By Joan Amenn
Recently seen as Desire in Netflix’s “The Sandman” and now in a new role in the reboot of the science fiction series “Quantum Leap” on NBC (alternately, you can catch it on Peacock), Mason Alexander Park has been stealing scenes in one riveting performance after another. We got to sit down with them and chat a little about both series and they were just as fascinating as you would expect.
Joan: I’m so delighted to talk to you today. Thank you so much for taking the time with me. So, I’m gonna jump right into it. Obviously, your new role as Ian Wright (in “Quantum Leap”) is very tech savvy. Are you tech savvy in the real world?
Mason: Yeah, I got that from my dad, my dad is unbelievably tech savvy. And as a kid, I always thought I was going to follow in his footsteps and do something that had to do with you know, tech, and the government and all kinds of fun stuff. And it just – math was really hard- was not my favorite subject. (Laughs.) And I went, “Okay, I may love science, I may love you know, this kind of world, but you have to be brilliant at math to make it work.” So that changed things for me. But you know, in the present, I’m still trying to stay up on my tech, letting go.
Joan: I understand, my husband is a software developer. I understand. So, in episode four, that was a huge call back to the original series. I won’t spoil it. But were you surprised? Were you given any advance warning of that incredible reveal?
Mason: I mean, we knew- I’m fairly certain if I’m remembering correctly from the pilot, because we had been, I guess that it would have been January or February, that all this cast understood that that was the direction that the show was going and understood that that was the connection that we were making to the original. Because you know, the second that any of us saw that Magic (Ernie Hudson) was even a character it was kind of like for fans of the show. Everybody’s like, “Wait a minute, I think I know that this person existed”, but it was really cool to see it finally play out in the episode. And I’m glad that they chose to tackle it in [episode] four, because it feels like a really good time to kind of nod to the original fans, and really remind them that this show is utilizing the lore and the continuation of that lore as much as it can. And it was just like, really weirdly emotional, I think, for all of us, because, you know, we have Deborah Pratt who was a part of the original “Quantum Leap” on ours as well and having her on set that day when Ernie and I did that scene was really, it was kind of a full circle, moving thing for a lot of us. So, it’s nice to see how people are reacting to it now for the episodes out and kind of grateful for the inclusion of that same.
Joan: So, you were a fan of the original series?
Mason: I was. Yeah, it wasn’t one of the shows that I had, like completed by any means, you know, I still have had so many episodes that I needed to finish. (Laughs.) But it was something that I remember coming on television and watching episodes of it, kind of standalone and being like this is a really fun thing to just plug into. You know, all of those stories that they were able to tackle were so deeply and profoundly groundbreaking at the time and even watching it now. It’s just like, they accomplished quite a bit when it came to the conversations around just humanity and around walking in another person’s shoes. So, for us as a cast and crew and writers and creatives, to be able to continue the tradition of that in such a big way is really- it’s something that I don’t think any of us really take lightly and are very touched and honored to be a part of. Because yeah, the original show is just, it was entirely rooted around the concept of empathy, and to be able to make something in 2022 that continues that conversation amongst all of the you know, true crime shows and all of the dark stuff that people are eating up like crazy, it feels really radical and really wonderful.
Joan: Slightly different take with “The Sandman” as far as a take on humanity. So the character of Destiny has an interesting overview of humanity. Very, very mysterious character. What drew you to that character?
Mason: Oh, oh, yeah, Desire-
Joan: I’m sorry-Desire!
Mason: You’re fine. You’re fine. No, it’s funny. A few people a few people have accidentally called Desire Destiny like, just in life and I’m always like, that’s interesting. It’s kind of cool. Destiny is such a different character. I’m so excited to see, you know, who we get to do that. (Laughs.) It’s like such a spooky, you know, foreboding individual. But yeah, I was really thrilled to get to do that show. I mean, Neil Gaiman is obviously one of the most remarkable writers who’s ever lived and to be able to be a part of his any of his worlds is something I’ve wanted to do since I was very young, you know, since seeing “Coraline” and reading “American Gods” and all of that stuff. And I was a fan of “Sandman” so to be able to take on a part that when I was reading the books, I recognized as someone that reminded me of myself or a character that I saw, you know, aspects of myself in is so much fun. Everything I wanted to do when I saw “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” for the first time, that is sort of coming to fruition, I think with this role, and with the show. It’s delicious. It’s dastardly. But, yeah, I’m really touched and excited by the response to the series. Because you’re right, in a very different way, the show is also about humanity and about empathy and it’s cool to get to tackle those conversations in two very different ways. It’s amazing that Ian Wright- I think for a lot of us- he is very much so the heart, or a heart in the show and then Desire is quite literally the heart (laughs) of another but in a very different way. And I get to sort of be a bit of an antagonist in many ways so it’s fun to get to function in both worlds in completely different capacities and kind of push that storytelling forward. Because, yeah, very often, trans and non-binary characters are kind of secondary individuals that don’t necessarily have major opinions about things and kind of exist in these weird trauma bubbles. And I was really grateful that identity does not really factor into any conversation when it comes to these characters, except for like, the first time we make a reference to a specific gendered reference is episode four of “Quantum” like an ad lib-a joke that I threw in on the day about Ben leaping into a woman. And that, to me is so groundbreaking, because I feel like television is so trained to use people’s identities as kind of chess pieces in terms of trying to tell stories through their pain or through their trauma. It’s nice that all of our characters have those things within them and I’m sure there’ll be revealed in many different ways, but not always, is it linked to identity. And that’s very, very refreshing to me as an actor.
Joan: I think I’ve watched “Sandman” five times already in its entirety. It’s just been amazing. So quick question, what is your favorite musical theater role?
Mason: I would have to say it was it’s probably playing Hedwig. I had written the “Angry Inch” changed my life. It was one of the first times I ever saw myself represented in media, seeing that film and that musical really opened my eyes to just the conversations around the gender binary as a whole. And then, you know, it was one of my first professional jobs, is doing the national tour, the Broadway national tour of that show. And it just, it changed my life. It changed my experience of myself. And it’s, I think, probably the most challenging role for an actor. So it was, I was honored to get a crack at it and that it’s become such a deep part of my life and then I’m friends with all of them now and then John Cameron Mitchell shows up in “Sandman” and we’re like texting each other like, “Hey, we’re gonna be doing the show together.” (Laughs.) It’s just a very fun full circle kind of a show for me. But if not Hedwig, maybe the emcee in “Cabaret” is also.
Joan: I am out of time. Thank you so very much. Best of luck with the new show.
Mason: Really nice meeting you. Thank you so much.