Wed. Jun 19th, 2024

Donald P. Bellisario

Don Bellisario producer JAG Cr:CBS

Donald P. Bellisario

A prolific writer, producer and director, Donald P. Bellisario has been crafting words and stories for a variety of readers and audiences for more than 30 years, and did so long before he gained notoriety as a creator/producer of groundbreaking television series such as “Magnum, P.I.”, “Quantum Leap” and “NCIS”. 

In 1961, armed with a degree in journalism from Penn State University, he began his writing career at the Centre Daily Times for four years before becoming a copywriter for a small advertising agency in Lancaster, Penn.  He later moved to Dallas to take a prestigious copywriting position at the famous Bloom Agency. After eight years at Bloom, Bellisario had risen to the level of senior vice president, head of film production, creative director, and member of the board of directors.  Yet, at the age of 42, he was still eager to gamble on a new career. 

Moving to Hollywood, he became a story editor on the 1976-78 series “Baa Baa Black Sheep,” with Robert Conrad.  After just five episodes, he was promoted to producer, a position he held for one year.  He then became supervising producer of “Battlestar Galactica” and, subsequently, began to develop his own series. 

Bellisario is best known for his creations “Magnum, P.I.,” “Quantum Leap,” “JAG,” and “NCIS.”  Running from 1980-88, “Magnum, P.I.” starred Tom Selleck.  Among other honors, Bellisario’s work on the series won him an Edgar Allen Poe writing award.  “Quantum Leap,” the 1989-1993 science fiction drama starring Scott Bakula, garnered four Emmy Award nominations for Outstanding Drama Series.  Running for ten seasons, from 1995-2005, “JAG” starred David James Elliott.  Running from 2003 to the present, “NCIS” is currently in its eleventh season. 

Bellisario’s other “created by” credits include “Tales of the Gold Monkey” with Stephen Collins; “Airwolf” with Jan-Michael Vincent; “Tequila and Bonetti” with Jack Scalia; and “First Monday” with James Garner and Joe Mantegna.  He served as executive producer for all eight series, and also in that same capacity on Paramount’s 1995 detective telefilm “Crowfoot.” 

For the big screen, Bellisario wrote, produced and directed the 1987 feature film “Last Rites,” starring Tom Berenger. 

Bellisario also received the 2001 Producer of the Year award from the Caucus for Producers, Writers and Directors.  In addition to industry awards, Bellisario has been the recipient of numerous other awards including the Distinguished Alumni Award from Penn State University; Marine Corps Scholarship Fund Globe and Anchor Award 2002; Red Cross Spirit Award; an Honorary Doctorate of Arts from Washington-Jefferson University; and a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. 

Born in Cokeburg, Pennsylvania, Bellisario served four years in the U.S. Marine Corps.  Bellisario and his wife Vivienne live in Montecito, CA and Sydney, Australia.