Zachary Quinto: I Am Spock
From Sylar to “Spocko”… Heroes ’ Zachary Quinto tells SFX about taking over one of sci-fi’s most iconic roles
Is it true you threw yourself into pursuing the role of Spock?
“Absolutely. I discovered they were making a Star Trek movie just as my Heroes episodes were starting to air. I was talking to the press and somebody asked me what I was working on apart from Heroes , but I had just got that job so I wasn’t planning anything! But somebody asked me if there were other projects I’d like to be involved with and I said I’d heard they were making a Star Trek movie and it would be phenomenal to be a part of that, and I’m really interested in the character of Spock and where he comes from. And it just snowballed – other journalists picked up on it and it escalated to the point where, as they were beginning the casting process, I was really the first and only person they were seeing for the role. There was a window of time where we weren’t sure if I could get out of Heroes and they saw some other people about then, but to all intents and purposes I saw JJ [Abrams] in June, and had the job then!”
With Sylar you’re right there playing a part in the character’s evolution. But when you go to play Spock you’re taking on 40 years of backstory. How much of a challenge is that?
“With Sylar I am the actor who originated the role and that occasions a different kind of space in which to work. But in many ways my experience of Star Trek is such that I am creating another version of Spock. There will never be another Leonard Nimoy – this is an incredible man and an incredible actor who endeared himself to millions because of his portrayal of this character. And in a lot of ways that takes the pressure off me, because I can’t compete with that! I simply have a relationship with this character based on my understanding of where he is, in his perspective and his point of view, and that’s supported by the script that Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman wrote – it moved me immensely the first time I read it, and again subsequently as I immersed myself in it. So I don’t really feel like I have a lot to prove. Leonard was very supportive of me from the very beginning and I was in the most capable hands I could possibly be in.”
Did you find yourself adapting your performance to accommodate how Leonard Nimoy portrays him?
“Never. In fact I did the opposite – to make sure my experience was my experience. It’s the only way stepping into such an iconic role is ever feasible. You have to acknowledge where it came from and Leonard was an enormous resource for me – incredibly generous with his time and his energy if ever I had a question or just wanted to talk about the experience or what he went through as an actor. But in terms of playing him? No – I think that would be a trap, to try and shade my performance with echoes of his. I got the job obviously because there is a physical resemblance between myself and Leonard when he was my age, but more than that I think I got the job because I brought a strong point of view to it, my own point of view. Merging that point of view with the echoes of where he came from and how he approached it from the beginning will hopefully add a new texture, but also have a little bit of the same fabric.”
How are you finding the Star Trek fans? Have you met many of them?
“I’ve been to three Trek conventions – two with Leonard. So I have met the fans and they’ve been incredibly supportive. Really excited, lovingly enthusiastic. There is an energy of ‘don’t mess this up for us, we believe in this and have for a long time!’ But that’s also the place from which JJ is coming from, so it doesn’t really seem like we’re going to disappoint them. At least that’s our goal.”
Is the ultimate objective here to reinvigorate Star Trek and start a whole new franchise?
“I think it is. I think it’s to reframe a franchise whose genesis had incredible foresight – it was a very prescient series, ahead of its time, and it had so much social relevance. It’s about taking the integrity of that and reframing it for today’s world, which is vastly different from the world of 40 years ago. But we turned up to work every day to make the best movie we could, and to invest ourselves in it creatively and be a part of it as best we could, with all of our integrity. That’s all we can do. Once it’s released into the zeitgeist, then it’s not up to us! I hope people respond in a way that gives these characters and this story some more life but that’s something that will only reveal itself once the movie is released.”