Although the character he is most identified with - the half-vulcan, half-human Mr Spock of the 2009 and 2013 rebooted Star Trek movies - is hardly known for his chic daywear or the way he rocks a pair of jeans, off-screen the actor Mr Zachary Quinto has become something of a fashion plate.
He flew relatively under the radar in Los Angeles, but the 36 year old, who now lives in New York and is currently starring in a glorious revival of Mr Tennessee Williams’ memory play The Glass Menagerie, has become a regular on the party circuit. He has been known to shown up at a CFDA party in a classic yet contemporary grey suit made for him by his friend, Mr Todd Snyder, and attend a Met Ball in an eye-catching waistcoat, his hair tinted an electric blue to complement the evening’s punk theme.
"It’s more a matter of trying to make sure I’m wearing things that fit well but that are not boring," says Mr Quinto in his dressing room upstairs at the Booth Theater, where in a few hours he will take to the stage in Mr Williams’ 1945 play. "As a guy, that’s a little more of a challenge than if you’re able to wear a big gown. We have to work with fewer resources. It becomes about the details. Cufflinks. Tie bars. Do you have a break in your trousers or is it a shorter hem? I’ve learnt a lot about tailoring: what fits and what lines are good for me and my body type."
Today, a particularly cold Friday in Times Square, Mr Quinto is wearing a pair of dark, slim-fitting jeans and a cashmere sweatshirt - his “typical New York uniform” - before he’ll change into his period costume.
When you’re doing a play as masterful as this, it will always support you. I put on my clothes and it just becomes a different space. Anything is possible
"New York is more about function over form," he says. "LA’s a little more about how things look. Here, there’s less time to think about it. I put less thought and effort into it. I will literally wear the same thing for a few days because my days are spent running around."
Even growing up in Pennsylvania, and then during his student days at Carnegie Mellon University, fashion was always something that piqued his interest. “If I look back, I used to be a little more flagrant or a little more on the nose with trying to put crazy patterns together,” says Mr Quinto as he uses a Thera Cane to work his back, a pre-stage routine suggested by his massage therapist. “I’ve always been interested in a plaid with a stripe, or some kind of pattern that is offset by something that’s different. But now I try to do it in a subtler way. It’s still there if you’re looking for it, but it’s not screaming for attention.”
When Mr Quinto’s career was just getting going, he explains that what he wore “didn’t matter because no one was looking at me”. Since starring in NBC’s hit sci-fi drama Heroes, however, not to mention the blockbuster Star Trek films and two seasons in the hit series American Horror Story, “there’s more attention paid to these kind of things. That’s a crash course in and of itself.”
People are paying even more attention to Mr Quinto since The Glass Menagerie opened. His portrayal of aspiring poet Tom Wingfield, a man desperate to escape the confines of his overbearing mother (played by Ms Cherry Jones) and his immature, disabled sister, has earned him the best reviews of his career, with the The New York Times describing it as “kinetically charged” and “career-defining”.
Mr Quinto says that since performances began in the early autumn he has settled into a “comfort and familiarity” with the character. “When you’re doing a play as masterful as this, it will always support you,” he says. “It falls into place every night. I put on my clothes and it just becomes a different space. Anything is possible.”
The same, apparently, goes for life in New York, where Mr Quinto has decided to become a full-time resident. “I’ve always wanted to live here,” he says. “The past 13 years of working in LA were a lot about figuring out when and how to get back here. I love Los Angeles, it’s a beautiful city, but it has no soul. It requires so much more effort. Here, you step outside of your apartment and you never know where it’s going to take you.”
The irony, however, is that since leaving Los Angeles it’s not just his career in front of the camera that is taking off. With two long-time friends - Messrs Neal Dodson and Corey Moosa - Mr Quinto founded the production company Before The Door. Its 2011 film Margin Call, about the initial moments before the 2007-2008 financial crisis and starring Messrs Kevin Spacey, Jeremy Irons and Ms Demi Moore (with Mr Quinto also in a role), was nominated for an Oscar for Best Original Screenplay. Before The Door’s latest, All is Lost, which stars Mr Robert Redford - and only Mr Redford - has received universal acclaim for its ingenuity and use of cinema to portray a man lost at sea after a sailboat accident.
