Interview With Zachary Quinto [UPDATED]

At Comic Con I had moment to chat with Zacharay Quinto, the new Spock for the 2008 Star Trek film. Quinto provides some clues to the film and also discusses working with Leonard Nimoy and his thoughts on the Trek franchise and fans (and Shatner).


click more for the interview… What was the process like for getting the role?

Zachary Quinto: My first meeting was April 15th, then I left the country for almost two months. Then I got back on June 2nd, met with J.J. [Abrams] June 5th and they offered me the part the role in June 7th. So it was very compacted Do you know if you were up against other actors?

Zachary Quinto: I am not able to answer that question, I don’t really know. The fact that I am the first one that they cast in the movie suggests that I came in relatively early on. Was [Heroes co-star] Greg [Grunberg] involved at all in this process?

Zachary Quinto: I don’t really know. Greg and J.J. go back to kindergarten and I am sure they have had a conversation about it. I am sure Greg came to my aide as a character reference. I certainly extended my gratitude to Greg for his support through this process as I extend it to the entire Heroes crew. I mean I would not be able to do this and in this situation if it wasn’t for Heroes and that isn’t lost on me. The fact that Tim [Kring] and Dennis [Hammer] and Allan [Arkush] got behind this idea from the beginning. Tim and I had one talk about this in Paris a couple months ago and he got behind it and stayed behind it and that is why it is happening. So how much of a fan of Trek were have you been?

Zachary Quinto: It is actually limited. I am familiar with the series, certainly watched the series and saw the movies I was always interested in it peripherally. But I never really got too deeply involved in the mythology of it, which is part of what excites me about doing the movie and being part of this re-imagining of the franchise. But you have talked in the past about how you were interested in the film and specifically the character of Spock as far back late last year. Where did that interest come from?

Zachary Quinto: It comes from the complexity of the character and the experiences that I have had personally and professionally in the past few years leading me to a point where I feel like I identify with a lot of aspects of what this character is going through in terms of the structure of the movie and the story structure that [screenwriters] Alex [Kurtzman] and Bob [Orci] have created. So that is really where it came from for me when I found out they were doing the project. Also to learn about it. To become a part of something that is so steeped in history and is so iconic and has such a following is such an honor. What can you tell me about the Bob and Alex script?

Zachary Quinto: It is a really exciting imagination of the genesis of these characters and their convergence. I felt inspired by them and the whole creative team. …by ‘the characters’ do you mean Kirk and Spock?

Zachary Quinto: Ya…and all the characters too, but I am not at liberty to discuss anything about the story. There is humanity to it. There is definitely an honesty to it that I think people will be really drawn to…whether they are a big fan of the series before or not. And that is something I really responded to. How are you going to juggle things with Heroes? Aren’t you going to have to start doing some prelim work and tests for Trek?

Zachary Quinto: I imagine…I am sure they will have to find the right texture for my latex ears right? I don’t know their schedule, I am pretty sure it starts in November. Heroes wont be done by then but they have made the commitment to work it out. So they aren’t just going to kill you off on Heroes?

Zachary Quinto: Well you know what…you always run that risk when you leave one project to work on another. And if that serves the story by the time the movie is done filming and there is no way for me to return to Heroes that would be incredibly disappointing, but I should hope we could be able to find a way for it to work out. The writers have talked about this film being the beginning of a new series, so are you up for more Trek movies?

Zachary Quinto: Ya there is potential for that down the line. If they want me to be part of one I will be happy to jump on board. I think only time will tell. J.J. [Abrams] says he is looking for ideas for casting Kirk, have you given him any ideas?

Zachary Quinto: Well we talked a little bit about it. I said I would put my thinking cap on. I certainly have a wide resource of actor friends and contemporaries that I have known and worked with for a long time so I will certainly give it some thought. So he wasn’t being coy…he is really searching now?

Zachary Quinto: He wasn’t being coy…they are really looking. And I think that is a great thing. I think that is going to open up the role to someone to really make it their own, and I think that is what it needs to be? What about Abrams comment about wanting William Shatner, but not sure it can work. What do you think about Shatner being in the movie?

