Justin Hartley on Traveling Back to 1981 With Wife Sofia Pernas on ‘Quantum Leap’ (VIDEO)

Justin Hartley is joining the time-traveling fun of NBC‘s Quantum Leap, but don’t expect his character to be anything like Kevin Pearson on This Is Us, which ended its six-season run earlier this year.

The episode is set in 1981, and Dr. Ben Song (Raymond Lee) has jumped into the body of a female bounty hunter named Eva. She and her boyfriend Jake (Hartley) are on a bounty mission to track down a character named Tammy Jean, played by Hartley’s real-life wife Sofia Pernas. However, Ben jumps into Eva’s body just as Eva and Jake’s relationship is at a crossroads — a proposal! Needless to say, Eva’s reaction isn’t what Jake expected.

For more on the episode, how Hartley ended up working with wife, and what Hartley’s been up to since saying goodbye to This Is Us, TV Insider chatted with the actor.

How did you and Sofia both end up in this week’s Quantum Leap episode? I love that you were both in the episode together.

Justin Hartley: Oh, thanks. We had a really good time. So I’ll tell you the Cliff Notes’ version. Sofia did a show a few years ago called The Brave with Dean Georgaris, who is the executive producer of Quantum Leap. We all went out to dinner and I just mention to Dean, “The Quantum Leap thing is amazing.” I was a huge Quantum Leap fan when I was a kid. I loved that show. I loved Scott Bakula. It was something I looked forward to every single week — and the whole family actually.

And it turns out that there’s a part on the show for not only me but for Sofia. We could play opposite each other and it’s something that we’ve always talked about doing and wanting to do. I was a huge, huge fan of when I was a kid. Sofia’s so young. She’s like, “It’s a reboot?” and I’m like, “Of course, it’s a reboot.” [Laughs] But we had a great time. It was really wonderful.

It’s 1981 during the episode so you get to wear all those [outfits] that are now kind of goofy. We got to really ham it up in certain ways and then do some action and work together. We had to carpool together. Jim, it was incredible!

In the episode, Ben jumps into the body of a bounty hunter named Eva who’s involved with your character Jake. First of all, how was it to work with Ray? Because, one, that guy can wear an off-the-shoulder top [as Eva] like I’ve never seen before.

Yeah, that was good. It’s just such a tricky thing for him as an actor. Not to speak for him, but I’ll just say as an actor, he is who he is, but he’s supposed to also figure out the body he’s jumped into and what percentage does he present as Eva — as to not throw Jake off — and what percentage does he be himself. I think it would be a very fun thing to do what he’s doing. We had a really good time together. We laughed a lot.

Quantum Leap, Raymond Lee, Justin Hartley


What is the state of the relationship between Jake and Eva when we meet them? Are they in a good place or is it a little rough?

They’re at a crossroads. They find themselves in a place where Jake is ready to take this thing to the next level. He’s proposing and he’s ready to marry this woman and he is fully expecting a yes. It sounds like something they talked about in the past and they’re both on the same page and then there’s a twist and all hell breaks loose. On top of that, they’re dealing with this bounty that they’re trying to collect. So it ends up being more and more dangerous as it goes on.

You filmed some of the scenes in this episode at the historic Union Station in downtown Los Angeles. Had you ever shot there before?

You know how old I’m getting? I think so. [Laughs] I swear to you I have and I was telling Sofia, I was like, “Have you ever shot at Union Station?” She’s like, “No, I haven’t.” I’m like, “Oh, it’s a blast. You’re going to love it and then I got there and she goes, “Well, what did you shoot here?” And I couldn’t tell her. I could not tell her. I couldn’t remember. Maybe it could have been eons ago when I was an extra. But it was great. It’s a functioning depot and you’re trying to do these scenes around people that are trying to get to see their grandparents or their kids or whatever. So it’s an interesting thing.

This being Quantum Leap, if you could leap anywhere, where would you want to leap in your history or history itself?

Can I come back or am I stuck there?

No, you can come back. You get to go visit, but you’re not stuck.

Yeah, OK, as long as I can come back. I would visit probably American Civil War time. It’s so hard to wrap your brain around. I’ve studied it quite a bit. When you spend a lot of time researching something and reading about certain people in a certain period, the idea of seeing it in person is pretty surreal so that would be kind of cool.

And you really haven’t slowed down since saying goodbye to Kevin Pearson on This Is Us earlier this year, have you?

Totally true. So I’m up here in Vancouver with [This Is Us executive producer] Ken Olin and Yasu Tanida, our director of photography on This Is Us. We took everyone and we brought them up here and we’re doing The Never Game [a drama pilot for CBS]. So basically it’s the This is Us crew and the cast is doing an action survival thriller show. It’s really wonderful. It’s great.

Quantum Leap, Mondays, 10/9c, NBC