Donald Bellisario

Show Creator/ Producer


The Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Foundation Presents

02:26

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About
About this interview

In his three-hour Archive interview, Donald P. Bellisario talks about his service in the Marines and his early years in advertising. He recalls his transition to film and television and describes landing his first television job as story editor and then producer on Black Sheep Squadron after submitting a script to Stephen J. Cannell. He details co-creating the hit series Magnum, P.I. - working with lead Tom Selleck, incorporating the Vietnam War into "Magnum's" background, and navigating the stunt work on the show. He comments on creating and producing Airwolf, and working with stars Jan-Michael Vincent and Ernest Borgnine on the series. Bellisario also discusses the creation of the sci-fi series Quantum Leap and outlines the parameters for which the fictional "leaps" occurred on the series, talks about leads Scott Bakula and Dean Stockwell, and recounts the memorable episode about Lee Harvey Oswald (whom Bellisario had known in real life). He also speaks of his role in the long-running military-based series JAG and NCIS. Shelley Jenkins conducted the interview on April 28, 2008 in Studio City, CA. 

"When I created 'Magnum, P.I.' I got thousands of letters from Vietnam veterans thanking me for portraying Vietnam veterans who were something other than killers and drug addicts and crazy and unable to function in society...they just loved it."

Interviewee(s)
Highlights
Donald Belisario on pitching Quantum Leap to Brandon Tartikoff
Donald Belisario on recreating his father's bar for the final episode of Quantum Leap
Donald Bellisario on "Magnum" of Magnum, P.I. being Vietnam War veteran
Donald Bellisario on a young cancer patient and her family who found inspiration from an episode of Magnum, P.I.
Donald Bellisario on encountering Lee Harvey Oswald while in the Marine Corps
Full Interview

Chapter 1

On his childhood and early influences; on his children; on early memories of World War II
On going off to college; on working his way through school; on difficulties at Penn State; on leaving college and entering the Marine Corps
On encountering Lee Harvey Oswald; on his opinion on the JFK assassination and how that later inspired and episode of Quantum Leap; on returning to Penn State
On his early advertising career; on directing and editing his first television commercial; on his ad campaigns for Jack's Beer and Southwest Airlines; on moving to Los Angeles

Chapter 2

On visiting his ancestors' town in Italy; on shopping his first feature script; on meeting Stephen J. Cannell; on writing and producing Baa-Baa Blacksheep
On becoming supervising producer of Battlestar Galactica; on his short lived stint on Quincy, M.E.; on the genesis of Magnum, P.I.,  meeting with Tom Selleck, writing the pilot episode, and shooting in Hawaii
On portraying Vietnam veterans on Magnum, P.I.; on keeping women out of "Magnum's" life in season one
On "Magnum's" Tigers baseball cap; on the accidental death of a camera technician on the set of Magnum, P.I.; on specific episodes of Magnum, P.I.; on reaction to the show's multiple Emmy nominations; on working with Standards and Practices 

Chapter 3

On the movie version of Magnum, P.I.; on his series Airwolf; on the made-for-television movie Three on a Match; on the feature film Last Rites; on working in features vs. television
On creating Quantum Leap; on casting and writing Quantum Leap; on the final episode of Quantum Leap
On making the pilot for Quantum Leap; on the title of Quantum Leap, why it's his favorite of the shows he created; on his favorite episodes; on music in his shows; on the final episode of Quantum Leap
On creating JAG; on the Navy's reaction to JAG; on JAG and 9/11; on JAG switching networks
On CBS's mistakes promoting NCIS; on First Monday; on retirement, his proudest achievement, and advice to aspiring writers
Shows

3 on a Match

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Donald Belisario on the made for television movie 3 on a Match

Airwolf

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Donald Belisario on the premise of the series Airwolf

Baa-Baa Black Sheep

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Donald Bellisario on getting his first television writing job for Baa-Baa Black Sheep

Emmy Awards, The (Primetime and Daytime)

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Donald Bellisario on Magnum, P.I.'s multiple Emmy nominations

JAG

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Donald Belisario on creating JAG
Donald Belisario on the Navy's reaction to JAG
Donald Belisario on JAG and 9/11

Magnum, P. I.