Zachary Quinto: I am total concurrence with J.J. I feel what ever is best for the movie. I mean Bill Shatner is an amazing actor and is responsible for the success of this franchise for the last 40 years as much as anybody who has been a part of it. So if it works out organically and it serves the story then and it makes it a better movie I would be thrilled and honored to meet and with him. Have you talked to [Heroes recurring guest star] George [Takei] or other actors who have worked in Trek about what happens once you play in Trek? It now guarantees you a spot on the convention circuit for the rest of your life.

Zachary Quinto: I guess so [laughing]…right? Do you think you will have an opportunity to reach out to the fans over the next year?

Zachary Quinto: I am sure I will. The fans are what kept it alive this long. To be a part of that is an incredible honor and not one I take lightly. I feel like there is a great responsibility into stepping in to this role and I have some really big shoes to fill. The fact Leonard [Nimoy] is involved and that I have his blessing, I couldn’t ask for anything more…it is really an opportunity of the lifetime. What are your thoughts about working with Leonard Nimoy?

Zachary Quinto: The thing that excites me as much as working with J.J., Damon [Lindelof], and Bob and Alex is working with Leonard Nimoy and getting to know him as a person. To learn how this experience has effected his life. I think he is an incredibly sensitive and profound artist and not just and actor. I think that this experience has had a lot to do with shaping that. I feel truly honored and humbled to experience it with him and not just taking it over or stepping into it. It is really going to be an experience I share with him and that is a real gift.

Quinto with his predecessor and co-star Leonard Nimoy


UPDATED: More Quinto interviews
Quinto gave some shorter interviews to a few other outlets at Comic-Con..

check em out: SciFi Wire  |  IESB (Video)  |  KNSB (Video)

(Photos: TOP: Anthony Pascale, BOTTOM: Al Ortega) 

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First! :D Sounds like a great addition to the family..

Quinto’s pretty tall.

Genesis of the characters and their convergence. Well there you go.

It’s amazing how much he looks like Nimoy.

I am really going to enjoy watching this project unfold! :D

Exciting stuff; cool that he took some time for the site! Nice interview. Quinto is indeed tall.

I just realized that if Quinto is taller than Nimoy, & Nimoy is taller than the Shat, the Shat is gonna look really small next to Quinto in any photos like the one above. Wow!

“I think he is an incredibly sensitive and profound artist and not just an actor.”

Well said. Nimoy is a class act.

I remember back in the late 70s that recasting TOS was unthinkable. How things have changed.

Uh-oh! He used the word re-imagining in the interview. Now we’ll have to deal with people jumping in thinking that the new movie is going to completely disregard everything that that has gone before it.

Otherwise, a wonderful interview that was surprisingly refreshing to read. I hope that his gig on Heroes doesn’t get chopped if he does this movie.

Is Quinto going to get latex earlobes as well as points? Nimoy has large ears with free earlobes while Quinto has small ears with attached earlobes. And Quinto has huge eyes compared to Nimoy. Hope they don’t appear together.

I can’t comment on Quinto as I have not seen Heroes. He appears good so far, interview was good, paint s a good picture.

What I notice is his eye brows and bone structure around that area. It will be interesting to see what they find after they shave his eye brows and do make-up tests. He may not look like Nimoy in make-up as Nimoy did 40 years ago. But what do I know! The noses are kinda similar.

The point is he will look the way he does and I think we have to expect that he won’t look like Nimoy. And I bet the costume will not look like they did on TOS either.

He sounds very humbled to get this role. I think Abrams has done a great job choosing Quinto. I am very excited to see what he does with the role. The fact that he has Nimoy’s blessing is huge. Now on to KIRK!!!

Great interview!!

I feel compelled to say: I hope Mr. Quinto, his association with Mr. Nimoy, or his portrayal of Spock are not going to be dissected down to the sub-atomic level. I know some people are looking for a Leonard Nimoy circa 1960’s clone, but I don’t think that’s very realistic. I will continue to assume a “wait and see/ sit back and enjoy the ride” disposition, especially since I won’t be involved in the making of the film…

One other note: when I was a very young fan of ST way back when, I sent Leonard Nimoy a letter and a drawing of Spock. I was ecstatic when I received a personal reply from him, commenting on how much he liked my drawing — I still have the letter, and cherish it to this day. Needless to say, I have always thought Mr. Nimoy to be one of the most sincere, thoughtful and charming actors to ever come out of Hollywood. So, Mr. Nimoy, if you’re listening, THANK YOU, and thank you for making my day!

