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The Legendary Dean Stockwell, Quantum Leap’s Al, Dies at 85

Dean Stockwell and Scott Bakula pose for a 'Quantum Leap' publicity shot

Dean Stockwell, an actor near and dear to many a genre lover’s heart, has passed away. Per The New York Times, Stockwell died at home in Los Angeles. He was 85.

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While many will recognize Stockwell in the role that made him a household name, Admiral Al Calavicci on Quantum Leap, Stockwell’s career spanned more than seventy years since his start as a child actor. His face was well-known in both film and television mediums, and he brought personality and panache to any role he undertook. He was a scene-stealer, and whenever you saw Stockwell onscreen, you knew you were about to see a captivating performance full of charisma.

The role of Al on Quantum Leap will likely be remembered as Stockwell’s legacy part. But he also many, many other memorable turns, including in David Lynch’s Dune as Dr. Yueh; he would work with Lynch again as Ben in Blue Velvet, crooning Roy Orbison’s “In Dreams.” The mafia comedy film Married to the Mob netted Stockwell a Best Supporting Actor Oscar nomination. He also appeared as Brother Cavil in Sci Fi’s Battlestar Galactica revival.

Quantum Leap, which ran on NBC for five seasons from 1989-1993, saw Scott Bakula’s Dr. Sam Beckett traveling through spacetime to different points in history. Stockwell played Al Calavicci, his cigar-smoking, always-entertaining best friend, who appears to Sam as a hologram and helps advise him with the aid of the trusty artificial intelligence Ziggy. The interactions between Sam and Al proved to be the heart of the popular show, and Stockwell earned several Emmy nominations and won a Best Supporting Actor Golden Globe in 1990.

It’s hard to imagine anyone else pulling off Al with such humor and style, and turning him into such an iconic character.

Stockwell would later guest star on Star Trek: Enterprise, which starred Bakula, in an appearance that had some winking nods to Al Calavicci.

As recently as September 2021, Bakula discussed the ongoing conversations about a Quantum Leap reboot on actor Bob Saget’s podcast. Per Deadline, “Asked by Saget why Bakula and Stockwell can’t do the show ‘now,’ Bakula quips, ‘Dean costs too much money.’”

Stockwell lead a long, celebrated, and fascinating life, pursuing visual art in addition to his wide and varied career on stage and screen. A longtime friend of musician Neil Young, he co-directed a film with Young and designed the cover art for Young’s album American Stars ‘n Bars in 1977.

Cover art for Neil Young's album American Stars n' Bars, designed by Dean Stockwell

Tributes have poured in for Stockwell on social media from those who knew him and those who fell in love with his work.

Rest easy, sir.

(image: NBC)

Just a few more tweets.

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Kaila Hale-Stern
Kaila Hale-Stern (she/her) is a content director, editor, and writer who has been working in digital media for more than fifteen years. She started at TMS in 2016. She loves to write about TV—especially science fiction, fantasy, and mystery shows—and movies, with an emphasis on Marvel. Talk to her about fandom, queer representation, and Captain Kirk. Kaila has written for io9, Gizmodo, New York Magazine, The Awl, Wired, Cosmopolitan, and once published a Harlequin novel you'll never find.

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