Mr Quinto says that many actors talk about creating their own material but that they need the right people in their corner to help them jump through all the Hollywood hoops. “I have to focus on my career as an actor primarily in order to give myself any credit or leverage to run this company to begin with,” he explains.
But mostly, Mr Quinto insists, “I’ve learnt that it’s possible to make really good films and to have everybody enjoy the process of doing it. And that’s a great thing to know.” As of now, Before The Door has about six projects in active development and is looking for vehicles for Mr Quinto, which could potentially include a cable television series with “a really unique character” that he would not elaborate on.
For the moment, however, Mr Quinto is trying to decide what to do when The Glass Menagerie closes. The last time he finished a play in New York - a revival of Angels in America - he took a month-long trek to Peru by himself. “That’s a different thing than going on vacation,” he says. Right now, he’s considering India, though Bora Bora might win out.
"That’s my dream jam," he says of the Pacific island. "It might be time for a beach."
Jordan Bach: The first thing I noticed about you is that you’re very cerebral. You think deep thoughts and you’ve got the eloquence to communicate them. Is that a natural Gemini thing or were you once insecure about expressing yourself?
Zachary Quinto: I’ve actually always had an aversion to the idea of “cerebral” because I feel like it can be a limiting adjective. I grant that I tend to be incredibly analytical — and it’s always been a primary goal to understand myself and the world around me in an intellectual way. There were periods of my life in which I didn’t have the confidence to put myself out there as assuredly as I can today. That was a process of self-acceptance and discovery that unfolded over time. I’ve always been outspoken — but confidence doesn’t always equal sensitivity or emotional accessibility. Those things evolve as we do, and I think the best thing any of us can do is be gentle with ourselves. And be specific about the direction in which we want to go in life. I happen to always want to go deeper. Within myself and within my relationships there has to be a channel of communication that remains open and free. The minute we start restricting expression there is bound to be conflict. And my Gemini nature is strong. I’m sure that factors in to some degree.
Lately, I’ve been really into Brené Brown. She’s this amazing expert on vulnerability. She says there aren’t “authentic people” and “inauthentic people,” but rather that authenticity is something you practice. I suppose we all sometimes feel like our behavior isn’t aligned with who we really are. What do you do to get grounded again when you’ve lost your footing?
That’s an interesting concept. I feel like authenticity is a constant pursuit in this ever accelerating and disconnected world, and it circles back to communication. Being able to engage each other with a sense of compassion is a big part of that for me. So, first I surround myself with people who hold me accountable to my authentic self. Particularly people who have known me for many years, well before all the hoopla of my career. It’s more complicated to pursue authenticity when people have preconceived notions and ideas about my personality based only on a public persona. Old friends help me stay solid and committed to a truth that can be easily obfuscated by the chaos of my particular industry. I also have pets. They help remind me often of simplicity and unconditional love. Yoga. Meditation. A good book. A museum. A walk in Central Park. And always, always, always the theater. These things are essential for me.
What’s one lesson fame has taught you?
Fame is an illusion. It’s something all too easily plugged into, and it’s become an unhealthy obsession in our culture to a startling degree even in just the last 15 years. It used to be that celebrities were people who were particularly good at a specific craft or vocation. They were great artists or great thinkers — people who contributed to society in meaningful and significant ways. Nowadays that’s clearly not the case. So for me it’s a slippery slope. I engage fame with clear and immovable boundaries that allow me to maintain a life of relative normalcy, which is the only kind of life that appeals to me in the end.
You decided to come out publicly after Jamey Rodemeyer killed himself in 2011. You said he changed your life. I believe all the bullied children who have ended their lives are now our greater angels, urging us to live more boldly and more compassionately. Your coming out helped heal a lot of people. Did it heal you on some level?
Absolutely. It’s hard to describe the hugely positive impact that decision had on my life. But the thing I never really thought about before I took that step was the impact it would have on the lives of so many young people still struggling toward self-love and acceptance. The letters I get and the kids that I encounter affirm everyday that stepping into full acceptance and integration in my own life actually had power far beyond my own experience.
