Green Tree, Pennsylvania is a suburb of Pittsburgh with a population just north of 4700. Like many small towns, their neighborhood paper likes to cover ‘local boy does good’ so when Zachary Quinto got cast in the television series HEROES, they were the first to do a feature on him. When the actor was queried if there were any roles that interested him, he humbly stated that he was glad to have just gotten this job but he understood that there was to be a new STAR TREK film and it would be kind of cool to play Spock.
Like a shot heard round the world, every subsequent interview the actor gave, the question arouse about his supposed dream role. Luckily for him, when casting did commence for the feature film, the powers that be were aware of his desire and brought him in to read for the part.
STAR TREK, directed by JJ Abrams, is the latest incarnation birthed out of the landmark 1966 television series; however unlike the ten other films or five television adaptations, this version takes audiences back to the beginning. We witness the formation of the now infamous team of Captain Kirk, Sulu, Uhura, Chekhov and Spock; how these young Star Fleet cadets morphed into their leadership roles aboard the USS Enterprise.
Abrams believed that casting the iconic Spock would prove his hardest challenge, but when Zachary came into the audition, he was struck by how much the young actor looked the part. “I knew his acting but when he walked into the room, I was struck how much he looked like Leonard Nimoy, whom I already knew was going to be in the film. We needed someone who could be the younger version of Spock and his talent, his look and his eagerness for the role just made his selection a no brainer.”
For any actor, steeping into a role so identifiable with another actor could be a daunting task and Quinto was well aware of the spotlight that would be cast upon him. Luckily he had someone in his corner who made the transition comfortably easy. Attending the 2007 edition of the Comic Con Convention in San Diego, Quinto found himself riding in a crowded elevator with Nimoy. Silently standing next to each other, no words were spoken on the ride up, but when the doors opened, Nimoy turned and simply stated, “You have no idea what you are in for.”
Subsequent encounters between the two lead to a friendship that afforded Quinto some in depth insights not only into the background and psychology of Spock, but the aura that surrounds the legend of the character that stereotyped Nimoy. “Leonard has spent forty years with this character and you can see the ways in which it has really shaped his life. But I know him to be a man with no regrets,” attests Quinto. As to his own concerns, “I am just looking at this opportunity as an incredible launching point and I am eager for a diverse, extensive experience as an actor.”
The experience began when a few physical changes were necessary to transform him into the half human, half Vulcan who espoused the philosophy to ‘live long and prosper.’ It meant a new set of ears, shaved eyebrows and a bowl haircut. “It was a momentous occasion when I put the ears on for the first time,” he recalls, a process that took the make-up team two hours to apply each day. That appendage is the quintessential image that most people have of the character and although they made a noticeable physical difference, Quinto admits that after a while he didn’t even notice they were there. “Acting is truthful behavior in imaginary circumstances so all of the costumes and props were just about commitment. And as for the ears, my body sort of got used to it.”
Getting used to things has been something Quinto had to learn to deal with from an early age, as his father died when he was only seven. Channeling the grief into his new love for theater, by age eleven he was appearing in productions by the regional music theater company, Pittsburgh Light City Opera. In high school, he received his first artistic honor, the Gene Kelly Award for his role in PIRATES OF PENZANCE. Deciding that theater would be his career, he attended the prestigious Carnegie Mellon University School of Drama, graduating in 1999. Moving to Los Angeles the next year, after waiting on his fair share of tables, he quickly was cast in such TV shows as CSI, SIX FEET UNDER and 24 before landing HEROES, a recurring role as the show’s complicated villain Gabriel “Sylar” Gray.
What has pleased the 31 year-old actor is that this take on the STAR TREK saga continues the optimistic tone that creator Gene Roddenberry first implemented in the original series. “They dealt with problems and themes back then that people had trepidation to talk about, like racial, social and political issues. It was so ahead of its time. What I love about our film is that it’s about friendship and family. That is our heart and while we might have action and drama and comedy, it is ultimately a very moving and touching film.”
STAR TREK IS RELEASED MAY 8th – BUY TREK GOODIES FROM THE SEENIT STORE