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Zach’s talk at Univ of Utah

April 8, 2013, by Lindsay RobinsonTweets wrt Utah

It’s raining in Salt Lake and cold. Low clouds. Zach tweeted to Victor and Anna something about swimming here. Good luck.

Zachary’s talk was at the Union Building at the University of Utah. It was to start at 7, with starting at 6. But students started lining up at 5:30. There was an excited buzz in which you could hear “Zachary” occasionally. Several had seen the wedding movie, having been lucky enough to be in the 25 picked in a drawing for a special viewing with Zachary. They said it was really funny. And they chatted about how much they liked Zach. “He’s really laid back.” A couple had seen several celebs brought to the campus, but thought Zach was more personable.

Photo by Amerikenna

Photo by Amerikenna

There are three chairs on the stage, with a table in front, 3 bottles of water on the table. Most of the audience were young, presumably students. I saw only a few anywhere near my age. It was about half male and half female. The girl next to me was looking on Tumblr at pictures of Zach from the new Star Trek movie. About a quarter of the people were hovering over tablets and cell phones.

A woman introduces 2 panelists and Zach. One is local radio host Bill Allred, an older man who dominated the questions. The other panelist was a student, Laura Madsen, who was apparently there to ask questions about Zach’s tv roles, but she didn’t get much of a chance.

The first questions were about Zachary’s childhood and his father’s death. Zach said he mostly remembered his father as a giant. He was 6’4”. “The creativity [of acting] was my outlet. I could work through all the things that came up with the trauma.”  Zach’s mother worked from the time his father died until about 6 or 7 years ago. “I don’t know how my brother and I turned out as we did.” There were a lot of adult kids in that neighborhood – kids that had moved out and then come home. At the time Zach went to LA, his brother was already there. Has been there about 15 years now. Zach said his mother was very participatory and that they had great friends and family.  There wasa strong sense of morality. Some may be from Catholic school. Zach went to Catholic school from kindergarten to 3rd grade. Public school for grades 4 through 8. Then to a Catholic high school. It was very strict.

“I was 10 when I first found my way to performance. There was nothing else I was even remotely interested in.”  He was in a group called Mini Stars – abut 25 kids age 6 to 16. He was also a munchkin in the Wizard of Oz. Charlie Bates in Oliver. “Song and dance was my introduction to what it is to be an actor.” “I had a close and important relationship with my acting teacher.” The panelist laughed, “Your acting teacher must be thrilled [with your success].” Zach laughed. “She taught me that it is as important to be a good person as it is to be a good actor.  I was a little shiiiiiit. I’ve seen vids of that time that make me want to leave the room.”

Conversation moved to Zach’s Gene Kelly award. The award was state sponsored through Civic Light Opera. “It was in 1994, my junior year.” Would he be interested in doing a musical now? “I would certainly do a musical if the right one came along.”

Zach talkingAt age 16, Zachary has a serious automobile accident. He knew by then that he wanted to be an actor, but his mother was resistant to her son wanting a career in the arts. “The first time she gave me the car, I picked up three friends. I was driving recklessly, coming down a 25 mph ramp at about 60 and hit a patch of black ice.” No one was hurt but the car was totaled. Zach had a “Cinderella license”, one that meant he had to be home by midnight. And it was 11:30. “I had to call my mom and say, “ah, mom. I’ll be a little late” – and part 2 “.. and you’ll need to come pick me up.” You can see the chagrined kid in Zach’s face. “The conflict generated by this accident led me to make an irrevocable declaration.” The incident fortunately brought them closer together.

One result was that Zachary’s mother made him go to a pre-eminent voice teacher for an evaluation.  Zach joked that she may have been hoping the evaluation would be that he didn’t have the voice for it.  But as we know, he certainly does!

Allred commented, “You kind of did things backward. Carnegie-Mellon is close to NY. Most actors would have said, ‘Time to go to NY’. Why didn’t you?”  Zach: “People told me not to. Look, I hated the thought of LA. ‘I’ll NEVER live in LA!’ I was driving with friends to a showcase and the friends asked, ‘But what if you get in a TV series?’”  Zach struck a determined and arrogant pose. “I don’t care! I won’t go to LA!” He laughs. “At the time I had spikey hair and was really scrawny. Producers must have looked at me and said, ‘That kid is really funny……looking. They responded to me in LA. I figured something in this path might get me where I wanted to go.”

Allred asks about his first job. It was a Surge commercial. A god-awful Mt. Dew knock off. Zach grimaces.  Allred joked, “It no longer exists. Do you feel responsible for that?” They both laugh.  Next was a burrito commercial.

