Donald P. Bellisario
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|Donald P. Bellisario|
Bellisario at Leap Con, 1993
|Born||Donald Paul Bellisario
August 8, 1935
Washington County, Pennsylvania
|Alma mater||Pennsylvania State University|
|Occupation||Television producer, screenwriter|
|Known for||Magnum, P.I., Tales of the Gold Monkey, Airwolf, Quantum Leap, JAG, NCIS|
|Spouse(s)||Margaret Schaffran (1956-1974; divorced)
Lynn Halpern (1979-1984; divorced)
Deborah Pratt (1984-1991; divorced)
Vivienne Bellisario (1998-present)
|Children||Joy Bellisario-Jenkins (b. 1956)
Leslie Bellisario-Ingham (b. 1961)
Julie Bellisario Watson
Michael Bellisario (b. 1980)
Troian Bellisario (b. 1985)
Sean Murray (stepson)
Chad W. Murray (stepson)
Donald Paul Bellisario (born August 8, 1935) is an American television producer and screenwriter who created and sometimes wrote episodes for the TV series Magnum, P.I., Airwolf, Quantum Leap, JAG, and NCIS. He has often included military veterans as characters.
Bellisario was born in Cokeburg, Pennsylvania to an Italian father Albert and a Serbian mother Dana (née Lapčević) Bellisario who was born in Gamberale, Abruzzo, Italy. He served in the U.S. Marine Corps from 1955 to 1959, attaining the rank of Sergeant.
Bellisario earned a bachelors degree in journalism at Pennsylvania State University in 1961. In 2001 he was named a Distinguished Alumnus—the highest honor bestowed on a graduate of Penn State. In 2006, Bellisario endowed a $1 million Trustee Matching Scholarship in the Penn State College of Communications. He recalled:
Growing up in a hardscrabble western Pennsylvania coal mining town, I know first hand the sacrifices that are made to give a son or daughter a university education…and as a Marine veteran who returned to Penn State with two small children and little money, I remember all too well that struggle. It's my hope that this scholarship will also ease the financial burden of other young men and women who have defended our country to attain their academic goals.
Bellisario became an advertising copywriter in Lancaster, Pennsylvania in 1965, and three years later became creative director of the Bloom Agency in Dallas, Texas. After rising to senior vice president after eight years, he then moved to Hollywood to pursue screenwriting and production.
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After working under such television producers as Glen A. Larson, Bellisario adopted some of their production techniques, most notably utilizing a small pool of actors which he uses for his many productions.
He has created several successful TV series, including Magnum, P.I., Airwolf, Quantum Leap, JAG, and NCIS. Less-known creations include Tales of the Gold Monkey, Tequila & Bonetti, and First Monday. He was also a writer and producer on Black Sheep Squadron and the original Battlestar Galactica. He wrote and directed the 1988 feature film Last Rites.
One common theme running through the majority of Bellisario's work is the tendency for the protagonist to be a current or former member of the United States armed forces. Examples are Tom Selleck's character in Magnum, P.I., Thomas Magnum, who is a United States Naval Academy graduate, former SEAL officer and Vietnam veteran; Jan-Michael Vincent's character Stringfellow Hawke, a top helicopter combat pilot in Airwolf, also a Vietnam veteran and is still looking for his brother who is missing in action; Commander Harmon "Harm" Rabb, Jr., the main character of JAG, who is also a Naval Academy graduate and former Naval Aviator looking for his father who is missing in action from the Vietnam War; and NCIS's main character, Leroy Jethro Gibbs, who is a retired Marine Corps Gunnery Sergeant and Scout Sniper. In Tales of the Gold Monkey, Jake Cutter (Stephen Collins) was an ex-Flying Tigers pilot. Although the character Dr. Sam Beckett was not in the armed forces, the other main character in Quantum Leap, former Naval Aviator, Vietnam prisoner of war and retired Rear Admiral Albert "Al" Calavicci, was. Another connection that some of his main characters have is August 8 birthdays. Notably, the last episode of Quantum Leap takes place on August 8, 1953, Sam Beckett's birthday, and the reverse of the last two digits of Bellisario's own birth year. Another common theme in Bellisario's work is religious undertones and comparisons. Bellisario received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2004, which was shown in the Season 9 JAG episode "Trojan Horse".
In an interview with Sci-Fi Channel in the late 1990s, Bellisario said he was inspired to create Quantum Leap in 1988 after reading a novel about time travel. His service alongside John F. Kennedy's assassin, Lee Harvey Oswald, was the basis for Quantum Leap's fifth season's double-length episode "Lee Harvey Oswald" (originally aired September 22, 1992). The episode supports the theory that Oswald carried out the assassination on his own, something Bellisario believes.
Bellisario retired in 2007, after widely-reported "tension" with star Mark Harmon ended with his departure from NCIS. Although he retains his Executive Producer title, he has not had any creative or executive involvement with NCIS since then. Bellisario later sued CBS over the creation of NCIS: Los Angeles, arguing his contract with the network entitled him to the first rights to create any NCIS spin off, as well as some share of profits from the new show. The suit was settled before trial in 2011 for "an undisclosed amount." Bellisario's production company was named Belisarius Productions. The company's name recalls the Roman general Belisarius, of whose name Bellisario's own family name is an Italian-language variant.
Television series created
|1982–1983||Tales of the Gold Monkey|
|1992||Tequila and Bonetti|
|2003–present||NCIS||Spin-off from JAG|
Bellisario married Margaret Schaffran in 1956 and they divorced in 1974. They had four children: Joy Bellisario-Jenkins (born c. 1956), Leslie Bellisario-Ingham (born c. 1961), David Bellisario (producer on NCIS: Los Angeles), and Julie Bellisario Watson (producer on NCIS).
Bellisario married his second wife, Lynn Halpern, in 1979 and they divorced in 1984. They had a son: Michael Bellisario on April 7, 1980 (had a recurring role as Midshipman Michael Roberts on JAG and played Charles "Chip" Sterling on NCIS).
He married his third wife, Deborah Pratt, in 1984 and they divorced in 1991. They had two children: Troian Bellisario, Nicholas Bellisario. Troian portrayed Sarah McGee on NCIS, Teresa on Quantum Leap, Erin on JAG, and (since June 2010) Spencer Hastings on Pretty Little Liars.
Bellisario married his fourth wife, Vivienne Bellisario, on November 27, 1998. He gained two stepsons from the marriage: Sean Murray (Timothy McGee on NCIS) and Chad W. Murray ("NCIS: Los Angeles" producer). As of 2014, he and Vivienne divide their time between homes in Montecito, California; Studio City, California, and Sydney, Australia.
- "Donald P. Bellisario Biography (1935–)". Filmreference.com. August 8, 1935. Retrieved May 5, 2011.
- "Donald Paul Bellisario". Universal Television via Quantum Leap official site (Sci Fi Channel). Archived from the original on July 12, 2006.
- "Bellisario's $1 million gift endows scholarships in College of Communications". Penn State University. 2 October 2006. Retrieved 5 May 2011.
- O'Connor, John J. (November 22, 1989). "Review/Television; An Actor's 'Quantum Leap' Through Times and Roles". The New York Times. Retrieved August 12, 2010.
- Donald P. Bellisario at the Internet Movie Database
- "Genesis: A Conversation With the Creator of Quantum Leap". The Complete Quantum Leap: The Official Publication of the Show. MCA Publishing via Quantum Leap official site (Sci Fi Channel). Archived from the original on July 13, 2006.
- Donald P. Bellisario interview video at the Archive of American Television