Spock & Sylar - Zachary Quinto On Playing Heroes & Villains

Heroes Zachary Quinto Interview

In two short years, Sylar has proven to be one of the most dangerous individuals in the Heroes universe. He has terrorized those around him, sliced open skulls, consumed their abilities, and murdered without mercy. Then during season two, a depowered Sylar still managed to pull people’s strings like a master puppeteer before returning to all his glory in the finale.

With the third season of Heroes kicking off on September 22nd, Sylar himself, actor Zachary Quinto, participated in a press conference to reflect on his character and the looming darkness on the series.

And oh yeah, he also spoke briefly about playing an certain iconic Vulcan in J.J. Abrams upcoming big screen Star Trek relaunch.

Newsarama: Zachary, when you signed on as Sylar, did you have any way of knowing how big this character would turn out to be or how viewers would love to hate him?

Zachary Quinto: Absolutely not. I don’t think there’s any way to predict the way that things as powerful as this show has been for all of us involved in it and for our audience. When you get involved in it, it’s something that takes you by storm a little bit. This is obviously the biggest example in my experience of that happening but yeah, there’s really no way to predict it. And obviously, I’m most grateful it did, but had no way of telling when I signed on.

NRAMA: Did you always think you would have a place in the sci-fi movie making and TV shows or was it just something you fell into?

Quinto: Yeah, I never imagined my experience would lead me so deeply into the comic book and science fiction world as it has, but again, it’s something that I’m incredibly grateful for. And harkening back to my theatre training, it makes sense when you look at it from that perspective because I think there’s something very theatrical about those worlds.

Obviously, the world of Heroes is incredibly heightened and there’s something very theatrical about it. So while I never really expected it, you know, it doesn’t necessarily surprise me now that I have been ensconced in it. And it’s also a really exciting group of fans so I feel like that’s something else that is an added bonus to the whole thing. It’s like probably the most ardent group of people that you could ever be working for in terms of fans and their enthusiasm for he stories that you’re telling. So I’m happy to be here.

Now that I am, I definitely look forward to sort of exploring other areas of storytelling, but I’m so grateful that this one has led me to a point where I’ll be able to do that.

NRAMA: As far as Sylar goes, he was the main bad guy and in season two, he spent a lot of time recovering. It looks like he is more involved this year so what were your intentions coming into season three and are you satisfied with the first two?

Quinto: I think the scripts this season are just more exciting, more action-packed, and more dynamic than ever. I think it just keeps getting better and every time I open a script, it’s really a thrill. My approach is always the same in whatever I’m working on which is to serve the text. I think we’re really fortunate to work with incredibly creative, imaginative, consistent writers that bring surprise. Sometimes when I open the scripts in season three, it’s difficult to keep track of exactly where I’m going, because there are so many different aspects of this character’s experiences this year that are drawn upon.

NRAMA: We got some of Sylar’s background as Gabriel Gray. How much more of his past would you be interested in learning and how much more evil would you like Sylar to go?

Quinto: Well, I would certainly be interested in learning as much about his background as the writers see fit. I mean, we do go there again this year. At a certain point, you’ll sort of revisit that character and the shades of that character as you first saw him.

As far as how evil I’d want him to get, I feel Sylar’s evil is rooted in a great humanity, a lot of smallness, and a feeling of sort of emptiness. And so I don’t really look at it again as like how evil he could possibly get. I look at it as what he has in front of him and the choices that he makes in order to seize his opportunities or feel he’s constantly wrestling with the desire to feel special, the desire to feel valid, and the desire to feel viable. So feel those are the ways I come at it more than the level of evil that he achieves because those are really just means to an end.

NRAMA: Of the episodes you’ve shot so far this season, in what ways has Sylar grown and developed and with that, what are some of the acting challenges for you?

Quinto: Well, this is the longest time I’ve ever spent playing one character on a show and I think there are some unique challenges that come along with that…..the idea of just being on a show like Heroes and playing a character in an open ended kind of way, especially in the serialized way we tell stories. So for me, this character grows and evolves in so many ways this season. Primarily, he is put in situations and in some way, he is manipulated to employ restraint against his instincts and his impulses that we’ve never seen him have to employ before.

And that’s been a really fascinating journey for me and also equally challenging. When you come to settle into a character and there are certain aspects of this character in particular that people respond to and people come to sort of expect. And there are a lot of unexpected turns this year for my character and every time I open a script, there’s just a different kind of challenge whether it’s either a physical challenge in terms of a fight sequence or a stunt sequence that we’re doing, or a special effects sequence that we’re doing, or an emotional challenge in terms of what he is coming up against in himself and outside of himself, and what he’s coming up against outside of himself with the people that he’s interacting with. I think the tapestry for that has been incredibly rich for my character in particular this year so it’s been a ride for sure.

NRAMA: There is this battle coming in the second part of the opener between Sylar and Elle. Is this going to be a sci-fi extravaganza with huge effects or is it a personal battle? And how much did you and Kristin Bell enjoy shooting it?

Quinto: Well, I just love Kristin [Bell] all around. I love working with her and hanging out with her. I think she has a great energy and is a phenomenal actress so any time I get to work with her, it’s a good time. And it’s a pretty epic battle. Some things go down and there are definitely some special effects to it. There are definitely some stunt elements to it. And it’s both personal and epic as our show often does.

NRAMA: Between Sylar and Spock, there is some commonality in that they were both originally part of an ensemble and then broke out as big fan favorites. And they are so dynamically opposed. One is this repressed good guy and clean shaven; then there is Sylar who is this open sore. What is that like for you?

Quinto: Sure, I mean, I think there’s elements of the characters that echo each other but I think they echo each other from very different, opposite ends of the spectrum. Each of the characters employs a stillness and sort of a rich internal point of view that informs the way they behave and the way that they relate to people around them. And it’s great fun to have characters that are rich and that are full of challenges and full of rewards. And both of these characters are clearly that. So as an actor, you’re right. I don’t really approach a character as to whether or not it’s good or bad; I just approach a character as to where they live in me.

NRAMA: Was it a relief getting back to that kind of freedom of letting loose as Sylar after Spock?

Quinto: I think that’s the thing. That’s the best….kind of one of the similarities. Both these characters are very contained and controlled. So I mean letting loose in the sense of engaging in or indulging in these sort of instincts or impulses to murder and let loose in a violent kind of way, for me, it was more like coming home when we came back to work on the show after going away on a new and uncharted excursion with the movie, and the scope and the scale of the franchise, and the iconic nature of the character that I was stepping into. There was a tremendous sense of completion when I finished the film and a tremendous sense of familiarity when I came back to work on Heroes.

NRAMA: This is obviously a big year for you with your first movie coming out which is a doozy. What has been your career plan using Heroes as a springboard and how did you choose Star Trek as your first movie?

Quinto: This whole year for me has been such a blur of good fortune and very little of it was by design. I feel like my experience on Heroes and the world I which it is rooted lends itself to the attention that led me to Star Trek. I don’t really think of it in terms of how I use Heroes to get movie roles or other jobs. I am as grateful to be on Heroes now as I did when I first started. It is so fulfilling creatively and professionally. No amount of success, exposure, or opportunities are really going to matter or be fulfilling unless you can be totally present in what you doing right now. That is the way I have gone from one thing to another. There were so many fortuitous elements that sort of lined up in a magical way that you could never even begin to conceive that unless sit was happening to you. I feel I couldn’t be in a better spot right now or happier where I am. I have faith in the fact that alone will lead me to whatever the next experience I am meant to have is.

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