Donald P. Bellisario was born August 8th, 1936 in Cokeburg, Pennsylvania. He served in the U.S. Marine Corps, and graduated from Penn State University with a B.A. degree in journalism. He became a prolific writer in college, and has gained notoriety as a creator/producer of numerous ground breaking television series, such as “Airwolf”, “Magnum PI”, “Tales of the Gold Monkey”, “Battlestar Galactica”, “Quantum Leap” and JAG”. In 1965, Bellisario became a copywriter for a small advertising agency in Lancaster, PA, and three years later he moved to Dallas to become a Copy Group Head of the nationally known Bloom Agency. By 1976, after eight years at Bloom, Bellisario was senior vice president, creative director, and a member of the board of directors. He then moved to Hollywood. Bellisario broke into television drama with a script for Stephen J. Cannell’s Black Sheep Squadron (1976-8). Don’s first script to air on the series, “Wolves in the Sheep Pen” on January 4, 1978. This sale led to Don becoming a producer on the series after just five episodes, a position he held for a year. Don Bellisario went on to become a writer-producer for Glen Larson’s “Battlestar Galactica” and its revival, “Galactica” (1980) (ABC). The collaboration between the two producers and Universal led to their next project, “Magnum, P.I.”, which Don Bellisario and Glen Larson co-created in 1980. “Magnum, P.I.” was the biggest hit either Larson or Bellisario had ever had, and the show that established Donald P. Bellisario as a successful creator-producer in his own right. Don was executive producer for most of the 1980-88 CBS series. Bellisario then went on to create NBC’s “Quantum Leap,” “Tales of the Gold Monkey,” “Airwolf,” and “Tequila and Bonetti,” serving as executive producer on all five. In 1995 another one of his creations came to live as the military show “JAG” became a hit on CBS. (The show was originally canceled by NBC after only one season. CBS, picked it up and it became a top hit. BIG mistake NBC!) In 1987, Bellisario made his first feature, “Last Rites,” which he wrote, produced and directed, starring Tom Berenger. In 1991, Bellisario was nominated for Best Script for Episodic Drama by the Writer’s Guild of America for “The Leap Home.” He also won an Edgar Allan Poe writing award for “Magnum, P.I.” Mr. Bellisario is married and lives in South California. He has 7 children. Sons David and Michael, and daughter Julie Watson all work on the series “JAG”. Mr. Bellisario likes to run, play golf, and fly helicopters
Work of Donald Bellisario
“JAG” (1995-present) TV Series (Executive Producer) “Tequila and Bonetti” (1992) TV Series (executive producer) “Quantum Leap” (1989-1993) TV Series (Executive Producer) “Last Rites” (1988) “Airwolf” (1984) TV Series (Executive Producer: 1984-1985) “Tales of the Gold Monkey” (1982) TV Series “Magnum P.I.” (1980-1988) TV Series (Executive Producer) “Mission Galactica”: (1978) (TV) (supervising) “Baa Baa Black Sheep” (1976) TV Series (associate)
“JAG” (1995) TV Series “Quantum Leap” (1989) TV Series “Last Rites” (1988) “Three on a Match” (1987) TV movie and unsold pilot. “Airwolf” (1984) (TV) “Battlestar Galactica” (1978) TV Series
“JAG” (1995) (TV) “Quantum Leap” (1989) (TV) “Last Rites” (1988) “Three on a Match” (1987) (TV) “Airwolf” (1984) (TV) “Magnum P.I.” (1980) (TV) “Black Sheep Squadron” (1976-78) (TV) “Kojak” (an episode) “Quincy” (an episode) “Crowfoot” (CBS, 1994)
The Belisarius Players
If you are a fan of Donald Bellisario’s shows, you will probably have seen
several of the same actors appear in one show and then another and another.
These actors are part of what some fans call “The Belisarius Players”.
Actors who have appeared in 2 or more of DPB’s series.
One of these actors is Larry Mannetti. Better known for his work on the series
“Magnum P.I” he had also appeared in DPB’s “JAG” (“Ghost Ship” and “Ghost of
Christmas Past”). In Quantum Leap he appeared in “Tale of Two Sweeties”
Another is Jeff MacKay who appeared on “Magnum”, “Black Sheep Squadron” and “Tales
of the Gold Monkey”
There is Charles Rocket who appeared on “Airwolf” and “Quantum Leap” (“A Little
Miracle” and “A Leap for Lisa”)
A perennial Belisarius Player W.K. Stratton appeared on “Quantum Leap”,
“Magnum PI” and just about every series that DPB has ever done.
Ernest Borgnine appeared as a regular on “Airwolf” and also appeared on “JAG”
Charles Rocket who appeared in “Tequila and Bonnetti” also appeared in
Quantum Leap. (“A Little Miracle” and “A Leap for Lisa”)
Also members of this group of players are 2 of DPB’s children.
Michael Bellisario has appeared on “JAG”, (Pilot ep, “Ghost Ship”,
“Wedding Bell Blues”, “Adversaries”, “Surface Warfare” and “Ghost of
Christmas Past”) He also appeared on “Quantum Leap” episodes.
(“Camikazi Kid,” “Play Ball,” “A Tale of Two Sweeties” and “Mirror Image”),
Troain Bellisario appeared in Quantum Leap’s “Another Mother” and JAG’s
Two other of Bellisario’s children also work in the entertainment field.
David Bellisario, as Associate Producer of “Quantum Leap” and “JAG” and
But not only are actors a common thing on DPB’s shows, but other interesting
facts as well. Such as birhtdates.
Magnum’s birthday is the same as DPB’s. Harm Sr’s (JAG) birthdate is
the same as DBP’s father.
One of the characters in Airwolf was named Saint John, pronounced Sinjin,
a name which later resurfaced in Quantum Leap’s Edward St. John V.
The character of Harriet Simms (JAG) is named after JAG’s Audience Liason
and long friend of DPB’s, Harriet Margolis.
KIP, is the name of Harm’s childhood dog (JAG). KIP happens to be one of the
production insiders Of JAG.
A character in JAG’s “Washington Holiday”, Secret Service Agent Culp, is the
real name of one of the actors who appears as a reacurring character (Clayton
Webb) on JAG.
Tequila and Bonnetti, names of the characters of the show by the same name, are
almost identical to “Tequila and Boner”, the names of the two pushers in the
“M.I.A.” episode of Quantum Leap.
Character names such as LoNigro and Ibold and Bonnick tend to turn up
repeatedly on DPB’s series, as do dogs, (Magnum PI, JAG, Tales of the
Gold Monkey and “Tequila and Bonnetti”). Also a reaccuring theme is Vietnam
Veterans (often P.O.W./M.I.A.).