Heroes Week Monday – Murtz Jaffer Interviews Zachary Quinto

Here’s the interview that you have been waiting for, presented to you on the night that you have been waiting for. There’s only one thing better than the day of the Heroes season premiere and that’s getting a chance to hear from the show’s biggest villain himself… Sylar on the day of the Heroes premiere. I had the chance to interview the man himself at the Toronto stop of the Heroes World Tour and Zachary Quinto was just as fascinating as the character he portrays. What I especially liked about Quinto was the personality that oozed out of him. From the moment he slyly entered, silently sipping his Starbucks and slowly slithering to his seat (alliteration, thy name is Murtz), his demeanor dominated the room and it was the most fun that I have had interviewing somebody. At the end of the interview, while I got some pictures taken, I liked how Quinto went to check out my interview pad to see the questions that I didn’t get a chance to ask. Without question, the most interesting person that I have ever talked to. While this interview also concludes Heroes Week, it is only the beginning of the show’s second season which starts tonight on NBC and Global.

Murtz Jaffer: I think it is safe to say that you play the most evil human being on TV right now.

Zachary Qunto: That’s a compliment!

MJ: So what is that like at the grocery store?

ZQ: Yeah, it’s great fun you know? It’s been a real adventure for me. And very creatively-fulfilling to explore this character who is enormously complicated and anything but one-dimensional or two-dimensional. He’s multi-dimensional, so I have had a really enjoyable time.

MJ: You’re looking at me, and I kind of feel like I should be holding my head.

ZQ: Nooooooo… I got you covered! Don’t worry about it.

MJ: Did you know that you were going to turn into this huge villain when you were reading for the part? Did you know that Sylar was going to be SO vilified and SO bad?

ZQ: I didn’t have any real frame of reference for where he was going to fit into the show because my first audition for this show was the afternoon that it premiered (that evening). I didn’t really know because I hadn’t seen the show yet but I could tell that it was a character to whom they were giving a lot of attention. And it was a really important decision for them. But I don’t even think (and Jeph could speak to this more than I could probably), I don’t even think that they necessarily anticipated the response that would be generated by the emergence of this character into the world of the show.

MJ: I heard that when you went to audition for the show, there were all kinds of different people. Older people, younger people…

ZQ: Oh yeah, totally. They had cast a wide net and I think one of the decisions that ultimately Tim had to make was whether or not I was too young. Early on, they thought maybe they wanted to go older with this character and I think that there was something about the fact that I was in the same age bracket as Milo (Ventimiglia) and Sendhil (Ramamurthy) and Masi (Oka) and just a lot of people on the show. It sort of made it more immediate somehow. More vital for what they were fighting against.

MJ: I am sure you get this question all the time, but it’s so different from the stuff you did before. Was it a big transition for you or were you just like ‘wow, now my character gets to kill people?’

ZQ: That’s just what I do, you know? That’s why I am an actor is to go as many different places as possible and keep people guessing. This show has given me a wonderful opportunity to do that, and it continues to. It couldn’t be farther from the last role that I played (So noTORIous) and I owe a lot and I have a lot of gratitude to Tim Kring and to Dennis (Hammer) and Jeph (Loeb)…

MJ: Because that shows a lot of faith in you if you were doing that?

ZQ: Yeah. It also shows a lot of imagination on their part to see beyond the last thing that an actor did and realize what they are capable of beyond what they have shown and that’s something that I think is a real testament to the spirit of what is being created every week on this show and to the spirit of the people that are creating it.

(Jeph Loeb adds)

Jeph Loeb: And some of that was… (just to speak to that for a second), some of that actually helped in some way because often times when an actor comes in and they don’t have an extensive resume in terms of a lot of different work, it makes a network very nervous so all you can say is that ‘we think this is the right person for it.’ It didn’t really matter what his credits were previously. It was the fact that he had the credits, that somebody had actually taken the chance on him. It really helped us sort of go ‘well, look other people have gone with him.’ And I don’t think anyone really knew what he had done before so they were just sort of going ‘well, okay’ and they were moving along and then of course, the audition was pretty extraordinary.

