Spock Talk: 9 Qs With Quinto and Nimoy
By Scott Huver
We found it eminently logical to put Leonard Nimoy and Zachary Quinto head to head – and Spock to Spock – discussing their shared role as the famed Vulcan, who continues to live long and prosper in director J.J. Abrams’ revival of Star Trek.
Zach, when you first met with J.J. about playing Spock, what guidelines did he give you?
Zachary Quinto: I remember when I first talked to J.J. about playing the role. I was in there for 45 minutes, and I think he spoke for 43 of them. There was such an overwhelming vision and enthusiasm and clarity about what he wanted this to be, and almost, more importantly, what he didn’t want it to be. And that, for me, set a really solid framework in which we were all allowed to play and explore and discover on our own. It was a very collaborative spirit, a very optimistic spirit, in terms of the kind of story he wanted to tell.
Leonard, were you consulted at all during the film’s development process?
Leonard Nimoy: I had no input on writing the character or the script – none. My first meeting with Mr. Abrams and [screenwriters Roberto] Orci and [Alex] Kurtzman was, “Would I be interested, based on their feelings about Star Trek and their feelings about the Spock character?” And I was interested enough that I read the script, and I agreed to do the film.
What was it like re-visiting this character after so long?
Nimoy: The makers of this film, I think, re-awakened in me the passion I had when we made the original films and series. I was put back in touch with what I cared about, what I like about Star Trek and why I enjoyed being involved in Star Trek. So, it was an easy way to come on home … They said things and showed me things and demonstrated the sensibility that I thought was very comfortable with, and I think that shows in the movie.
Zach, how did you feel when you first learned that Leonard would be making a cameo?
Quinto: I got asked a lot if there was pressure because of Leonard’s involvement, and my response is always to the contrary, actually. Having him as a resource and such a generous, available support system made it much easier for me to step into the experience.
How do you approach a character who is so famously impassive and unemotional?
Quinto: I think it’s a common misconception that Spock doesn’t feel emotion. I think he feels emotion very deeply, but he’s just restricted in the ways that he can express it … For me, it was about cultivating a deeply rooted inner life and not being able to do much other than to hold on to it. Which can be frustrating as an actor, especially when around me my fellow actors are emoting and running about, having a good time. Obviously, it’s a formidable challenge and one that I was really excited to be faced with.
How much did you consult with Leonard to determine your approach to Spock?
Quinto: Leonard and I watched a couple episodes together and talked about his experience shooting those episodes, but aside from that, I felt that it was incumbent upon me to determine my own relationship with this character. That was the mandate that J.J. set forth very early on in the process. We were expected to use the foundation as a point of entry into our own experiences with the characters.
Leonard, what was your overall impression of the new cast?
Nimoy: They found their own way to bring their talent and intelligence to this movie, and I think it shows. If Chris Pine could do anything other than joining Starfleet after Bruce Greenwood told him what his life should be about, I would be shocked! I mean, the guy just had to do what Bruce Greenwood told him to! When Karl Urban introduced himself as Leonard McCoy and shook hands with Chris Pine, I burst into tears. I thought that performance of his would be so moving, so touching, so powerful, as Doctor McCoy that I think DeForest Kelley would be smiling – and maybe in tears as well.
Were you happy with Zach’s take on the character?
Nimoy: I think that he made some choices that I thought were wonderful surprises to me, in playing the Spock that he played in this film. We did not talk about specifics, like, “Do this” or “Don’t do that.” We had very general conversations about the philosophy of the character, the psychology of the character, the philosophy of Star Trek, the fans’ reactions to various aspects of Star Trek. But, there were no specific instructions; there was no need for that, there was no call for that. But watching him in the film, I’m very proud of what he did. I loved the idea that he is doing the character, that he did it so well. And I think we have book-ended the character; he has created a Spock that comes before the Spock that I portrayed in the series, and I’m playing a Spock that comes much, much later and much more resolved. And is, I think, much closer to who I actually am today.
Zach, what impressed you the most about Leonard when you met with him?
Quinto: What impressed me the most about Leonard is how he faced the potential obstacles of playing Spock. Science fiction is a different thing 40 years ago than it is today, and watching him redefine his creative journey, becoming an amazing director, photographer, writer, and a genius art collector. These are things that define someone’s life as more than just being an actor. And that was the most inspiring thing about getting to know him, getting to spend time with him, seeing into his life a little bit. He’s a phenomenal actor, as evidenced by his work in this film. It’s so moving and exciting, but he’s so much more than that. And that was the hook, line, and sinker for me.