I am very much hoping they use the original Red, Blue, Gold scheme for the uniforms. Simply doing that will make it appear much more during the TOS era.

Or, will they use uniforms that were similar to the ones used in WNMHGB?? I think the uni’s they used during season 3 looked pretty good and still hold up fairly well today.

If Quinto is wearing a Blue Science shirt it will sell him even more as Spock IMO.

Nimoy’s not that tall. I got to stand next to him at a showing of his photographs about 9 years ago. I’m 5’9″ and he was only a hair taller than me. I was shocked– Spock seemed 7 feet tall in TOS.

“I remember back in the late 70s that recasting TOS was unthinkable. How things have changed.”

I’ve thought about that a bit of late, including my own feelings on the matter, and this is the conclusion I’ve reached – most TOS fans didn’t want to see the parts recast as long as the original cast were alive and physically able to play the roles convincingly. As long as we could have those actors playing those parts, that’s what we wanted. But now that we’ve lost the beloved James Doohan and DeForest Kelley, and there is no longer the possibility of a future project with all of the original actors (or even with the original “trinity”) intact, it now feels appropriate to think about the characters continuing without the original actors. It doesn’t feel like anybody is being pushed out the door, which is really what Harve Bennett’s “Starfleet Academy” project felt like in 1990 – “how can we continue to make money from these characters without having to pay for this aging cast?” Its a different situation now, and I imagine most people’s feelings are different too.

This entire STAR TREK project is so exciting. What will the new uniforms look like? Will the Enterprise look the same? How about the sets? Who’s gonna be the new Kirk? Is Shatner in or not? We fans have such a great voyage of discovery ahead of us over the next year and a half.

I hope they dont do Time Travel…..I am so tired of Time Travel….

Steve623, well said. I couldn’t agree more.

I agree with Steve623. We have the best of all worlds. Trek is coming back with not only new actors playing the classic roles but Nimoy and (most likely) Shatner returning also. who knows if any of the rest of the surviving classic cast will turn up. I would still like to see George Takei as Admiral Nogura handing over command of the Enterprise to the new Kirk. Talk about passing the baton to a new generation of Trek.

Quinto seems like a good guy. That’s gonna really make a difference as this becomes sequel number 4 and 5.
Anyway, great news!

I’m with you Monty, the time travel thing has been done to death on all the different shows. And please, no Mirror Universe stuff.

That being said, if it’s a good story I won’t ultimately care what story devices they end up using.

I concur with Steve623.

If done well, Star Trek (2008) will honor the work of the original cast. Judging by the words used in describing the script thus far, I have high hopes that we will get a real Valentine to TOS. I don’t mind that Quinto doesn’t look *exactly* like Nimoy, nor do I worry about whether the Enterprise has the same exact dimensions as the old ship– nothing that happens in this movie can invalidate the brilliance of the ORIGINAL Star Trek. At best, we get a movie from J.J. Abrams and Co. that augments the mythology and hopefully revives it for a new generation.

It would be a real shame if Star Trek faded from the popular consciousness– it would be a loss to those kids growing up today. I consider myself truly fortunate to have had Trek in its heyday. So, here’s hoping that Abrams pulls this off for all of our benefit.

In regard to the height of Nimoy and Quinto, according to IMDb, Nimoy is 6’1/2″ while Quinto is 6’2″. Shatner is 5’91/2″.

GREAT interview. Nicely worded questions. :)

#21 Tim, I agree, this is “the best of all worlds.” No one wanted Kirk recast in 1990, and only now, 40 years after Trek’s debut, does the idea begin to feel acceptable. This is the perfect time for this film to happen, IMO. While Nimoy and Shatner are still with us and fit enough to participate. If this were being released in the 50th anniversary year (and btw, let me be the first to say … a sequel in 2016 would be MUCH appreciated, JJ!) and either Bill or Leonard or both had died, the new movie would feel a lot emptier for me. It’s made me very happy that Nimoy is involved. The simple fact that he’s appearing significantly ups the levels of confidence and emotion I feel about this. Now I want Shatner too.

Quinto seems like a very nice, down to Earth guy. Thanks for all the effort you put into this site, Anthony. I do find it to be the best source for Trek news!

lol they have the same nose!

