‘Quantum Leap’: Who Ernie Hudson’s Herbert ‘Magic’ Williams Was in the Original Series

When NBC premieres Quantum Leap, you won’t see Scott Bakula. The new show has a new team of characters following Dr. Sam Beckett (Bakula)’s time travel research. However, there is one character Quantum Leap fans have met before. Ernie Hudson plays Magic Williams and here’s why he’s significant. 

'Quantum Leap': Herbert "Magic" Williams (Ernie Hudson) holds his cell phone
Ernie Hudson | Ron Batzdorff/NBC

Hudson, Quantum Leap showrunner Martin Gero and the cast were on a Television Critics Association panel on Sept. 15. Gero and Hudson discussed bringing Magic Williams back from one of Sam’s original leaps. Quantum Leap airs Mondays at 10 p.m. on NBC.

Herbert ‘Magic’ Williams was in an original ‘Quantum Leap’ episode 

In the season 3 two-parter “The Leap Home,” Sam leaps close to his own family. In the second part, he’s actually in Vietnam with his brother. The body he inhabits in that leap is Herbert “Magic” Williams, played in 1990 by Christopher Kirby in the mirror image of Sam. 

“It is the same “Magic” Williams,” Gero said. “You know, we were all looking for as much connective tissue with the old show without it being impossible to overcome for new viewers.”

RELATED: Who Did Dean Stockwell Play on ‘Quantum Leap’?

Hudson is a series regular on Quantum Leap but that opens up the possibility for other characters from original leaps to return. If some of those actors are still working, actors from episodes set in the ‘80s could be the right age to appear in the present day. Or, Dr. Ben Song (Raymond Lee) could encounter those characters again in the past. That goes for characters Sam leapt into or people he encountered in the past.

‘Quantum Leap’ will explain ‘Magic’ Williams to new viewers 

Hudson may be best known as the fourth Ghostbuster, Winston Zeddmore. On Quantum Leap he leads a team that includes Dr. Song, hologram Addison (Caitlin Bassett), Ian Wright (Mason Alexander Park) and security officer Jenn (Nanrisa Lee). Those new characters didn’t know “Magic Williams” in Vietnam. This will also explain what happened to “Magic” after Sam leapt out of him.

RELATED: Before Her Breakout Role in ‘Friends,’ You May Have Missed Jennifer Anniston in This ‘Quantum Leap’ Episode

“We don’t want to give too much away, but one of my favorite scenes in the whole show so far is between Mason and Ernie where we find out Magic’s kind of backstory,” Gero said. “I think it’s really powerful and beautiful and, again, it’s just a fresh perspective on the old show in a way that I think only our show can do. Just having Ernie on the show, period, is such a thrill for all of us, and to see him doing such phenomenal work is really breathtaking and so exciting.”

Ernie Hudson is old enough to have been in Vietnam

In the ‘90s, Hudson couldn’t have played a soldier in 1970 Vietnam. However, on a show set in 2022, he can. 

“People say, ‘You couldn’t have been in Vietnam,’” Hudson said. “I went into the military in 1964. It’s kind of, I guess, a compliment. But, yeah, it’s great to be Magic.”

Hudson remembered watching the episode “The Leap Home, Pt. 2” when it aired.

“I saw that episode years ago, with my kids,” Hudson said. “And I was fascinated by that  character. I think a lot of the fans sort of related to it. So to step into those shoes and answer a lot of questions of what’s happened to him and all that stuff, it’s very exciting.”

RELATED: ‘Quantum Leap’: Scott Bakula Said He’d Prevent ‘Big Disasters’ If the Show’s Premise Were Real