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Donald Bellisario on the genesis of Magnum, P.I. 
Donald Bellisario on creating the pilot for Magnum, P.I.
Donald Bellisario on setting Magnum, P.I. in Hawaii
Donald Bellisario on "Magnum"of Magnum, P.I.  being a veteran of the Vietnam War
Donald Bellisario on "Don't Eat the Snow in Hawaii", the pilot episode of Magnum, P.I.
Donald Bellisario on the Magnum, P.I.  episode "China Doll"
Donald Bellisario on the Magnum, P.I.  episode "Did You See the Sun Rise?"
Donald Bellisario on the Magnum, P.I.  episode "Home From the Sea"

NCIS

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Donald Belisario on mistakes CBS made in promoting NCIS

Quantum Leap

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Donald Bellisario on the "Lee Harvey Oswald - Oct 5, 1957 - Nov 22, 1963" episode of Quantum Leap
Donald Belisario on creating Quantum Leap
Donald Belisario on casting Quantum Leap
Donald Belisario on the final episode of Quantum Leap
Donald Belisario on writing Quantum Leap
Donald Belisario on the pilot for Quantum Leap
Donald Belisario on the title of Quantum Leap
Donald Belisario on his favorite episode of Quantum Leap
Topics

9/11

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Donald Belisario on how JAG dealt with 9/11

Characters & Catchphrases

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Donald Bellisario on "Magnum" of Magnum, P.I.  being a veteran of the Vietnam War
Donald Belisario on Scott Bakula as "Sam" in Quantum Leap

Emmy Awards

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Donald Bellisario on Magnum, P.I.'s multiple Emmy nominations

JFK Assassination and Funeral

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Donald Bellisario on encountering Lee Harvey Oswald in the Marine Corps

John F. Kennedy

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Donald Bellisario on encountering Lee Harvey Oswald in the Marine Corps

Memorable Moments on Television

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Donald Belisario on the final episode of Quantum Leap
Donald Belisario on Dean Stockwell's difficulty with the Quantum Leap episode "The Leap Home"

Pop Culture

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Donald Bellisario on "Magnum" of Magnum, P.I.  being a veteran of the Vietnam War
Donald Belisario on Scott Bakula as "Sam" in Quantum Leap
Donald Belisario on Mike Post's music for Magnum, P.I. and Quantum Leap

TV Theme Songs

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Donald Belisario on Mike Post's music for Magnum, P.I. and Quantum Leap d Belisario on Mike Post's music for Magnum, P.I. and Quantum Leap

Television Industry

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Donald Bellisario on Magnum P.I.'s ratings and going up against The Cosby Show

Television and the Presidency

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Donald Bellisario on encountering Lee Harvey Oswald in the Marine Corps

Vietnam War

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Donald Bellisario on "Magnum" of Magnum, P.I.  being a veteran of the Vietnam War
Donald Belisario on Dean Stockwell's difficulty with the Quantum Leap episode "The Leap Home"

War

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Donald Bellisario on early memories of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor
Donald Bellisario on his childhood town's reaction to World War II
Donald Bellisario on "Magnum" of Magnum, P.I.  being a veteran of the Vietnam War
Donald Belisario on Dean Stockwell's difficulty with the Quantum Leap episode "The Leap Home"

World War II

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Donald Bellisario on early memories of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor
Donald Bellisario on his childhood town's reaction to World War II
Professions

Show Creators

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Donald Belisario on writing Quantum Leap

Writers

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Donald Bellisario on his decision to move to Los Angeles and become a writer
Donald Belisario on advice to aspiring writers
Genres

Adventure/Espionage Series

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Donald Belisario on creating Quantum Leap

Cop/Detective/Mystery Series

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Donald Bellisario on the creation of Magnum, P.I.
Donald Bellisario on specific episodes of Magnum, P.I.
Donald Belisario on creating JAG

Drama Series

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Donald Bellisario on the creation of Magnum, P.I.
Donald Bellisario on specific episodes of Magnum, P.I.
Donald Belisario on creating Quantum Leap
Donald Belisario on creating JAG

Sci-Fi/Supernatural Series

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Donald Belisario on creating Quantum Leap
People

Scott Bakula

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Donald Belisario on Scott Bakula as "Sam" in Quantum Leap

Stephen J. Cannell

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Donald Bellisario on meeting Stephen J. Cannell

Lee Harvey Oswald

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Donald Bellisario on encountering Lee Harvey Oswald in the Marine Corps

Mike Post

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Donald Belisario on Mike Post's music for Magnum, P.I. and Quantum Leap

Tom Selleck

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Donald Bellisario on Tom Selleck's role in creating Magnum, P.I.

Dean Stockwell

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Donald Belisario on Dean Stockwell's difficulty with the Quantum Leap episode "The Leap Home"

Brandon Tartikoff

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Donald Belisario on pitching Quantum Leap to Brandon Tartikoff

Orson Welles

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Donald Bellisario on casting Orson Wells as "Robin Masters" on Magnum, P.I. 

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