It’s fitting that Zach Quinto give Anthony an exclusive too, as TrekMovie was on top of him becoming Spock from way back. Great reporting and a fantastic interview, Anthony. Congratulations.

Nice interview. I just have to worry that he may take too much instruction from Nimoy on how to portray Spock. Not because of Nimoy’s performance as Spock, but because of the choice and direction Nimoy gave the cardboard Robin Curtis in Trek 3. She was the worst Vulcan ever, largely due to Nimoy’s direction on how to play a Vulcan (if one is to believe the commentary on the DVD).

But if there is any validity to that, I would much rather have Quinto base his performance on the body of Nimoy’s work as Spock, not on Nimoy telling him his personal motivations.

I believe the casting of Quinto as Spock is a benchmark for how seriously the JJ Abrams crew is taking this project. He is a great choice to take over the role, and his resemblence (at least in passing) to Nimoy means that, at the very least, they will be doing everything possible to respect the appearance of Trek characters as we have come to know them.

This is indeed a very good sign. Let’s hope we see more soon.

I agree with Steve623 too. However, I have pondered the thought of a new generation of fans that comes out of this effort. Will the new younger fans reject TOS, or consider it that “old” TV show that their father or grandfather likes so much! Par to the TOS Remastered Project is to address this.

I suppose that no matter what, life goes on, at some point, TOS will fade for some. Some new fans could appreciate the original series too. The material held up this long, it could keep on!

I feel that Zack can do it, having watched him in season 3 of the show “24” (the character of adam), he sometimes reminded me of a young Spock. I feel that to give the franchise a fresh look, sometimes it take some reimagination

Re: Shatner_Fan_2000 – July 29, 2007

” Tim, I agree, this is “the best of all worlds.” No one wanted Kirk recast in 1990, and only now, 40 years after Trek’s debut, does the idea begin to feel acceptable. This is the perfect time for this film to happen, IMO. While Nimoy and Shatner are still with us and fit enough to participate. If this were being released in the 50th anniversary year (and btw, let me be the first to say … a sequel in 2016 would be MUCH appreciated, JJ!) and either Bill or Leonard or both had died, the new movie would feel a lot emptier for me. It’s made me very happy that Nimoy is involved. The simple fact that he’s appearing significantly ups the levels of confidence and emotion I feel about this. Now I want Shatner too.

Quinto seems like a very nice, down to Earth guy. Thanks for all the effort you put into this site, Anthony. I do find it to be the best source for Trek news!”

Sing it, my friend, sing it loudly! We are tuned to the same frequency. :)

#15 & #12 — the uniforms are a big question. My own choice would be to take a fresh look at the uniforms from The Cage and from Star Trek: The Motion Picture, and try to combine the elements in a way that doesn’t look too much like pajamas. The uniforms should express some future values that are different from present day. Personally I like the TMP uniforms as a bold statement of the level of comfort and lack of self-consciousness humans have in Roddenberry’s future. Case in point, Hugh Hefner wears pajamas all the time because he can, so wouldn’t everybody if it became socially acceptable? I also note the color palette of the uniforms in The Cage and TMP are very, very similar, as are the landing-party jackets, so it seems Roddenberry had some clear, recurring preferences there.

I agree with #14 : “I hope Mr. Quinto…. portrayal of Spock are not going to be dissected down to the sub-atomic level……”

Yes, let us not become anal and unrealistic. I want to enjoy this movie!

And, I also want to thank Anthony – YOU ROCK! Keep up the good work.

Re: # 35: Yep. I had the same observatiion, plus the colors of the bridge are similar in tone. I don’t think there’s a drop of red in there. Also look at the shape of the upper bridge monitors in The Cage. They scream TMP. The network suits wanted more color according to Grace Lee Whitney, as it was a novelty back then that was thought to attract viewers. “Ooh pretty colors!” Plus the double doors on the bridge too. Roddenberry put them in TAS, because he always wanted a second bridge exit. The suits made him change it to one after the pilot .They finally let him keep a second set of doors for TNG, & the movies, starting w/ TMP.

“Will Spock be bald in this one?” “Will the uniforms be turquoise blue?” “Can Quinto raise one eyebrow?”

It’s obvious this project has generated A LOT of excitement and enthusiasm, and that’s great. But I just hope it doesn’t all end in huge disappointment.

I totally concur. I’m curious as well, but I think it’s better to just “wait and see”.