MJ: The one question that I wanted to ask you both was that the one thing that I have heard about the second season is that there are so many new people coming in. It’s kind of like Lost with the back half of the plane being introduced. Do you worry that that’s going to take focus away from the characters that sort of brought Heroes to the dance? The Zachary Quinto’s, the Masi Oka’s…

ZQ: The nature of the show is such that it’s constantly evolving and in order to keep it as dynamic as it has been, we all know that at certain points, we have to step aside and allow other people to come in. Allow other stories to be told. It’s not about the screentime. It’s about the placement of these characters in the sort of mythology of the show. And I think that you can have a whole host of new characters as I am sure we will for the duration of the life of the show, but people are connected to the characters that they know. One of the things that I have learned about the show is that in order to make it good, nothing can be too precious that you can’t give it away.

MJ: Or that anybody can die at any moment.

ZQ: Right and that’s a rule that we have all learned and I think it’s a rule that Season 2 will teach the audience.

JL: The name of the show is Heroes which means it’s not Buffy, it’s not Angel, it’s not one person. And we have an extraordinary ensemble cast and I was there (at Lost) for the Tailies and all of that. That could change the story. Those are the people that they focused on. We’re still continuing our mosaic style of storytelling so that if there is going to be a Sylar story, that that story can exist within a new character or it can exist on its own. The idea of Nikki (Ali Larter) or Nathan (Adrian Pasdar) or any of those characters, we can team them up with other people or we can do whatever we need to do but one of the things that we are very very cognizant of is that you need to continue telling stories. If what you do suddenly shifts the focus… absolutely, if all of a sudden everything was about Dania, it would be a different show. But if we did a whole episode that was just about Zach, it would be a different show. The idea is that you just have to keep coming up with different stories. The last two episodes were all about you (jokes to Quinto)!

MJ: My last question is that we have heard all about Molly’s boogeyman, can you tell me where you’d like to see Sylar and boogeyman. Is he going to replace Sylar as the guy who everybody’s afraid of?

JL: Sylar actually is the boogeyman.

MJ: Really?

JL: In Molly’s story. But there is someone who is worse than that, that she is afraid of.

ZQ: I don’t think that… I feel strongly that there’s room. Having other villains on the show doesn’t preclude Sylar’s story from continuing to evolve. The great thing about Season 2 is that it picks up Sylar’s story at a place, I’d imagine it’s probably the last place you’d ever expect to find him both literally and figuratively. It’s like ‘really? Okay?!’ So from the perspective of an actor, being like ‘well now where are they going to take me?’ And immediately they have taken me to this place of total richness and complexity and the character is dealing with a whole new host of obstacles and challenges that I know he never imagined that he would have to face. I imagine the audience probably never imagined that he would have to face them either. The interesting question that I get a lot is ‘do you think that Sylar is redeemable? Could he ever be good?’ My answer to that is that as long as he is on the show, anything is possible. And that’s the most exciting part of being on the show.

MJ: That’s perfect, thank you so much!

ZQ: Thank you!

A nerdy computer whiz on 24, a brain-stealing serial killer (“Sylar”) on Heroes and Tori Spelling’s gay best bud on So NoTORIous: this up-and-coming small-screen actor is nothing if not versatile. Intrigued by acting from an early age, Quinto began appearing in Pittsburgh Civic Light Opera productions as a child. But he decided to pursue acting as a vocation after being involved in a car accident at age 16. After high school, the dark and handsome player studied at Carnegie Mellon’s prestigious acting conservatory, and a year after graduating, he began landing guest spots on diverse series, everything from Touched by an Angel to CSI. His recurring role on the third season of 24 upped his profile, but 2006 was his breakthrough year. Although his first series-regular gig on So NoTORIous was cut short when the campy show failed to get picked up for a second season, he quickly snagged his signature Heroes role. With his icy stare and monotone delivery, Quinto proved a breath-taking villain, and producers announced that he would become a series regular during the sci-fi smash’s second season.

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