New Mr Spock Zachary Quinto on his awkward meeting with Star Trek legend Leonard Nimoy
By Rick Fulton
THE Vulcan race are emotionless creatures, so it was understandable that when two met in a lift,nothing was said.
The awkward encounter was the first time legendary Star Trek actor Leonard Nimoy had met Zachary Quinto, the actor who was to play his most famous character, Spock, in the new movie version of the television show.
If Zachary, who is currently on our screens playing serial killer Sylar in Heroes, was hoping to get some words of wisdom from the older actor, he would be disappointed.
After the interminable silent lift journey, Nimoy turned round and just said: “You have no idea what you’re in for” and simply walked off.
American Zachary, 31, admitted it was an embarrassing first encounter, especially as Star Trek is his feature film debut.
“It was a pretty cramped elevator and we hadn’t been formally introduced,” said Zachary. “The elevator went up really slowly and, when the doors opened, he looked at me and said ‘you have no idea what you’re in for’ and just walked out.
“Subsequent encounters became much more substantive and we spent time after the presentation getting to know one another a little bit.
“Then, he and his wife invited me to a party they were having at their house a few weeks later and that began our sort of personal and individual connection.”
The 11th Star Trek film hits cinemas next month and knowing its legions of geek fans, it’s set to be a box office smash.
But the young actor claims he’s not worried about how his life will change as Spock, or whether or not he’ll be pigeonholed as the sci-fi creature for the rest of his career as Nimoy has been.
He said: “I think that you can really see the way in which this character shaped and affected Leonard’s life.
“I think that we live in a different time now in terms of attention spans and cultural willingness to see something through for so long.
“I don’t think it’s quite the same climate in which he experienced this character.
“I think there’s less of stigma associated with Sci-fi and I think that that’s part of what he experienced at the time.”
The TV series, which starred Nimoy and William Shatner as Captain James T. Kirk, has spawned television spin-offs The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, Voyager and Enterprise, as well as the film franchise.
The new take, which also stars Simon Pegg as chief engineer Scotty, sees the newly Captained James T. Kirk – played by relative unknown Chris Pine – of the U.S.S. Enterprise fight Romulans from the future, who are interfering with history by destroying the Federation.
Nimoy, who will be back as the older Spock in the film, is seen in the first trailer as an old man saying his trademark phrase “Live long and prosper” and features the famous Vulcan hand symbol.
With Nimoy’s input, Zachary felt he only had to watch two episodes of the original television series to get into the role.
He said: “Leonard was very available to me through this process.
“I have a tremendous respect and affinity for him, and it’s more than just giving me tips about Spock and what the character means to him and what the experience was.
“I feel like we’ve become friends and that to me is something that I think is a life-long.
“It means a great deal for me personally to actually say that I am friends with him.”
Of course, for Zachary to get into character, it meant putting on those famous pointy Vulcan ears, but there were other things the actor had to work on.
“I’m left-handed, so I needed a little bit more work on my right hand,” grinned Zachary.
And what about the ears?
“Once they were on they were no problem at all,” he said.
“I honestly didn’t even know that they were there.
“It was getting them on in the morning that could be tedious simply because it required me to show up to work two hours before anybody else.”
While Spock was obviously an alien in the television show, becoming the pointy-eared oddball also alienated Zachary from his real life – even after filming had stopped.
While in Star Trek Spock has to reconcile the two parts of himself – his Vulcan side from his father and his human side from his mother – Zachary admitted he found being Spock to be harder to play than he expected.
He explained: “What I didn’t really anticipate through this process was how much of an impact the physical alterations would be on my personal life.
“Having no eyebrows and having to shave every day, while having my hair in this sort of horrible style, I felt really alienated from myself and alienated from other people.
“I never went out of the house without big chunky glasses on and a hat. I tended to isolate myself a lot more during the process of this film.
“I was much more interested in solitude and I withdrew to a certain extent because I felt like I was working on staying connected to that character and making sure that connection sustained the entire length of the shoot.
“I think it actually served my relationship to the character because that kind of alienation is something that Spock struggles with greatly in his life.
WHEN filming finished, Zachary admits he realised how much he had withdrawn into himself to become Spock.
“After I was finished on the film, I remember going out.
“I looked like such a dork with the Spock hair and my eyebrows all stubbly, but I didn’t care at all.
“Then it was like an awakening, an emergence from something. I then started going out more and just having a good time, so it was a definite marked difference.”
The new Star Trek film is directed by J.J. Abrams, who is best known for his action movies such as Mission: Impossible III and as creator of the hit television show Lost.
While it’s usually Captain Kirk who gets to do all the fun action stuff, in the new movie, the younger Spock also gets his fair share of action movie moments.
Zachary said: “There’s a sequence in the movie where I am beamed to a location where there was a lot going on.
“The whole film was very physical.
“I never stop running in the movie.
“I’m an active guy, I work out and I do my thing, but this was just killing me.
“Another time they were blowing smoke all over the set and I was coughing.
“I just remember between takes, I was sitting on a rock, heaving, when JJ came over and told me that between every take on Mission: Impossible III, Tom Cruise would jump up getting himself psyched up.
“And I said ‘Good for Tom Cruise, but I’m not him.'”
Sci-fi fans will already know Zachary well from playing Sylar in television series Heroes, which is currently being shown on BBC Two on Monday nights.
Such is his fame from the show, that he is the only person in history to appear on the cover of magazine Entertainment Weekly two weeks in a row.
Despite Quinto sounding Spanish, Zachary claims his dark looks come from being part Italian, part Irish.
While there is always a fear he will start cutting your head open like Sylar does on Heroes, Zachary, of course, is warm and funny.
He even has friends, unlike loners Sylar and Spock.
When asked what he does in his spare time, Zachary jokes: “I like to read and write and do arithmetic.
It seems just like the original Spock, the younger version likes, in the words of Kirk, ‘To boldly go where no man has gone before’.
Star Trek is released in cinemas on May 8.