Scott Bakula was born in St. Louis, Missouri, the son of Sally (née Zumwinkel) and J. Stewart Bakula, a lawyer. He has a younger brother and a younger sister. His surname comes from partial Croatian ancestry. He attended Jefferson College, followed by the University of Kansas for a time, before dropping out to pursue his acting career.
Scott moved to New York City in 1976, where he made his Broadway debut playing baseball legend Joe DiMaggio in "Marilyn: An American Fable", and appeared in the well-received Off-Broadway production "Three Guys Naked from the Waist Down"; he would later appear in its Pasadena Playhouse production.
The success of "Three Guys Off-Broadway" brought him attention, and when his next show, the musical "Nightclub Confidential", which co-starred his wife Krista Neumann, moved to Los Angeles, he moved there at the urging of his California agent, Maggie Henderson, and his New York agent, Jerry Hogan. As Bakula recalled in 2000,
"I call [Henderson] up and said I got a show, I'm gonna be out there, I'm coming out in January. So it'll work out because it's time for pilot season and I'll be doing something so people can come and see me. ... And then I coincidentally had done a Disney Sunday Night ABC movie that was gonna come out some time in the winter. It was the time to go. Came out here on New Year's Day, 1986. The show I did turned out to be a big hit out here. It got me a lot of attention out here and I jumped onto the TV sitcom Designing Women in the beginning and was able to do that pilot ... and things kind of took off. "
He was cast in two short-lived series: "Gung Ho" and "Eisenhower & Lutz". During a Hollywood writers' strike, he returned to New York to star in "Romance/Romance", and then afterward landed the lead role opposite co-star Dean Stockwell in the science fiction television series "Quantum Leap". Bakula played time traveler Dr. Sam Beckett, who was trapped by a malfunction of his time machine to correct things gone wrong in the past. His performance in this program would earn him a Golden Globe Award (along with three nominations) and four Emmy Award nominations for Best Actor as well as five consecutive Viewers for Quality Television Awards for Best Actor in a Quality Drama Series.
In 1995, Bakula appeared on the cover of "Playgirl" magazine. He voiced Danny Cat in the animated film, "Cats Don't Dance" (1997), singing in one number with Natalie Cole. Bakula played the aging veteran pitcher Gus Cantrell in "Major League: Back to the Minors" (1998), the final movie in the "Major League" film trilogy. He also played Jim Olmeyer, same-sex partner of Sam Robards' Jim Berkley, in the film "American Beauty" (1999). As Jonathan Archer on "Star Trek: Enterprise", Bakula played the captain of Earth's first long-range interstellar ship. In 2006, he reprised the role of Archer for the "Star Trek: Legacy" PC and Xbox 360 video games as a voice-over. Bakula starred in the musical "Shenandoah", a play which also provided his first professional theatrical role in 1976, at Ford's Theatre, in 2006. Bakula is heard singing "Pig Island" on Sandra Boynton's children's CD "Philadelphia Chickens", which is labeled as being "For all ages except 43."
Bakula said that he might be starring as Sam in a Quantum Leap film as stated in TV Guide Magazine along with Dean Stockwell. At Comic Con 2010, he announced that a script was being worked on and that while he would be in the movie, he would not be in the main role
Scott married Krista Neumann in 1981 and had two children, Chelsy and Cody. They divorced in 1995 He has been married to actress Chelsea Field since 1996, and they have two children, Wil Botfield and Owen Barrett