Playing serial killer Sylar on Heroes and Spock in Star Trek, Zachary Quinto invested two potentially soulless roles with head-turning depth. This week sees the premiere of Margin Call, an independent thriller about the financial crisis that he stars in and co-produced. Benjamin Wallace talked to him about the serendipitous timing of a fi-cri movie dropping at the same time as the Occupy Wall Street protest, and how starring in a revival of Angels in America impacted him "as a gay man."
You lived here when you did the play Angels in America, right?
I was here for a year. We did Margin Call, I wrapped Margin Call, I started rehearsals for Angels in America two days later. It was incredible. It was the most challenging thing I've ever done as an actor. And the most rewarding, hands-down. I had not been on stage in six years and so for me to do my first play in New York and to have it be this epic masterwork that, you know, went right to the heart of so many matters that were and still are circulating both in society and in my life personally, it was an enormously rewarding and terrifying journey for sure.
What was terrifying?
Just the sheer scale of the play to begin with. And then I just think revisiting that work and revisiting the themes of that work at a time when the political and social climate of the country is shifting so dramatically and so irreversibly, to really come up against the echoes of that hatred and that bigotry and that fear that still exists in our culture, just in a different context now — you know, I feel it was just a really interesting exploration for me.
Doing that play made me realize how fortunate I am to have been born when I was born. And to not have to witness the decimation of an entire generation of amazingly talented and otherwise vital men. And at the same time, as a gay man, it made me feel like I — there's still so much work to be done. There's still so many things that need to be looked at and addressed. The undercurrent of that fear and that, you know, insidiousness still is swarming. It's still all around us. To revisit that world at all, it took a toll on me. It definitely was an incredible experience but it was really daunting at times.
when i found out that jamey rodemeyer killed himself - i felt deeply troubled. but when i found out that jamey rodemeyer had made an it gets better video only months before taking his own life - i felt indescribable despair. i also made an it gets better video last year - in the wake of the senseless and tragic gay teen suicides that were sweeping the nation at the time. but in light of jamey's death - it became clear to me in an instant that living a gay life without publicly acknowledging it - is simply not enough to make any significant contribution to the immense work that lies ahead on the road to complete equality. our society needs to recognize the unstoppable momentum toward unequivocal civil equality for every gay lesbian bisexual and transgendered citizen of this country. gay kids need to stop killing themselves because they are made to feel worthless by cruel and relentless bullying. parents need to teach their children principles of respect and acceptance. we are witnessing an enormous shift of collective consciousness throughout the world. we are at the precipice of great transformation within our culture and government. i believe in the power of intention to change the landscape of our society - and it is my intention to live an authentic life of compassion and integrity and action. jamey rodemeyer's life changed mine. and while his death only makes me wish that i had done this sooner - i am eternally grateful to him for being the catalyst for change within me. now i can only hope to serve as the same catalyst for even one other person in this world. that - i believe - is all that we can ask of ourselves and of each other.