‘Star Trek’ Star Zachary Quinto Says His Spock Is ‘On A Collision Course With Himself’

The actor talks about his character's inner conflict and how eager the cast is to do a sequel.

SAN DIEGO — At Comic-Con there are stars, there are favorites, and then there are kings. These days, names like Bruce Campbell, William Shatner and Stan Lee are moving over to make room for a new god among geeks: 31-year-old Zachary Quinto.

We caught up with the brain-swiping “Heroes” baddie on top of the new Hard Rock Hotel, where he sat back in a brimmed hat and sunglasses, looking out at the swarms of people who had attended a panel for his hit show moments before. Thanks to the series and his role in next May’s “Star Trek” reboot , Quinto is a fast-rising genre favorite. But he was nonetheless excited when we gave him a first look at his new Spock movie poster and was eager to talk to us about pointy ears, rules for dealing with nerds and the “Trek” sequels to come.

MTV: You just came out of the “Heroes” panel. How did it go?

Zachary Quinto: It was a momentous occasion for us, actually. It’s great to be back; we surprised the audience and showed the premiere episode of the [third] season. It was really cool; the response was overwhelming. It’s always [weird], because you come down here to San Diego, and you’re in these giant rooms with, like, 8,000 people, and then they whisk you off and you’re done.

MTV: I always find it interesting which famous people are still able to walk the convention floor without getting mobbed by fanboys. I saw Patrick Wilson from “Watchmen” today, just going from booth to booth without being bothered.

Quinto: We went to school together!

MTV: Really?

Quinto: Well, at different times, but we went to the same school.

MTV: Would you ever be brave enough to give it a try?

Quinto: I walked the floor yesterday! I feel like there are a couple of rules you have to follow when you’re on the floor: One is don’t stop. Like, if one person recognizes you and asks for your picture you’ve got to duck away and take it in a really discreet spot, or you can’t do it. Because once one person notices you, then everybody notices. … [The second rule is] look like you know where you’re going, and you’re less likely to draw attention to yourself.

MTV: Part of the fun in these Comic-Con panels is the people who get up and ask questions, often in costume. Any notables from today?

Quinto: The hands-down favorite for me was this little kid who stood at the microphone and asked, “Silo, you’re my favorite hero. You’re the best hero. I love you, Silo!” I’m like, “It’s Sylar, but you’re cool.”

MTV: So, what is going on with Sylar in the new season of “Heroes”?

Quinto: It’s so action-packed. I feel like every time I go to work, I’m getting hooked into my harness again to get thrown and flown, or fight with somebody. … My character is definitely gonna be in the face of a lot of conflict within himself this year. People always ask me: “Is it possible for him to be good?” and I say, “I don’t know about turning good, but there is the idea of him displaying some restraint against his instinctual desire to kill.” [Now he's] wrestling with what that means.

MTV: One of the hottest collectibles on the floor this year is your Spock poster. I’ve seen mobs fighting over it. We have one for you.

Quinto: Is that true? That’s crazy. I haven’t seen this yet. [He unfurls it.] That’s crazy! There it is, 5/8/09. I need to step a little closer to a razor, huh?

MTV: The first thing you notice is the famous Vulcan ears. Tell us about them.

Quinto: Yeah, the ears were about a two-hour process. … They were fun. I’d often forget about them once they were on.

MTV: Did you ever make a Starbucks run and accidentally leave them on?

Quinto: [Laughs.] No, they definitely wouldn’t allow that.

MTV: When I first unrolled my copy of the poster, I thought for a few seconds that it was Leonard Nimoy. Do you take that as a compliment?

Quinto: Good, that’s an enormous compliment. That’s what we were going for . It’s the character; he’s so well-defined, and so clear. It’s such an iconic character because of Leonard, and I think we’d be silly if we didn’t welcome parallels between what we’re doing and what came before.

MTV: Have you heard what happens if you put all four character posters together?

Quinto: Of course. It makes the Enterprise insignia; they’re good like that. And it’s such a great amalgam of the old and the new: You’ve got these classic “Star Trek” colors with red, yellow and blue. And then Eric Bana’s is gray and black, and you have this style of photography that is so away from that. … This really edgy, modern take on these characters.

MTV: When last we spoke, you were just beginning “Trek.” Now that your work is done, what are you most proud of?

Quinto: I’m most proud of my eyebrows, for growing back as quickly as they did after I had to shave them. [Laughs.] No, the whole thing was an epic life-changer.

MTV: You all had to walk a fine line between tribute and reinvention. Which of your co-stars found that balance best?

Quinto: If I’m going to attribute the capturing of the right tone to anybody, it would have to be to J.J. [Abrams], because he hired the best people for every role. Chris Pine’s performance is incredible — John Cho’s performance, Simon Pegg, Anton [Yelchin], Zoe [Saldana], Karl [Urban], it’s the whole gang. It was like we’d already done a movie together. … I know it’s just the beginning.

MTV: So, sequels are on the way?

Quinto: Those are conversations that have to be had by other people before they can be had with us. … If the movie does as well as we hope it will, then the intention will be that there are more stories to tell. … That’s up to the fans, and to opening weekend.

MTV: Did Leonard Nimoy give you any special “Trek” items, as a sign of his approval?

Quinto: He’s given me a couple things which I hold very dear. One thing I kept with me the entire time. It was always on my person. I can’t say enough about that guy; he’s an incredible man with an incredible life, and I hope to have half as much a rich experience. … I’m incredibly grateful that he was involved in [the new film], because he made it a richer experience. And that’s hard to do, because it was already up there.

MTV: Did you ever perfect your Vulcan salute?

Quinto: I worked on it a lot. I got it in the end.

MTV: Can you give us a little flavor?

Quinto: No, you guys have to wait! May 8 of ’09. Until then, my lips are sealed.

MTV: When I think Spock, I can’t help but recall the heartbreaking brilliance at the end of “Wrath of Khan.” Is there a Spock moment in this film that even approaches that?

Quinto: Oh, yeah. That’s what this movie is about, exploring the humanity of these people. And with humanity invariably comes challenge, and comes pain. We don’t shy away from that at all. My character’s story, in particular, is firmly rooted in an exploration of what that is. For somebody who’s working so hard to stay so clearly separate, it’s a collision course with himself in many ways.

MTV: How so?

Quinto: We visit [Spock] at a time when he’s not as in control of his balance, and there’s a lot of heartbreak in that.

MTV: The other day, when we were interviewing Samuel L. Jackson, his cell phone went off, and the ringtone was his speech from “Pulp Fiction.”

Quinto: That’s his ringtone?

MTV: Yep. Do you similarly embrace your fame? Will you take the Spock poster home and hang it, like, above your bed?

Quinto: I would hang this in my office, more than in my house. My office is a place where I celebrate my work, and the work I will do. Although I don’t know about this one — it’s a little bit narcissistic to hang this one. It’s me! C’mon, I know what I look like.

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