Zachary Quinto Interview for Star Trek

May 7, 2009
Interview by: Dan Deevy
DanDeevy@thecinemasource.com

Written by: Rocco Passafuime
RoccoPassafuime@thecinemasource.com


It's often said that it's not always the biggest or longest roles that are the most memorable. Zachary Quinto is one such actor who, time and time again, has managed to make a big impact with small roles.

His first opportunity was playing Adam Kaufman on the hit action/thriller series 24. His second was playing a fictional Tori Spelling's gay best friend Sasan on the short-lived sitcom So NoTORIous.

Quinto's biggest opportunity to date was playing villain Sylar on the superhero series Heroes. Now, Zachary is about to make an impact in a big way, playing one of the most iconic characters in science-fiction history.

This, of course, is none other than half-human, half-alien Starfleet science officer Mr. Spock on J.J. Abrams's new film version of the science-fiction TV classic Star Trek. However, the 31 year-old actor says he grew up more liking a certain other legendary science-fiction franchise.

"I was not a Trekkie," Zachary claims, "I came of age in the Star Wars generation, so I was much more enamored of those characters because they were more accessible to me. Star Trek came a little bit before my time and subsequently, it was dealing with ideas and themes that I think were a little intellectually advanced for my young mind at the time."

He also says that unlike many of his fellow castmates, who watched hours of the original TV series, he says he used a less time-consuming approach, including the convenient presence of the original Mr. Spock himself, Leonard Nimoy, who plays a much older future Spock in this new film.

"In terms of preparation, I immersed myself in a great deal of reading," he recalls, "There's certainly no shortage of information. There's tomes of volumes of encyclopedias and resource material that I utilized and then Leonard [Nimoy] as a direct resource."

"He was so available and supportive and open to my questions, many of which had to do with the impact of his character on his life then they did about any specific moments or how to play a specific moment," Quinto adds, "I felt like that was my job as an actor, to define for myself and so, yeah, it was a combination of those things."

However, what he wasn't so prepared for, Quinto claims, was the surprising amount of physical training that he had to do to prepare himself for the role.

"Well, there was a group of us that sort of had a Star Trek boot camp for a few months, leading up to shooting, Chris Pine, John Cho, myself, in preparation for some of the physical work that we would do in the movie," Zachary recounts, "So that changed my routine because it was more structured than my own personal physical workout regiment."

"I also did a lot of hand exercises to make sure my fingers could do the Vulcan salute and that's no lie actually," he continues, "I would rubber-band my pinky and my ring finger together and drive around L.A. like this because I couldn't do it at first. But, physically, yeah, for me, this character is a lot about containment and stillness, so it was also a matter of cultivating that relationship to the character."

One of the biggest changes to Spock was the purely data-centered character developing feelings for chief communications officer Nyota Uhura, played in the film by Zoe Saldaña.

"I think it was one of the boldest reimaginings of the characters as we known them in the past," Quinto believes, "So I felt that was a risk and the risk pays off on a number of levels because I think it infuses the story with a certain amount of levity and humor between Uhura and Kirk and Kirk and Spock."

"But between Uhura and Spock, I think it provides a certain kind of depth," he adds, "And Uhura provides a canvas in a way to which Spock would be able to project the emotions that he would not be able to otherwise express. And that for me, for the journey of this particular story was really valuable."

We asked Quinto if he shared the sentiments of his elder counterpart in the film on the original TV series's continued revolutionary impact on society and the world at large in the new film.

"I think what Leonard said, this movie represents a whole diversity of that," he says, "When we meet this Spock character, this version of Spock, and this version of Kirk, they exist at diametrically opposed ends of a spectrum of thinking. And through the course of this film, they begin to soften the edges of resistance to any other way of thinking. And so doing that, they understand that unity exists advantage and advantage of the common good."

"And I think that's something that the entire crew of the Enterprise represents, coming from such different and diverse types of backgrounds, to unify," Zachary continues, "This convergence is a lot about unity and the power of the unity and I think that's what Leonard's talking about in terms of the political and social resonance of the film."

Finally, we wondered where he felt Mr. Spock was a more complex character for him versus Sylar on Heroes.

"Well, the benefit of both of these characters is that they are really complex and fascinating to me," he believes, "As an actor, they have provided me with a lot to explore and discover and define within myself. The drawbacks I have yet to encounter, I suppose, because I feel that Spock and Sylar are such different characters that even though they exist in a similar space of internalization, they both have an interior life that they sort of hold onto and want to have control over."

"Beside that, it's my job as an actor to be as diverse as I can be," Quinto adds, "And really, both of these experiences have provided me with the kind of exposure that hopefully will serve as a platform and a springboard for me to explore other kinds of work and other kinds of genres. And I feel like the challenge will be to invite the fan base of these deeply esconced science fiction worlds to come with me into other worlds, like comedy! Eh?"

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