Bakula leaps back

With role as Civil War-era patriarch, '80s television star returns to his roots in theater


When actors have repeated success in one genre of entertainment, often they get typecast, stuck playing the same character again and again in different movies or shows.

Scott Bakula, star of the late-'80s hit show Quantum Leap and the most recent Star Trek series, Enterprise, proves even a sci-fi master can find success in a myriad of genres and mediums. At 51, Bakula makes a leap back to his roots in theater, starring in the Tony Award-winning Civil War musical Shenandoah, running tomorrow through April 30 at Ford's Theatre in Washington.

"I'm first and foremost a stage actor," Bakula says. "It's where I got my start. I spent 10 years in New York and did shows all over the country. That is where I got my chops, and I've been fortunate to be able to switch into other areas."

Bakula began his career in theater when he moved to New York in 1976, coincidentally taking his first role in Shenandoah. Twelve years later, he was nominated for his first Tony Award for his starring role in the Broadway musical Romance/Romance. He switched over to television in 1989, landing the lead role as Dr. Sam Beckett in the series Quantum Leap. The show ran for five years and was a large innovator in science-fiction television.

"I think the success from Quantum Leap is the biggest I've ever had," he says. "We were making something out of the norm at the time and were doing all this crazy stuff - being pregnant, playing Lee Harvey Oswald."

The show's success helped him transition to the big screen, where he worked in a variety of movies such as Life as A House and American Beauty. And to keep himself fresh, Bakula has starred in such comedies as Necessary Roughness, where he got "pounded pretty hard," and Major League: Back to the Minors.

"I've made it a goal of mine to attempt to do as many different things as possible, to keep all my acting muscles in shape," Bakula says. "I love doing comedy and sitcoms, and at the same time I certainly enjoy physical roles. I did a horror movie and had a ball with that. I try to look for parts that are interesting."

Growing up a fan of the original Star Trek series, Bakula jumped at the chance to man the bridge for the show's fifth series as Capt. Jonathan Archer, which ran from 2001 to 2005.

"I know it sounds silly, but it was a very emotional experience sitting in the captain's chair with all the crew around me," he says. "I would anticipate there will be more Star Trek. When the dust settles, someone is going to say, `Do we really want to let this, and all the money that comes with it, go?' I heard there are already plans for a new series in the works."

In his return to the theater, Bakula accepted the lead role of Charlie Anderson after being approached by director and friend Jeff Calhoun. Shenandoah tells the story of Anderson, a Virginia patriarch who struggles to keep his family out of the Civil War.

"It's about a man who tries to control his own world, unsuccessfully," Bakula says. "With everything this country is going through, it's going to be a very thoughtful piece, and Ford's Theatre is the most suitable place for it."

But for Bakula, starring as Charlie Anderson represents something greater than simply sending a message to the country. "I love Washington; the theater community is very strong and wonderful here," he says. "Jeff has really re-imagined the piece from when it was originally done. It was the first show I did when I got to New York. Now, I'm older and playing the part of the father; it's like coming full circle for me."

"Shenandoah" runs tomorrow-April 30 at Ford's Theatre, 511 10th St. N.W., Washington. Show times vary. Tickets are $25-$52. Call the box office at 202-347-4833.

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