Very good insight. Many fans had problems with the TNG cast, as a matter of fact, only 20 years after TOS. Even though they were playing different characters, a lot of fans felt as if the original cast members were being replaced. Hey… it’s time.

Dissect it, rehash it, examine it to death if you will. Personally, I couldn’t give a rat’s ass what the uniforms look like, how well they do the special effects, or how much Quinto does/doesn’t look like Nimoy.

I’m much more interested how well Quinto can “ACT” in the role of Spock, how good is the script, and will it engage me enough to make my $10 feel like they were well spent?

If the film jumps around a bit, I think we will see a few different uniforms worn. My guess is you will see both “The Cage” uniforms and “TOS” uniforms in the film. I would love to see the gray jackets worn in the “Cage” on the planet used as well, as I always thought those looked similar to the ST II – VI burgundy jackets.

Oh, BTW, #37

I think that the “double door” idea comes from Roddenberry’s naval background (as do many other elements of Star Trek). Most Navy bridges have 2 exits, one on each side. I for one think it’s better that way. Those little “extra touches” made Star Trek much more engaging and realistic.

But I’ll stop now before I start examing the “subatomic particles”. (RE #17) :P

Nice interview.

I’m interested in his comment that this deals somehow with the “genesis” not only of Kirk and Spock, but “all the characters too.” I think this is the first direct evidence I’ve seen that they really are going to include something approaching the entire TOS character roster, rather than just a “Kirk and Spock meet on some other mission before Kirk commands the Enterprise” or something. On the one hand, it suggests that at least part of the film takes place within the original TOS years, which makes me happy. On the other hand, it might mean that we see the entire crew somehow meeting each other at the very beginning, which feels wrong to me — too much “Muppet Babies.”

I was intrigued when it sounded like it might deal mainly with Kirk and Spock, without regard to the other characters, because that sounds more realistic to me, especially if it’s a “first mission” sort of story. The insistence on keeping the same group of 7 characters together for all of the films was, to me, part of the downfall of the TOS movies — they went from being competent officers serving together in a large organization to a little clique of buddies who didn’t want to make new friends.

Anyway, I’m still optimistic about this project and will be very interested to find out more as time goes on.

PS– #11, magic al — Ha! I noticed the earlobes thing too. It’s surprising how much the shape of those ears becomes a familiar part of the character. I wouldn’t be surprised if they did entirely prosthetic ears to match the now-distinctive profile of Nimoy’s.

#38 RaGul:

I agree completely — this will sink or swim based on performance, not looks. More than any other character (to me), Spock’s character is defined by the *strength* of Nimoy’s performance. He could communicate so many things — curiosity, annoyance, dignity, self-control, incredibly dry wit, devastating intelligence, and absolute authority — all simultaneously, and without much obvious expressiveness. That’s incredibly difficult for an actor to pull off, and I’ve seen too many performers trying to be “Vulcans” fail utterly on the subsequent Trek shows either because they overemote (confusing stoicism with bitchiness) or underemote (confusing Vulcans with zombies). I pity anyone trying to pull this off.

Jesse Lee Soffer as Kirk. Do a google for his picture. Darn good fit.

Great interview, great achievment. Thanks!

Come on, who was surprised by this? The fix is in… all this is dog & pony show.

But I agree, it’ll come down to the goods 2008, whether or not the new actors can deliver.. and whether or not the script is truly great. :-)

Kirk is now crucial. Auditions for this character must now be done with Quinto because if they don’t capture the chemistry between Kirk and Spock, they may as well pack up and go home.

#47 – Perhaps casting Spock first was done intentionally so they could cast Kirk agaisnt Quinto for that reason..?

Nice to see he realises this role is the opportunity of a lifetime.
If this hits big, he and the new Kirk actor can become mega-stars…I hope he will give the role his all.

And it’s great that he’s tall, as I always noticed how taller Spock was than everyone else when I was young, thus making him more alien-seeming and imposing in the proceedings. :)

#43 Jeffrey S. Nelson

Can’t see it myself…you’re not his agent are you?…

yknow 10 years ago id have said Casper Van Dien wouldnt have made a bad Kirk (Starship Troopers) – incidently he’s filming Starship Troopers 3 now with Joanne Balok (T’pol) – due out later this year – Probably be straight to DVD i guess.