Written By: Melissa Cantor
Photographed By: Joe Quinto
Heroes Photographed By: Chris Haston / NBC Photo
Hails from: Pittsburgh
Where you’ve seen him: CSI, Charmed, Six Feet Under, Crossing Jordan, 24 and So NoTORIous
Where you’re about to see him: The season finale and upcoming seasons of Heroes, and trekking ancient Mayan ruins in Southern Mexico and Central America while on hiatus
Pensive, soft-spoken and prone to using words that are at least 10 letters long, Zachary Quinto evokes memories of Johnny Depp in his 21 Jump Street days—young, in a star-making role on a hit series, but poised to surpass the whims of pop-celebritydom. Quinto, with his natural talent and gravity, is headed for longevity.
The 29-year-old is currently TV’s most-hated villain, playing Sylar on the wildly popular NBC show Heroes. “It’s the best job I’ve ever had,” Quinto, who launched a successful theatre career at age 11, says. “It’s so fulfilling creatively to be allowed to explore so many parts of yourself that you don’t necessarily get to explore in your daily life.”
Heroes wasn’t Quinto’s first experience on a TV-show-turned-cultural-obsession. He previously played Adam Kaufman on the third season of Fox’s 24. “My character on 24 was more peripheral, and the nature of the show is more procedural,” Quinto says. “I learned a lot, and the experience gave me the foundation to allow me to enter into something as full of depth as Heroes, but it wasn’t as complete an experience.”
And if his serious demeanor and thespian repertoire (he’s a Carnegie Mellon School of Drama grad) makes you doubt it, he is indeed the same actor who made you double over with laughter as Tori Spelling’s gay Persian friend, Sasan, in So NoTORIous.
When he’s not playing Sylar and absorbing the powers of the heroes around him, Quinto is learning to play the banjo. “I got one for Christmas, and it sat in the corner of my house for quite some time, but I’m about to start lessons,” he says. Also on Quinto’s agenda: a play in New York if the six-week hiatus from Heroes allows enough time. Other-wise, a cross-country road trip, some West Coast-camping and an exploration of ancient Mayan ruins in southern Mexico and Central America are in order. “I really want to see some of the more natural parts of the world,” he says. “We’ll see what I pull together.”
If you could play any character in a movie, sitcom or play, who would it be and why?
Sweeney Todd. I remember seeing that play when I was a kid, and it was so scary, and it was when I understood the power of the theatre to affect people pretty profoundly. But I’m a little young to play that yet. [Coincidentally, the part will be played by Depp in a 2007 film version of the musical.]
Fashion trends come and go, which trend do you wish would just hurry and go?
Well, Ugg boots came and went, thank the sweet Lord. What do they have now that I can think of? I’m kind of over skinny jeans. They seem to be all the rage right now, and I could do without those, I suppose.
Would you ever do a reality TV show? If so, which one?
No. But I better watch my tongue, because in a few years there may only be reality TV shows left!
Whose music could you go deaf listening to?
I definitely come from a folk music background: Simon & Garfunkel, Cat Stevens and Joni Mitchell. Now that spectrum has broadened a little bit, and I really like this L.A. band called Rilo Kiley. But if I had to choose one that I’d listen to the most, I’d have to say Joni Mitchell.
Would you rather change your past or know your future?
There are things in my past that I would probably change if I had the chance, but I’m not a big one for messing with fate. I feel like we’re all where we’re meant to be, whether or not we realize it at the moment, and I’m not one for messing with things that I don’t ultimately control, so I would say neither.
What’s your take on celebrity tabloid gossip?
I think tabloid gossip has reached a dangerous level of insidiousness, and it’s really indicative of the fact that people in this country are disconnected from the things that are really going on—things that are really important, really scary, and that people don’t want to look at. Instead, people turn their attention to this brand of media, which is so empty and all about immediate gratification. It’s on a whole different level now, and we’re spending all our time talking about Anna Nicole, and who’s the baby’s daddy, and how Britney Spears shaved her head.
I read this article by Frank Rich in The New York Times a couple of weeks ago that said as a nation, we are exactly where we were in the months leading up to the terrorist attacks of 9/11. All we care about is the stuff that really doesn’t matter. It’s terrifying—not to mention the fact that it’s incredibly invasive and disruptive to the lives of the people who are the subjects of these reports, and they’re not always willing participants. It needs to change, and it needs to stop.