EXCL: Sylar Speaks! Zachary Quinto Talks ‘Heroes’ and Spock

About 12 hours before my interview with Zachary Quinto, the man that plays the evil Sylar on NBC’s hit series “Heroes”, I had seen approximately zero episodes of the show. My tradition is to wait for all blockbuster television shows until they hit DVD so I can experience them all at once. So, this left me with a bit of a dilemma. I hit the episode guides to learn where Sylar first makes his appearance and then I hit iTunes… It was a “Heroes” crash course to say the least, and I think I pulled off an interesting interview with Zach as we talked “Heroes” and of course his upcoming role as the new Mr. Spock for J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek.

Before we get into the interview I should say that I am now over halfway through reviewing the HD DVD edition of “Heroes” which hits shelves with its DVD counterpart on August 28th. This show kicks all kinds of ass and Zach’s role as Sylar is definitely the best part of it. If you haven’t checked the show out yet or want more info on the DVD and/or HD DVD the links are at the end of this article. As for now, let’s see what Zach had to say.

I basically had my crash course into “Heroes” and Sylar in the past 12 hours in preparation for this interview.

Zachary Quinto (ZQ): Oh wow, rapid immersion.

Some people seem tailor made to play a bad guy, not saying you look like someone I would say, “Oh man, he’s bad,” but you pull it off so well. How difficult it is to find that dark side?

ZQ: It’s not difficult for me; I quite enjoy it and like this character. He’s got a lot of things going on at one time and that’s always nice to work with from an acting perspective. He’s written in a way that’s multifaceted for sure.

As far as the darkness goes, it doesn’t take a lot to look around the real world and see that kind of darkness. It’s not something that is not very hard to find.

It also seems like calming menace. You hardly need to say any words to get that evil across; the calm nature of your character supplies the menace.

ZQ: Yeah, there’s a lot of power in stillness. I learned that in my years in school and it’s something that really serves this character for sure.

You and Milo seem to balance out the light and the dark in “Heroes” do you think the two of you are opposite as actors or in a way similar enough to serve the story’s purpose?

ZQ: I think Milo and I complement each other well as people, as actors and characters I think that carries over.

With shows like this pretty much anything is possible, do you see any redeeming qualities with Sylar or is he just altogether evil?

ZQ: I think it is still figuring stuff out. The luxury of being on a successful television series is that it takes a long time for those paths to unfold and its difficult to see where things will go because a lot of it hasn’t come into play yet in terms of other actors on the show, other characters and other storylines. That is the nature of being on a serialized show especially.

I don’t think he is exclusively anything though. That leaves a lot of room for different directions.

Are you working off a drawn up back story for Sylar or have you kind of created one in your head as to his past outside of what little we have seen?

ZQ: I have had conversations with producers and writers in regards to things that may or may not have happened in the past, but a lot of it is work that I did and things I keep to myself and whether or not they end up factoring into the story for real that remains to be seen. There is something exciting about that because all of a sudden the story can throw you a curve ball and all of a sudden you have to change your perspective on the character.

Do you and other cast members gossip or discuss where the story may or may not be going? Because they don’t give you scripts very far into the future do they?

ZQ: No, they really don’t. Every actor handles that differently and everybody’s relationship with the uncertainty is different. I tend to let things come to me in terms of the story. I like to move with the story rather than know where it is going, because there is something more immediate about that.

It seems like that is something a lot of shows are doing now, how soon before you shoot do you have a script?

ZQ: We usually have it within a week to ten days, the production draft will come out, and then revisions come always, always, always. [laughing] We are constantly replacing blue pages with green pages with yellow pages with white pages. It is very interesting to see the evolution of a story in that way. It changes a lot, and it changes right up to the day before you shoot potentially, but you get the episode in its entirety a week to ten days before we start shooting.

This show’s story seems to be on a timeline of sorts as we build toward the explosion in New York. With shows like “Lost” keeping the seasons to a minimum and allowing the story to run its course and not over extend itself, has there ever been any early talk as to how many seasons “Heroes” will stay with us?

ZQ: There hasn’t, no, and I think it is a little early for those kinds of talks. We are just in the beginning of the second season and see where things go from there. There is never any way to tell, but as long as the stories stay ahead of themselves, which is one of the greatest attributes of the writing staff and producers in general, is the ability to stay ahead of even itself. As long as that’s the case I think people will continue to be drawn into it because that is one of its most magnetizing qualities about it, and I can’t imagine there won’t be a life for it.

It’s just now reaching other parts of the world, we are going on this DVD tour in a couple of weeks and some people are going as far as Tokyo, Singapore and Hong Kong. That’s kind of cool, that stuff is just beginning, and who knows where it will take anybody or how many of us will be with it the entire time. There is no point in worrying about it now, because we are having a BLAST!

