Exclusive Interview! Heroes’ Sylar – Zachary Quinto
During the first seven episodes of Heroes fans were captivated by the shadowy menace known only as “Sylar.” The murderous brain-thieving villain never appeared in full light in the early episodes, only his thin baseball-capped silhouette. Around episode eight of Heroes that all changed when Zachary Quinto was unveiled as the face of evil when Sylar stepped out of the shadows to fatefully menace the cheerleader, Claire (Hayden Panettiere). BuddyTV was fortunate to have the opportunity to sit down with Zach to get his feelings on the success of Heroes, as well as the inner machinations of the force known as Sylar.
How did you get the role of Sylar to begin with?
I auditioned for it. It was sort of one of a number of auditions that had this particular week and I went in and I read for and everybody was there, all the producers and writers were there except for Tim Kring and so then I guess about I think that was on a Monday and then I think that following Thursday I had to go back in and read for Tim and Allan Arkush and Dennis and then I guess about five days later I got the job. It was pretty; it was about a week and a half from my first audition until when I got the job.
Was there a lot of competition for the part?
Yeah, they saw not quite a hundred guys but I think they saw like, you know, quite a few guys. I don’t really think they knew what they were looking for when they started seeing people because there were definitely a lot of older guys there, there were guys in their 50s and 60s and then I also saw a lot of people that I knew that were my age. I think they were casting a really wide net so it was cool that they ultimately went with me in the end, from my perspective.
Were there any names in there that we’d recognize who also tried out?
Oh, I’m sure there were. I don’t remember and honestly like I didn’t see everybody that they saw you know I was only there for a little while and I don’t know who came in when I wasn’t there so, you know, the only thing that matters now is this one right?
Initially, obviously through the series he spent a lot of his time in the shadows, were you actually playing that shadow figure at any point?
I played him from episode eight and on. But before that they had stunt doubles that they used and kept them in the dark.
So part of what makes him scary as a character is that he can completely conceal his evil side…
Is it difficult for you to balance those two personas?
No, that’s one of my favorite parts of the character is walking that line and sort of finding those different colors and those different layers in the experience, you know. I think it’s one of the best aspects of the character, one of many.
Definitely. Do you ever wish you could play one of the good guys?
Nope. Not in this show. I mean I think that’s you know, I mean, no I really don’t. For me, this is exactly where I want to be in my career and in the work that I’m doing so I couldn’t ask for anything else, anything better.
Well on the flipside of that, he does kind of carry with him the conflict possibly that he was once this nice guy that really got corrupted by his ability. Do you envision him as being redeemable at all or is he just bad to the bone?
I think there’s a certain point at which you cross a line and it’s sort of irrevocable. I don’t know, I mean you know I don’t know what the writers have in mind but it would probably be kind of a challenge at this point, you know? We’ll see where it goes. I think that that’s one of the really exciting things about this show is that they’re constantly coming up with surprising ideas and ideas that people would never expect so I don’t think anything is out of the question but I do think that he’s gone pretty far down a path that at this point might be a little difficult to back track.
So when you play him, do you play him as someone who is actually been totally taken control of by his impulses, or do you think there’s more to his back-story that we haven’t seen that maybe needs to be brought out?
I’m definitely operating with the information that I have, which is pretty much the information that most everybody else has as well. So if they give me other information at some point then I’ll certainly factor that in to how I make choices with the character. In the meantime I think you know he’s definitely somebody that has been overcome by a hunger and overcome by a pursuit for power and for importance that did start a little more innocuously than it evolved into, you know? Does that make sense? Is that even grammatically correct what I just said? I don’t know, we’ll see.
Hunger is a good word to bring up at this point because I’m sure you get asked this a lot but is he eating the brains of his…?
Yummy, yummy, yummy in my tummy. I don’t know I mean they’ve never really committed to that one way or the other. I’ve had conversations with a number of the writers and producers about it and I’ve certainly made my own decision, which again like until they tell me something else then I go on the information that I come up with. You know that’s sort of how it goes and if it doesn’t serve the work at a certain point, if it doesn’t serve the story then I’ll adjust. But in the meantime I sort of know where I’m coming from but I think the mystery is half the fun.
On that note they’ve recently said that they’re going to go kind of one story per season and some people consider this season to be Sylar’s story, other people consider it to be the exploding man story. Do you think that Sylar is going to be with us beyond Season 1?