I needed to wrestle and confront and eventually embrace my own layers of inner-conflict and uncertainty. Internalized homophobia can often be the most damaging. Our inner enemy can often be far more cruel and hateful than the most aggressive bully because it knows our weakness from within. Ultimately pacifying that enemy was the deepest healing for me. Everything else is an extension of that.
On your blog, you wrote about “an enormous shift of collective consciousness” in the world today. What kind of shift are you talking about?
There’s an undercurrent of anxiety in our culture that’s affecting us collectively in very unsettling ways. Technology is literally rewiring our brains and we’re becoming less connected on a fundamental human level. We’re in constant contact with one another, and easily able to track each others’ comings and goings, but the contact is so much less substantial. So now the responsibility is ours: to decide the direction in which we want to evolve. I think there’s a kind of awakening which is possible in the midst of so much chatter and chaos. But we have to wake up ourselves before we can wake up each other.
People toss around the word “spiritual” a lot. What does it mean to you?
It’s about realizing that each and every human being is connected on some level. Within that realization is a quest for the meaning of Self. That’s a universal and lifelong pursuit if we open up and commit to it.
So many of us grow up with some kind of inner knowing that we’re here for a reason, or that we might be able to do great things with our lives.
I think we need to seek guidance from the universe in that regard. It may sound cheesy or cliché but the truth is there are answers out there for most questions if we can be specific enough in the asking. I was fortunate to find a calling at an early age. To some degree, that makes it easier to speak to this. I feel as if I was encouraged and supported at every turn by people in my life. And if I look at it more deeply I can see that those people are an extension of the universe and therefore a part of the very collective unconscious that fuels my idea of spirituality to begin with.
You said in a recent interview that, in the past, you’ve been attracted to people who were somehow unavailable. What’s that about?
Emotional unavailability is an increasingly common phenomenon, and so I think we’re conditioned to expect it to a certain extent. At the touch of a button we can “meet” people on Facebook or on Twitter. We can watch what people are up to on Instagram. And of course there are many portals for more sordid modes of connection. It diminishes the potential for genuine connection because it puts multiple filters between us. People are unavailable because they live with their faces buried in devices as the world whooshes by. Of course, I’m guilty of it myself, but I try to be as mindful as possible of seeking out real connection instead of the virtual idea of connection.
Don’t you think every person comes into our life to teach us something? As we become more open and honest and loving, we attract other open and honest and loving people?
Absolutely. We need to clean our own kitchens and then people will want to come for a meal. Is that a weird metaphor? I just made that up.
Now let’s talk about the things that really matter. Who was your first celebrity crush?
Brad Pitt. Thelma and Louise. 100%.
More Stars Share Excitement On Emmys Red Carpet
20 seconds of zach at 1.30
Star Trek deals with outer space. How interested are you in this topic?
ZACHARY QUINTO: I am interested in space travel. More in theory than in practice. It’s amazing that we will now be able to travel into space as normal human beings. I still have trouble getting my head around this.
Did you have a concern as an actor in connecting yourself to a character that is larger than life?
Not really. I mean don’t get me wrong. I have a ton of respect for Spock and Leonard Nimoy who, by the way, I have become good friends with over the last couple of years. And I think what helped us too was the fact that there were four years in between the first one and this one. It did give us some time to pause and do something else in between.
Did you get to hang out with him this time around as well?
Oh, yes. Leonard and I like to spend time together. He is just like all the other guys - very passionate. He showed me all the memorabilia he has collected over the years. He just donated some of his archive to Boston University. He had a lot of stuff at home.
Are you planning on keeping your own archive now?
I found the notion to have an archive - to be able to donate it later - quite interesting. I am more the guy who doesn’t keep stuff too long. But Leonard made me aware that it might be a good idea to start saving some of the things. I have now started. I might have saved one or two pairs of Spock’s ears.
How do you feel about coming back for a second one?
This doesn’t feel prohibitive or limiting in any way. It actually feels quite comfortable to come back to something that we created together and are now recreating. I feel very excited about this new movie.
Do you have any influence on the look of your character?
