Donald Paul Bellisario (born August 8, 1935) is an American television producer and screenwriter who created and sometimes wrote episodes for the TV series Battlestar Galactica (1978), Magnum, P.I. (1980), Tales of the Gold Monkey (1982), Airwolf (1984), Quantum Leap (1989), JAG (1995), and NCIS (2003). He has often included military veterans as characters.
Writer, Producer, Director
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Television producer, screenwriter
Full Name at Birth
Donald Paul Bellisario
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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.
He heads the Los Angeles–based production company Belisarius Productions. The company's name recalls the Roman general Belisarius, of whose name Bellisario's own family name is an Italian-language variant
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Pennsylvania State University
Talent Agency (e.g. Modelling)
Claim to Fame
Magnum, P.I., Tales of the Gold Monkey, Airwolf, Quantum Leap, JAG, NCIS
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