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Howard County Times
Howard County

Horse jumping and quantum leaping: Caitlin Bassett’s unusual journey from Howard County to Hollywood

When Howard County native Caitlin Bassett read the script for the 2022 reboot of the NBC science fiction series “Quantum Leap,” she had two immediate thoughts.

“The first one was that I could be kind of perfect for this role,” said Bassett, 32, who grew up in Ellicott City. “The second thought was that I am never going to get hired.”

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After callbacks, screen testing and what felt like years of waiting, Bassett finally was cast in her first professional role as Addison Augustine, an ex-Army intelligence officer with a past eerily similar to her own.

Bassett had served seven years as an intelligence analyst in the U.S. Army before pursuing acting.

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“I know what it’s like in the halls of NSA,” said Bassett, whose service included two tours in Afghanistan. “I know how it feels to have to perform under very stressful conditions with a lot going on.”

“Quantum Leap,” which follows a scientist who “leaps” back in time through different people’s lives, cemented Bassett’s transition from the military to acting that had many twists and turns and all began in Howard County.

Bassett grew up on a small horse farm in Ellicott City with father Steve, a former sports broadcaster, and mother Judy, a National Park Service employee who introduced her to riding and show jumping.

In 2008, after graduating River Hill High School, where she competed on the equestrian team and sang in choir, Bassett enlisted in the Army.

Caitlin Bassett at River Hill High School’s Senior Awards Night, where she was recognized for her commitment to join the U.S. Army after her graduation in 2008.

“I just wanted to see what else was out there for me,” said Basset, whose father also joined the Army at age 18 and saw combat in Vietnam. “It turned out there was a lot.”

In addition to her overseas deployments, Bassett was stationed at NSA installations in Hawaii and Maryland and worked toward a degree in legal studies from the University of Maryland Global Campus.

“She’s very resilient,” said Danny Ives, a counselor at River Hill who Bassett visited between tours. “I think that her work ethic served her very well.”

After being discharged in 2015, Bassett moved to New York to attend Brooklyn Law School and assumed that she was destined for a government career. But something about the decision didn’t sit right with her.

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“I was, once again, going in a direction that I wasn’t convinced was for me,” she said. “I was just kind of doing it because [it] felt like the logical next step.”

Bassett had always been interested in theater, but never did plays at River Hill. She began moonlighting acting classes and in 2017, was offered a position at the Stella Adler Studio of Acting’s theater program in New York City. She decided to leave law school and pursue acting full-time.

“Fifty years from now, am I going to regret trying something or not trying something?” Bassett said.

The leap of faith paid off and in 2020 Bassett was selected from thousands of applicants for the Disney Television Discovers: Talent Showcase, which connects promising actors with directors and industry professionals. Then came her casting in “Quantum Leap,” a major NBC show co-starring Raymond Lee as Dr. Ben Song. The show seeks to capitalize on nostalgia for the original series that starred Scott Bakula and ran for five seasons on NBC from 1989 to 1993.

Raymond Lee as Dr. Ben Song and Caitlin Bassett as Addison Augustine star in season one of “Quantum Leap.” 
QUANTUM LEAP -- "Somebody up there likes Ben" Episode 103

While the career transition seems as sudden as the Project Accelerator that propels the show’s characters through time, Bassett’s family and friends say her acting success is not entirely surprising.

“This is a person who completed her entire undergraduate coursework, earned her college degree, studied for and passed the LSATs, all while serving on active duty in the Army and being deployed three times,” her father, Steve, said. “I figure anybody who can do that can probably do anything.”

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Steve, who named his new puppy Addison after his daughter’s character, watched every week of the show this fall and enjoyed seeing the writers work more of Caitlin’s personality into the role as the season progressed.

“My only disappointment is we stopped at eight [episodes] this fall and I want the next one,” he said.

Bassett says she’s drawn heavily from her military experience to play Addison, who is tasked with guiding Ben, her fiancée, as he leaps between historical settings, from the Old West to 1989 San Francisco.

“There’s things about Addison that I don’t have to consciously work on,” she said. “Anything that you’re consciously building takes brain space and it can detract sometimes from the emotional reality or the stakes of what a character is going through.”

In one early episode, Addison references her time in Afghanistan, which prompted Bassett’s niece to blurt out “but she really was there!” as she watched.

Looking back, Bassett says she’s grateful for the opportunities Howard County provided and she hopes other students decide to pursue their dream when faced with a crossroads.

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“I remember feeling, because you’re growing up in a horse farm, that I was in the middle of nowhere, but it’s really not,” she said. “You’re so connected there.”


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