No, not really. That’s one of the coolest things to watch is the realization of this world they created. There are almost a 1,000 people working on this film. Michael Kaplan is an amazing costume designer. And Scott Chambliss is a genius production designer.
How was it for you working with J.J. Abrams?
I think the way he works is just an incredible way to work, and I have a lot of respect for it. It’s not scary to work with a guy who knows exactly what he is doing. It doesn’t happen so often for actors to work with a guy like that. There might be three to five directors in the studio system that have the freedom that J.J. has.
How would you describe the relationship between Kirk and Spock in this film?
There is a scene in this film where Spock is so committed and bound by the rules that he is willing to give his life. And at the same time Kirk is contemplating to radically change the rules to save his friend. That was very satisfying for me. It shows how their friendship is really growing in this movie.
How physical was this role for you?
For me this was crazy. I worked out for the first movie. But there was a whole new level for me for this one. I really had to get in shape.
How different do you look in this second film?
It’s fascinating to see how different we all look in this one. I can’t believe I look like a child version of the character in the first one. Now we are a little more experienced, and we have really grown over the last five years.
Everybody seems to be very fascinated by your hair. There is speculation whether you are wearing a wig in the movie. Can you clarify this for the fans?
Yes, I can. It’s all my own hair in this film. No wigs for Spock!
There are so many character dynamics within the show. What is your favorite relationship in the show?
The one that was most unexpected for me was the one between Laura and Tom and because there is so little that we say to each other, and that is another amazing way that the physical vocabulary of the show plays out. We take care of each other in physical ways and we connect in physical ways that aren’t written into the script, but the scenes with Zach [Quinto], I just I love them so much. Something that people, or at least that I’ve heard about The Glass Menagerie, is that it feels a little claustrophobic, it feels like it’s a family that is still fraught and miserable.
We all approached it, and didn’t even talk about it that much, but ended up making, I hope, a play about a family that really really loves each other but cannot figure out how to help one another or to give each other what they need. So I think that relationship, for me, between Laura and Tom is, in a lot of ways, the most tragic of the whole piece but also because there is such deep and real love. The way that Zach plays the character, I feel so taken care of, by him in the play.
It’s funny, when we were doing that whole process of sitting around the table and picking what lines and which versions we wanted to do, Zach said, “Is there an extra scene for Tom and Laura, I feel like I wish we had more to say to each other,” and someone was like, “I think in the London version, there is,” and there is an extra exchange of probably ten lines, but we were like ‘put it in, please!’ so that we could have some time with each other. That relationship, maybe also because I feel such a deep connection to my siblings, I know what living in a house with a brother and a sister, what that does and how close you can be. So, that’s definitely one of my favorite dynamics.
That’s amazing because it is a tragic relationship. Like you said, they don’t talk very often in the show. But at the same time, you know that they really care about each other. And Zach is just an incredible actor.
I had never seen him on stage. I had only seen him on film and I did think that he was an incredible actor. He really, not only, is a great artist, but he’s a great mind and he’s such a valuable presence to have in a room because the questions that he asks and the way that he processes not just the play but the dynamics of the play are so useful and important in the process. He is an extraordinary human being and actor.
By Harry Haun
01 Sep 2013
Zachary Quinto has pretty much cornered the market on Portraits of an Icon as a Young Man. Most notably there was Spock: The Early Years, in the “Star Trek” films, and now, arriving Sept. 26 at the Booth Theatre, is the Tennessee Williams classic, The Glass Menagerie—it’s Tennessee: The Early Years.
In Menagerie he answers to the name of Tom Wingfield, but it’s a thin veil at best, hiding a poetic dreamer who is the family bread-winner, toiling meaninglessly in a warehouse to bring home the bacon for his mama, Amanda (Cherry Jones), and his crippled sister Laura (Celia Keenan-Bolger). On one melancholy occasion, after much Amanda-badgering, he brings home a gentleman caller (Brian J. Smith) for his painfully shy sister to try on for size. The memory of that night is the cross he bears.
"To play Tom—which is the clearest distillation of Tennessee Williams himself—at this time in my life is perfect," declares Quinto. "I’m just a little older than he was when he wrote the play, so I’m in very close relationship to a lot of the themes and issues he was struggling with that led him to this play. To me, that’s a great gift as an actor—to enter into a role and an experience with that kind of foundation."
