Taking the ‘Leap’ with Shakina and Wilder Yari

Quantum Leap airs weekly on NBC and has flipped the entirety of so-called standard American culture with its inclusive storytelling and gender-bending narratives.

The reboot of the 1989 sci-fi show stars Raymond Lee as Dr. Ben Song, along with Caitlin Bassett, Mason Alexander Park, Nanrisa Lee, and Ernie Hudson.

We spoke with performer, writer, producer, and transgender activist Shakina and guest star Wilder Yari in support of Quantum Leap Episode 210 airing Feb. 6, 2024, at 10pm PT.

Taking the Leap

Shakina serves as executive story editor on season 2 and wrote, directed, and starred in episode 112, “Let Them Play.” Prior to Quantum Leap, Shakina made TV history as the first transgender person to be cast as a series regular on a network sitcom, with a starring role in the NBC show, Connecting.

Following Connecting, Shakina received an opportunity to reconnect (see how we did that?) with a favorite television show growing up – Quantum Leap. Hearing there was an opportunity to put the proverbial writer’s hat on, Shakina was ready for anything.

“I grew up with Quantum Leap and knew how important the shows were at creating these bridges of empathy every week,” Shakina said. “It allowed me to be able to be seen in my otherness.”

In fact, Shakina’s bond with series star Mason Alexander Park was immediate. Mason stars as Ian Wright, a non-binary character who runs the Artificial Intelligence unit “Ziggy.”

“Ian is a total dream to work with,” Shakina said.

Watch our full interview with Shakina and Wilder below.

Representation Matters

In terms of representation, Shakina said there was “a huge responsibility” for authentic storytelling in Quantum Leap. Things are certainly shifting a bit in television – and it’s just in time.

“For the first time in history, there are other trans writers at my level in writing rooms. I’m a drop in the bucket – and I’m cool with that,” Shakina shared.

In fact, Shakina said, “I understood what the character Sam was going through every week portraying people in different bodies.”

Let’s Be Wild(er)

Shakina wrote and directed Quantum Leap Episode 2010 wherein the audience meets a trans character named Dean, played by Wilder Yari.

The logline states, “A cursed treasure hunt draws Ben to Mexico in 1953, putting him between two estranged siblings struggling with their late father’s legacy. As they navigate a series of lethal obstacles, Ben finds the real challenge lies in repairing this broken family’s bond.” 

“I’ve been on sets where it fell on me to advocate for myself. It was a real joy to be on the set with Shakina, in things I didn’t even realize at the time,” said Yari.

Quantum Leap Episode 210 airs Tuesday, Feb. 6, 2024, at 10pm PT.