What do you think of all this fanaticism around this show? At Comic Con they obviously had you guys in too small of a room as people were turned away. It was massive.

ZQ: That was insane, it was just ridiculous. So, yeah, the scale of it is pretty epic, but when you are in a situation like that and you get to engage with the people that are responsible for the success of your show that’s really gratifying and it’s nice that we are able to do that. The people are so responsive in such an overwhelmingly favorable way. I enjoy that and I think it is fun and worthwhile. I think we need to extend ourselves as much as they have extended themselves.

Changing gears a bit to Star Trek I see a major difference between Sylar, who is pathological and evil, to Spock who is obviously logical and good. Do you see any kind of similarities between the two or have you had much of a chance to think about it?

ZQ: I think I am going to try and impose as distinct a separation between the two as I possibly can. [laughing] I don’t see any similarities between the two.

Yeah, that would be hard to do, but I thought it was a good way of diving into the Trek conversation.

ZQ: The fact that the same actor is going to play both of them suggests there are going to be similarities, it’s my being that will inhabit these characters, but beyond that I feel like I am on a whole different course of separation stepping into the movie. I don’t even know if I can articulate the differences at this point because it is just settling into me now and I am just embarking on this preparation and I think it is going to be a pretty epic journey.

As I was watching “Heroes” and prepping for this interview I thought it was amazing just how much the show is similar to “Star Trek”, especially with Masi’s character Hiro and his constant references to the show. On top of that you have George Takei on the show and now Nichelle Nichols is joining the cast.

ZQ: Yeah, and I like that, it further strengthens the auspiciousness of all of these experiences and these people coming together. I think the message of “Star Trek” and the message of “Heroes” is the overwhelmingly optimistic message about humanity and its capacity to evolve and survive and to hold itself accountable considering the state of things. We live in a world where that is imminently necessary. It is nice to be a part of those things.

I don’t think it is by mistake; you are drawn to the kinds of experiences you are meant to have, and I am really glad I am meant to have these ones. You know?

Yeah, it just seemed totally coincidental, as I am watching I am seeing all these Spock references and comments and I am thinking to myself “I am about to interview the guy that is going to be Spock.”

ZQ: Yeah, in my own journeys to the role of Spock there have been my own little idiosyncrasies as well.

“Heroes” was honored at the TV Land Awards as a future TV classic and we went to the awards show last April 14th. I went to the event and we are sitting down and saying hi to everybody and as they were talking about preparation for the show to start they came out and said, “This award will be presented to you guys toward the end of the show by Leonard Nimoy and Luke Wilson.” My audition for Spock was the next morning on April 15th.

So we got this award, went up on stage, I walked down the stairs behind Leonard, I said hi to him. Obviously I didn’t engage him in a conversation about my audition because I didn’t think it was the appropriate setting or time to do that. Little things like that along the way and just the connections between Tim Kring and Damon [Lindelof], and their history of working together there were just a lot of little things along the way that sort of supported the notion of it. It’s pretty remarkable to look at it from my perspective.

Can you talk about your personal relationship with “Star Trek”?

ZQ: I do feel like, in terms of my relationship with “Star Trek” as a kid, I had seen, I would say, a smattering of episodes throughout the years, and certainly a few of the movies, but I was never really that engaged in science-fiction as a kid. My interests were elsewhere so it is really interesting to come to it now and to recognize the depths of it. I think science-fiction is a really profound genre and I feel grateful to learning as much as I am about the “Star Trek” mythology.

You are now part of a massive hit television show in “Heroes” and you are about to star in the 11th movie based on one of the largest television shows ever in Star Trek. Do you plan on just making conventions a part of your life? Do you worry about that?

ZQ: It’s not something I worry about, at this point I feel like I invite that fan base to join me in going into other genres and other places. When I am not doing “Heroes” and when I am not doing Star Trek, I hope to be exploring those other places and I hope they will go with me. When I can find time certainly I enjoy conventions, but it requires a lot of energy so I don’t know how often I will do it, but that’s not a priority for me at this point. There are many things between me and any kind of convention at this point. I think I might be scheduled to do one next spring, but until then I know I won’t do anything.

I know “Heroes” and Star Trek have got to be taking up a lot of your time, but is there anything else you are looking at in the future outside of those two projects?

ZQ: The only real thing that I can say about that is that I would really love to do a play. I would really love for that to be the next thing I do after I finish the movie and this season of the show. We’ll see what happens, but that would be my first instinct and hopefully I can pull that together because it’s been too long since I have been on stage.


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