There’s no shortage of info on the playwright—Young Tennessee, Old Tennessee, by Tennessee, about Tennessee—so Quinto did a mudbath of it all, especially Lyle Leverich’s biography, “Tom: The Unknown Tennessee Williams.” Reading books about Williams, he admits, “was really my main point of entry—his memoirs, his notebooks, and all those short stories that were the gestational inspiration for The Glass Menagerie.”
Conspicuously missing from the Williams family household was Cornelius Coffin Williams, a shoe salesman who found shoes made for walking and never returned to the family fold. By the same token, the AWOL Wingfield patriarch is likewise long gone, “a telephone repairman who fell in love with long distance.”
"There is a chain of abandonment that plagued Tennessee through his work and his life, and I think that chain began with his father," contends Quinto. "Then, that graduated to lessons of responsibility he had to face in caring for his mother and sister. I think it was that chain of abandonment that led him to write this play. He knew—and was living at the time—the need to break free of his responsibility to his family, especially the females in his family.
"Getting away and escaping and ultimately knowing that he needs to sacrifice his family in order to fully realize his own path—that’s a very powerful notion. I think it’s one that’s really relatable. I think a lot of adult children can look at the ways in which that has meaning for them in one way or another. It’s a very human struggle and a very human failing. It’s part of what contributes to the universality of this play.
"Tennessee describes Tom as someone who is not remorseless but, to survive, must act without pity. That, for me, was a clear start for my relationship to this character. I understand that. We all have ways in which that resonates for the rest of our lives."
Quinto jump-started his career by guest-starring on numerous television series, eventually wrangling some recurring roles. He did 23 episodes on the third season of Fox’s “24,” and recently logged ten of the 12 installments of FX’s “American Horror Story: Asylum.”
For the latter, he could nab an Emmy on Sept. 22, as could his series co-stars, Jessica Lange and Sarah Paulson. “I was glad I got to share my excitement about The Glass Menageriewith them because they really knew what it’s about. We didn’t have any specific conversations, other than [talking] lovingly about Tennessee. I think we talked about how bizarre—what a small world it is—that I’m doing this [television] show with them, then heading off to do a play [that] starred them the last time it was on Broadway.”
The Glass Menagerie will be Quinto’s first time on Broadway; he previously made his Off-Broadway bow as the lost Louis Ironson in the 2011 revival of Tony Kushner's Angels in America. His feature-film debut was as Spock in J.J. Abrams’s 2009 reboot of the “Star Trek” franchise, and recently reprised in the sequel, “Star Trek: Into Darkness.” Leonard Nimoy, 82, who originated the role and had casting approval, personally picked Quinto to go where only a few men have gone before.
A little time-travel plot-twisting allowed both—Nimoy as Spock Prime and Quinto as his younger self—to go along on these screen rides. “I think we have a strong physical resemblance, which, on some level or another, had to do with my getting cast, but now my connection with Leonard is much more emotional. I have great respect for him. We’re close friends. He’ll be at the opening of The Glass Menagerie.”
A third “Star Trek”—the 13th feature—is in the works. “I don’t have any information about if or when it will happen,” says Quinto. “We all signed up for three when we signed up for the first, so I imagine it’ll happen sometime after The Glass Menagerie.”
I feel so grateful for the last six years of my life have been so fulfilling and I’ve accomplished so many of the things that I set out to accomplish and then some so I feel really, really blessed and try to just move forward with a sense of gratitude all the time and never taking anything for granted but acknowledging that I’m really fortunate and that I also work really hard so I feel like it’s combination of things that came together at this point. I’m happy to be here.”
Zachary says that he has always had a blind faith in himself that he can’t explain. He says that although he went through tough times and felt like throwing the towel in at different times, he always, at the back of his mind knew that it was worth pursuing. He tells us: ‘You have to believe because the business of creating, the business of acting is brutal’. He also recommends separating your sense of self from the successes or failures of your career, and believes you can do this be crafting your own life and your own set of experiences.