Quantum Leap’s Al – actor Dean Stockwell dies, aged 85 (updated)

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The former child star enjoyed a lengthy career with an impressive list of film and television credits. 

Best known to a generation as Al, time-traveller Sam Beckett’s hologramatic lifeline, actor Dean Stockwell has passed away.

A career spanning seventy years began with a Broadway debut at six years old. From there, film appearances followed with stars such as Frank Sinatra, Errol Flynn and Katharine Hepburn for company. His best known genre role was as Dr Wellington Yueh in David Lynch’s epic, sometimes baffling 1985 version of Dune, alongside Patrick Stewart.

Other highlights included roles in Paris, Texas, Blue Velvet, The Rainmaker, The Player and Air Force One. He was Oscar nominated for his role as mob boss Tony “the Tiger” Russo in the late 80’s Michelle Pfeiffer comedy Married to the Mob.

On Television

Stockwell notched up plenty of television roles too, on genre favourites such as Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman, Stargate SG-1 and Battlestar Galactica. There’s also a 1961 episode of The Twilight Zone entitled ‘A Quality of Mercy’, which stars Stockwell in double roles as American and Japanese lieutenants on either side pending massacres.

Post Quantum Leap, he popped up in guest roles on co-star Scott Bakula’s shows such as Enterprise and NCIS: New Orleans.

Quantum Leap

But it is for Quantum Leap that Dean Stockwell will doubtless be best remembered. Through five seasons of the show, from 1989 – 1993,  his character of Admiral Al Calavicci was a key element of the show’s success. Appearing as a observer that only ‘leaper’ Sam Beckett could perceive, he served as adviser, counsellor and forecaster of odds; helping to put right what once went wrong in the lives of those Sam had temporally supplanted.

Al’s cigar-waving nonchalance and penchant for innuendo brought a lightness of touch; the show might have otherwise felt too worthy. Which is not to say his performance wasn’t without dramatic weight, his character displayed a strong moral core too. Stockwell’s charismatic performance earned him four Emmy nominations. a Golden Globe and a well-deserved place in television history.

There’s a moving statement which Scott Bakula has provided to Deadline, which is well worth reading in full. His co-star describes him as “such a passionate man…about life, his work, his art” and concludes with the line: “I loved him dearly and was honored to know him. He made me a better human being…”

Updated 10th October 2021

There’s also a tribute from the prolific Donald P. Bellisario, Quantum Leap‘s creator, which tells how Stockwell “set the work ethic” on the show and “… brought a sense of fun to the set that lifted everyone’s spirits”.