Well, we’ll see what happens. I mean I think that just because there’s one story doesn’t mean that all the characters can’t be a part of it in some way, you know? Maybe you just see that story from a different angle or you see a different aspect of that story or you see how it affects a different person. I don’t really know what their long term plans are. I certainly know that I would love to stay around as long as I can so we’ll see how that road unfolds.
And, now that you have this really recognizable, super evil persona, how do people approach you in public?
Some people are really eager to approach me in public and other people are really actually scared, which is my favorite response when people are actually scared because anybody that knows me knows that there’s virtually nothing to be scared of. But I guess that means I’m doing my job and I love it. I mean I’m happy to engage people in conversations about the show. I’m also happy when my work elicits the kind of response where people don’t want to have anything to do with me because it’s all based on the work so that’s good news.
And you know you’ve done obviously parts in the past that were nowhere near like this. Like your part on So Notorious. How do you feel about the contrast? Was it hard for you to make that leap from that sort of role?
Not at all man. I mean that’s why I do what I do. It’s the best part of being an actor I think is surprising yourself and surprising what people expect of you. I’m just grateful to be working with people that have the kind of imagination and foresight to see me, to see that range in me. You know I think a lot of people in Hollywood tend to get stuck in their expectations of people and I consider it a real gift to be working with people that are not at all on that tip. These are people that use their imagination and aren’t afraid of them and that’s pretty exciting. I think that’s a big part of the reason why the show is so successful.
Definitely. Which brought you more public recognition, 24 or Heroes?
Definitely Heroes. I mean this is a whole other level for me creatively and also professionally. You know it’s like 24 was great and I was in the third season, it was already really well established. It’s a great show, it was groundbreaking in its time but I think my role on that show was definitely much more peripheral and sort of less flushed out. And I think I get a lot more to do on this show. I think I factor much more prominently into the story and I’m much more of a part of the group. I’ve been pretty much a part of this show not from the very beginning, not from day one but from just a little way into the first season so I feel much more like you know a part of the family as it were. Whereas with 24 like I came in, in Season 3 when it was already up and running and everybody sort of had their own shorthand already and I just sort of you know fell into that, as I needed to.
And you know this is the type of show that resonates with the comic crowd and stuff like that. Are you being dragged into the whole convention circuit thing?
Not dragged unwillingly into it. I’ve done one convention so far, I’m going to do another one this weekend. You know for me that is actually really fun. I’m a really social person, I really like to talk to people that are interested in what we’re making. I think there’s something really gratifying about that. I know there’s some actors that aren’t really into that and like to be into their own…well you know I feel like the show is so successful because people are responding to it and if I have an opportunity to meet those people and thank them and talk to them about what I’m doing then I’m more than happy to oblige you know. I mean I don’t know if I’ll make a habit, like a consistent habit of it but I think you know a couple times a year, go out and meet some peeps, check it out, yeah I think that’s cool.
Now this being one of those mystery centered stories, do you get a lot of people that come up to you looking for spoilers?
Oh yeah, everybody wants to know what’s going on. Every interview I give people are like, “So tell us what happens.” I’m like I can’t tell you what happens because you’ve got to watch! But yeah, people want to know. Some people really want to know, some people don’t really, you know like some people really don’t want to know. It’s like everything, everybody’s got their own sort of brand of “yeah, tell me what happens” and other people are like“ no you can’t I have to watch it. Obviously we’re not allowed to give anything away so I keep my cards close to my vest.
Do you have any friends or family that are big fans?
Yeah, a lot of my friends are really, really big fans of the show. My family watches it because I’m on it and then sort of subsequently became fans you know. I don’t necessarily know that they would have been as diehard about it if I wasn’t on it. But now that I am they’re totally with us one hundred percent.
At what point in filming, what episode are you guys up to?
We just started 22. Today’s my first day on 22 and we are doing the last two episodes back to back. You know the 22 and 23 are our season finale so it’s basically like a two-week event season finale. So it’s getting pretty epic. We’re like hardcore. Like I’m standing on the street downtown right now, like I can see like 20 taxi cabs and cars and traffic stopped and we’re definitely on the grander side of television production from my experience of it.
Is it going to be a two-parter or is it going to be one two-hour finale?
It’s going to be a two-parter. So it will be like, I’m not sure exactly the dates, I think the season finale is May 21. So it will be like what is that the 14th the 21st of May will be the two, will be episodes 22 and 23. Most television shows get a 22-episode season; so they’ll order 13 and then they’ll order the back nine. So they ordered 13 of our show and then they ordered the back 10. So they gave us an extra episode basically.
-Jon Lachonis, BuddyTV Senior Writer