fan of Don’s work in general. I would have kissed his ring over Magnum, P.I. alone.
S: How did you get attached to this project?
Trey: In retrospect it seems as if it was a
long process, if only because of all my years of working in television. It’s funny,
but whenever I’ve had the occasion to go to networks and pitch any kind of anthology
series—in any way, shape or form—the networks always seemed to shy away from
them because they were always looking for the next Quantum Leap. I don’t know
how many times I’ve heard, "What we want is Quantum Leap."
So that is how I was initially brought into the process. I then sat down with Don, hit it off with him and got his blessing, and went from there.
S: We’ve spent the last several issues focusing on writers. Can you tell us when you decided this might be your career and how you broke into the business of writing and producing?
Trey: I’ve been working in television and film for the better part of the last 10-12 years. I began writing and selling several different features, but I officially got my start in television back in the ‘90’s when I created a television series called Mercy Point, which was a science fiction drama on UPN, often referred to as ER in space. It was a space station medical hospital. That’s where I first earned my executive producer / showrunner stripes, and I have continued working back and forth between movies and tv because a) I truly enjoy both worlds, b) I have three small children to feed, and c) it beats the heck out of breathing coal dust. Actually there have been a number of pilots, including working on a project with Tim Burton called Lost in Oz, and a film, I Still Know What You Did Last Summer. So, when I got the call from Sci-Fi about QL, I asked, "Where do I sign up?"
S: Dean’s name now appears to be linked to the project (at imdb.com). Is this legitimate?
Trey: (Although) Scott has a running gig now, the idea was always to bring Scott and Dean back together for at least a short part of our relaunch and then craft it dramatically so that Scott could go leaping back out into the ether, leaving Dean behind to team up with a new partner, whom as I envisioned is directly related to Sam.
S: Sammy Jo?
Trey: Yeah. Sam’s daughter would team up with Al for a new incarnation of the series, with the long-ranging arc being her character attempts to find her father and bring him home once and for all.
S: At what age do you envision Sammy Jo?
Trey: When we first meet her, in the first act when Sam himself meets her, she’s only 12 years old. Later, when we catch up with her, she is in college and Al is a professor of hers—and that’s no accident. He has kept tabs on her and tried to stay close.
S: So Al’s not actually at the project; I’m probably digging too deep.
Trey: It’s funny. There are a number of things I’m not allowed to say, but I can tell you the two of them (Sammy Jo and Al) team up.
S: (scanning my notes for more questions): So you know how long we’ve been waiting; I don’t have to go over that.
Trey: [laughing] Well, if it’s any consolation, I’ve waited a long time too. It was quite a kick to work on it!
S: Is there a time frame or a time limit for this agreement with Sci-Fi?
Trey: Not as I understand it. It’s really a situation of scheduling for everyone—myself, Don and Sci-Fi included. At this point the two-hour backdoor pilot (script) has been completed. I finished the script, the network and studio are very happy with it. Don is obviously heavily ensconced in not one, but two shows at the present, and Sci-Fi has a busy schedule as well. It’s all about trying to find the best time to go into production and relaunch this thing, not just as a stand-alone 2-hour. Because there are so many fans of the original series, I know Sci-Fi has every intention of trying to roll this out as a new series. There is a lot of timing and scheduling that has to come into play. I’m about to start on a new project with Todd McFarlane (Spawn) at FOX which is an anthology series called Twisted Tales. So we have to get everyone in the room and figure out how and when this works.
S: Has Twisted Tales gotten the green
light from FOX for their fall or spring schedule? Your newest project listed at
imdb.com is entitled Witch. Is this a name change or a different project?
Trey: I like to describe Twisted Tales as "Night Gallery with multiple piercings"... a supernatural anthology series with some serious edge... and I’m currently penning both a pilot script and bible for the series through FOX’s alternative programming division. The green light part is up to them.
Witch is a different project entirely - an animated series for Disney based on an extremely successful series of European comic books, which I adapted and am producing with my wife, Nancy Neufeld Callaway. It’s like a cross between Lizzie McGuire and Harry Potter, presented in a Japanese anime style. Witch debuts in the Spring of 2005 on ABC Family, Toon Disney, and The Disney Channel worldwide.
S: So, can we come back to Quantum Leap? Are you fairly secure on where this is going? Or, [jokingly] you never can tell?
Trey: [Laughing] As secure as one can be in this business, which is as you just said, "you never know" tends to be the case usually. But I certainly had a blast writing it and everyone seems to be very receptive to what we’ve got, so we’ll see where it goes from here.
S: I’m glad you’re a Leaper. I think most fans were skeptical when they first heard that there was going to be another QL but without Scott. "Oh, no!"
Trey: [agreeing] "How can you?"
S: It does sound good. Since you are a fan yourself, this should bring in the long-time fans.
Trey: The mythology was so well drawn for the characters in the first run. Even if I didn’t know anything about QL, I would have been doing it a gross disservice to not pick up that mantle in terms of character and mythology and carefully carry it forward without ignoring or destroying what came before. I don’t have to tell you that Don did an amazing job creating this universe. My job was to breathe some new life into it with new characters and some new situations, but without throwing the precious baby out with the bathwater.
Trey: That is definitely the goal and I think this is borne out in the 2-hour. The two things you get out of the Bold Leap Forward are a sense that the mythology continues, with a great sense of humor, which was always key in the original series, but also a great depth of heart. I think that is probably best showcased in the kinds of leaps you see in the 2-hour. There are about three or four leaps, with one being the massive A-story leap that will probably knock everyone’s socks off, and which in particular shows the great depth of heart. While the B- and C-leaps showcase the great sense of humor and the ironies of time.
I’m not one to toot my own horn, but I think it does a pretty good job of carrying this forward.
S: So if Sammy Jo is in college, what year would that be?
Trey: Sam gets some limited interaction with Sammy Jo back in 1992 as a kid on a soccer field. Then we are now in the present day and she is finishing up with college and toying with a very serious relationship, facing a lot of issues that 20-somethings have to face upon leaving the safety net of college.
S: I know that nowadays networks tend to look
for programming geared to a younger demographic. Do you envision Sammy Jo as an action
heroine like Jennifer Garner on Alias?
S: So that fits in with her birth date and chronology?
Trey: If Don is a stickler for anything, it’s detail.
S: Well, as I recall, Deborah Pratt, who created Sammy Jo, told me that in the "present day" Sammy Jo would be in her thirties. I really hate to be the one to initiate a debate before this project even gets off the ground, but Leapers are probably bigger sticklers for detail than even Don, who established Sammy Jo’s birthdate around March 1967.
Trey: Long Live The Leapers! And while
you’re absolutely correct about all the fine print details of the show’s
timeline, there are really only two ways in which I’m at
S: Thank you so much for taking the time and letting us get acquainted with you.
Trey: You’re quite welcome. I genuinely appreciate your interest and hope the best is yet to come... or in the world of Quantum Leap... has it already happened?
Give my regards to my fellow Leapers.