In LA Zach started auditioning right away. “I quickly learned it was all about building a structure and building relationships. That demystified the city and the industry for me. The way it works is that you pre-read with a casting person. If they like you, then they take you to the producer for a reading. If you get to know the casting people, they can take you straight to the producer.”  Zach did a pilot for Fox, “American Town”, but it didn’t get picked up. “By 1999, I was declaring, ‘I’m done with LA!’  I can be very extreme – a Gemini!”, he grins. “I was constantly swearing that I’d move to NY. But then all my friends and classmates started moving to LA. ‘Can I come stay with you?’”

Next came Six Feet Under. Zach was in one episode and there was talk of having his character back in more.  Then he got in 24. He was also waiting tables in restaurants.  “Were you any good?” He laughs that he got very good and very apathetic. But he was working at super hipster restaurants, so he could succeed being apathetic. Someone called out that he’d directed an episode. Zach said, no, that he played a director. “I sucked. I really sucked. Pull out a clip of that and I’ll leave. I sucked for the first 10 years of my career!  I had to live before I learned how to be good. Isn’t that the way it goes?”

Zach at UU talk tweetedMadsen asked Zach if he watched TV. “No. Not any more. I watch stuff on line or on Netflix – West Wing, Girls, House of Cards. Things I can look at in concentrated time with friends. I don’t have time for leisurely watching.” So what do you do for entertainment? “It depends on where I am. In NY, I go out with friends and to plays. In LA I tend to be a homebody. I love to entertain, having friends over.”

Zach was asked about his episode in “Touched by an Angel”, which is apparently shot in Salt Lake City. “I heard about getting it on Sept 11. The world was falling apart and in the middle of everything, my manager, a brash NY woman, called saying ‘You got the job’. Planes were grounded so they had to drive me here. ‘They’ll pick you up tonight.’ I said no, not tonight. My brother was in NY and we couldn’t get in touch. I needed to process all this. So they picked me up the next morning – in a white stretch limo, like I was going to the prom. Drove me 10 hours to Salt Lake. Once I got there, I interacted mostly with the other actors. There was a very spiritual tone that helped. Della Reese is herself a minister. I hiked by City Creek – I love to hike. There were some very healing rituals.”

Heroes was the next topic. “Heroes changed my whole life. I will be forever grateful to Tim Kring and the producers and the other cast members. I was really depressed before I got that job. Hadn’t shaved in 3 ½ months. I didn’t care anymore. I think that actually helped me get the part. I was the character – Gabriel, that is. We didn’t know where that character was going.”

IMG_0017“It’s hard on an actor. Look, what if you were selling this bottle of water. You’d take it in to a buyer. He might say, “yeah, I like it. But I’d prefer it if the bottle were skinnier. If the water was more dynamic.” You’d say, “Thank you” and take it to someone else. But an actor has to go through that all the time. I’ve seen it destroy some people. You have to have an inner sense of your own place. Inadvertently I choose a path of self-discovery.”  Was it religion that helped? “No! The opposite. I grew up in a religion that says who I am isn’t acceptable. I have a lot of aversion to the hypocrisy and dogma of religion. What I’m talking about is more spiritual. It also helped, going into psychotherapy. Understanding what motivates me. People ask me why I choose the characters I play. I’m really interested in the Shadow. Into exploring the Shadow and bringing it into the open. I come into their living rooms and I do the “heavy lifting” – they get to feel the feelings.”

AHS-Oliver: “I can’t play a character unless I feel sympathy for him. Not for what he did, of course. But for his trauma. I had trouble playing a serial killer at all! I’ve done that. Ryan and  I talked. He created an arc so I could do other things before getting into that. I’m not always enmeshed in the character – not always a method actor. I usually have no trouble stepping away from the camera and lights and back into myself. We all know it isn’t real – I know it isn’t real. But your body doesn’t know. When you are stabbing someone 14 hours a day, your body reacts. I would have to have a way to get out of that.”

AHS Season 3? “It’s an anthological series. So it’s easy for people to drop in and out. I have had no conversation with anyone about coming back for the 3rd season. But I know there is a possibility Ryan could call me and say they have this piece they’d like me to do.”

24 was my learning ground. Heroes was my proving ground.”

Do you prefer playing the villain? “I like playing an interesting role.”

How do you prepare? “It depends on the piece. For something with historical connections [like Oliver in AHS], I do a lot of reading.- about Dalmer and others. Star Trek? It is so Shakespearean. Such a large scope. For a play, I definitely have rituals since you have to do it over and over again.  For me a play is the most..sacred..medicine. It is what makes me feel most connected to what is bigger than me.

“ About Star Trek – I had just gotten Heroes – and the first season was a phenomena! It brought me a wave of attention I knew I’d better use. A friend said they were doing Star Trek and that I was on some list of actors who could play Spock. So when people asked me what I wanted to do next, that’s what I’d tell them. It got back to casting so they asked me to audition.

