When I think of Zachary Quinto’s career evolution, I find myself putting it into 1940s newsreel format: fast-moving, with a gung-ho vintage voiceover rattling off his professional accomplishments while film, TV, and interview clips roll feverishly across the screen — only rather than black-and-white, every segment is in the latest state-of-the-art color. And it would definitely kick off with his move to Los Angeles following his graduation from Carnegie Mellon University in 1999.
Television casting directors didn’t waste any time putting the hot young actor with the mesmerizing voice in front of the cameras in guest roles (Six Feet Under, Joan of Arcadia, CSI, etc.) before his first breakthrough as computer analyst Adam Kaufman on the 2007 season of 24. From there he went on to make his mark playing the super-powered serial killer villain Sylar on NBC’s Heroes. And in 2009 he made his first appearance as Spock in J.J. Abrams’ visionary prequel/retooling of Star Trek — a cinematic victory of enormous impact when you take into account how his neo Spock won over legions of Trekkies, all fiercely devoted to the Leonard Nimoy original.
Achieving red-carpet status, however, never interfered with Quinto’s theatrical roots. “When I moved to L.A., the plan was always to come back and do stage work — and eventually Broadway,” says the Pittsburgh native, who started acting when he was around 10, yet never really considered pursuing it professionally until he was in high school and fell under the mentorship of acting teacher Jill Wadsworth, who helped shape his career.
Looking back even further (he was only seven at the time), Quinto cites the death of his father as a powerful spiritual motivator, an event that sharpened the actor’s sense of understanding and humanity. “In many ways, the person I am today is because of that early loss,” he says. “It served to form me as a person, and as I got older, I was able to lean into it more and more. It gave me a kind of landscape to channel into my creativity.“
Quinto with Christian Borle in Angels in America. Photo: Joan Marcus
Within a year of his Star Trek debut, he flew back to New York to appear in the celebrated Off-Broadway revival of Angels in America…and a few months before the May 2013 release of Star Trek Into Darkness (marking Quinto’s second turn as Spock), he was back on the east coast (Cambridge, Mass.) in the American Repertory’s production of The Glass Menagerie, in which he stars as Tom Wingfield, the narrative nucleus of Tennessee Williams’ memory time capsule.
Quinto and Jones in The Glass Menagerie. Photo: Michael Lutch
Interestingly, before stepping into the production, Quinto didn’t have much of a connection with Williams or his plays, but his attitude changed dramatically as he rehearsed and embraced Menagerie. “Both the process and performance were a real awakening and expansion for me,” he observes.
Having transferred to Broadway’s Booth Theatre — with the spellbinding Cambridge company of Cherry Jones (Amanda), Celia Keenan-Bolger (Laura), Brian J. Smith (the Gentleman Caller) — as “the finest Tom I’ve ever seen,” according to Ben Brantley of the New York Times, Quinto can now relive the passion and joy he associates with this once-in-a-lifetime production.
“To feel the audience’s reaction… that impact right before the curtain call … the only time when we breathe the same air of the audience… is…” and for a heartbeat this provocative, fearless, versatile talent is at a loss… until the exact word come to him: “purity.”
Quinto in Star Trek Into Darkness. Photo: Industrial Light & Magic, courtesy of Paramount Pictures. ©2013 Paramount Pictures. All Rights Reserved.
• A veteran of the first two seasons of FX’s addictively chilling anthology series American Horror Story, Quinto won’t be taking part in season three. Still, this doesn’t rule out a future re-up should the show continue.
• He plays the banjo.
• His roles tend to have interesting afterlife spinoffs: in the video games of 24, Heroes, and Star Trek he voiced his three iconic characters, plus he is the subject of both Sylar and Spock action figures.
• Quinto and Leonard Nimoy bonded while working together on the first new Star Trek film.
• The Glass Menagerie is Quinto’s Broadway debut.
• Quinto’s BFA from Carnegie Mellon is in musical theatre, which means if things go according to desire, his next Broadway outing will be a musical — preferably Sweeney Todd. “I’m crossing my fingers,” he says. “But really, overall, I feel very fortunate in the projects I’ve done.”