TV star Scott Bakula fondly remembered his “Quantum Leap” co-star Dean Stockwell on Tuesday as news of the on-screen admiral’s death made its way through spacetime.
Oscar-nominated Stockwell, who died Sunday at age 85, had become a TV veteran as he dropped in and out of Hollywood since he was a child and became a good friend of Bakula’s during their prolific careers.
In a statement provided Tuesday to The Times, Bakula paid tribute to Stockwell, whom he met at his 1988 audition for “Quantum Leap.” The actors played the lead roles in NBC’s time-travel series and became small-screen sci-fi icons while the series ran from 1989 to 1993.
“He had agreed to ‘read’ for the Network, I was already cast,” Bakula said of their first meeting. “We connected immediately and my career and my life were changed that day in [former NBC president] Brandon Tartikoff’s office. How lucky were we to get him? A few months later he would be nominated for an Academy Award for his role in ‘Married to the Mob,’ but he was stuck with us. Serendipity? All I know is, he never tried to get out or complain, he loved the role and the show and the rest was history.”
Stockwell played Adm. Al Calavicci, a wise-cracking character who appeared to Bakula’s physicist Dr. Sam Beckett as a hologram. On Instagram Stories, Bakula described him as his “favorite scene-stealing hologram.”
“He became a dear friend and a mentor and we grew very close over the next five, very intense years. Dean was such a passionate man … about life, his work, his art (he was an amazing artist!), his family, all kinds of causes, people, music, the planet, cigars, golf, and on and on!” Bakula wrote.
As a child, Stockwell starred in “Anchors Aweigh,” “Gentleman’s Agreement,” “Blue Velvet” and “The Secret Garden.” Because of that, Bakula said, the former child star had “a soft spot for every young actor” who came on the “Quantum Leap” set.
“He was very protective of their rights and safety and always checked in with them to make sure that they were ok. His big hearted response to the kids made all of us take notice and be better guardians ourselves,” Bakula continued.
The men later reunited on the small screen for a 2014 episode of “NCIS: New Orleans,” the CBS procedural that Bakula starred in until last May, when it ended after seven seasons.
“In spite of having a career that came and went several times during his seventy plus years in the business, he was always grateful and delighted to have the chance to keep working,” Bakula wrote. “The only time he ever complained was when we called him on the golf course and told him we were ready for him to come to work! He used to announce his presence on the sound stage (if we hadn’t already caught a whiff of cigar smoke trailing in behind him), with a bellowed, ‘The fun starts now!’ Truer words were never spoken.
“I loved him dearly and was honored to know him. He made me a better human being…” he concluded.
Several of Stockwell’s contemporaries also paid tribute to him, including longtime friend Russ Tamblyn, who met Stockwell on the 1948 film “The Boy With the Green Hair” and co-starred with him and Dennis Hopper in “The Last Movie” in 1971 and “Human Highway” in 1982.
“Dean. My oldest friend. A godfather-figure to my daughter, Amber. Brilliant artist. Loving dad. We met on the set of The Boy With Green Hair, stayed close til his last breath,” Tamblyn tweeted. “Rest easy now, brother. Give Dennis a hug from me when you see him on the other side.”
His daughter, actress Amber Tamblyn, also retweeted the tribute.
Lydia Cornell, who worked with Stockwell on the “Quantum Leap” pilot, tweeted that he “always had a mischievous glint of humor in his eyes,” and his “Battlestar Galactica” co-star Edward James Olmos also recalled their years working together.
“A true giant of a human being has passed,” Olmos tweeted. “I was so fortunate to have worked with him on Miami Vice and Battlestar. I will cherish the years we spent together He was a gift to all who truly knew him.”