“I met Leonard Nimoy the night before my audition. Then I left April 17 for 2 months travel in Europe.  I came back on my 30th birthday – threw myself a huge birthday party! I was told JJ wanted to meet me. I had the feeling I was coming into myself again.

“It looked like it would be a big deal that I’d miss episodes of Heroes. But then there was the Writer’s Strike. Heroes [which was still being written] was on hold. But Star Trek was already written and could go ahead. Leonard approved me – he had contractual approval. You know, when you’re the guy who created the role. Who hadn’t done it in 19 years. And JJ asks if you’d consider it. Then you can say, ‘Yes. Under these conditions’.

flyer“He and I had many conversations. He’s become a close friend. Leonard & Susan had tickets to see Glass Menagerie the weekend of the big snow. But we canceled 3 shows, including theirs. 3 weeks later, they flew there just to see me in the play. Leonard is how I would like to live my life as I get older.

“Did doing Spock limit Leonard? Back then attention spans weren’t as short as they are now. And Science Fiction was more a niche than it is now. Now – Iron Man is sci fi. I’ve made an effort to diversify. Yes, I’ll do another. I signed a 3 picture deal.

“Is Star Trek fun? Yes. Not shaving my eyebrows. It’s the process of playing the character – my process of preparing for Spock has to do with spending several hours in the makeup chair.

“I’ve been very lucky. The sense of collaboration has been wonderful. It is no mistake that JJ and Kring and Sarah Paulson are not only good people, but they want not only their role to work, but want everyone to work well.

“I leave next week for an insane schedule of Star Trek promotion – Australia, Moscow, Berlin, London.”

What can you tell us about this movie? “There was more of a feeling of evolution. For the first one, we couldn’t change anything because of the Writers’ Strike. But with this one we would sometimes block in the morning what we were going to shoot.”

You’ve got a good villain in this one? [The audience squeals and screams!] Zach laughs, “I’ll tell Benedict you screamed for him.” {More squeals!]

What’s the difference between film and theater? “Huge!! In TV a one hour episode takes 8 days. By the end of the season we literally get pages the day before we shoot. An important close-up may take 5 days.

“In contrast, Star Trek – about 90 to 110 pages, about the equivalent of 2 episodes  – took 6 ½ months!  Of course, there are a lot of complicating factors. Not all movies are like that. Take Victor and Anna’s “Breakup at the Wedding” – it was shot in 11 days.

“In a TV series, an actor may be playing some character for years. I get bored easily – Did I mention that I’m a Gemini?,” Zach grins.

Angels in America fit into my goal. That I’d go to LA to build my career so I can do what I want.” Did Angels come to you? “No. I auditioned twice and fought like hell for it. I hadn’t done a play in 6 years and never one in NY. I was living in the East Village and schlepping to the theater. It made me feel I earned myself as an actor. My goal is to do a play a year.”

There have been rumors that Glass Menagerie may go to Broadway, but there hasn’t been anything more. Might it still?  Zach gives a very reserved response: “I don’t know. You’ll have to ask the producers about that.”

U Utah flyer for ZQYour production company is Before the Door. Where did the name come from? “It’s the first acting exercise at Carnegie-Mellon. It is a situation in which you imagine a difficult situation on the other side of a door. You are to stand before that door, prepare yourself for the situation, then walk through. It was Corey’s idea – an experience that unified us. “Multi-media” was the first web we cast. To set a distinction for ourselves. But now we have the distinction of having produced a film that was nominated for an Academy award.”

May I ask about your personal life – politics, sexuality? Zach faces the audience, opens his arms, and says a mock conspirator tone, “I’m gay!”. The audience applauds approvingly. Zach continues, “Everyone who is gay or knows someone who is gay – which means everyone in this audience – knows how deeply personal the struggle to come out is. I was brought up Catholic! Being brought up that who you are is wrong – is difficult. I came out to my family and friends when I was 24. Later It started to bleed into my career. ‘Maybe I won’t work as much if I’m known as gay!’ When Angels came up, I told Krushner that this might be part of my coming out process.  There was the NY Times interviewer who said, “There’s speculation about your sexuality….”. I said quite honestly that I was more interested in talking about my work. Later in the October interview, I realized it was time. I made 2 references to myself as gay – so I could be sure I got the point across! [Zach looks at us pointedly – the audience laughs and applauds.]  By now I have teams of publicists – but this wasn’t about them. It was my decision alone.”

What advice do you have to those who are afraid to come out? “We are in a place [in Mormon Utah] where it’s hard to be gay. I spend a lot of time with the Trevor Project. [applause]. Find someone to talk to – in person – that has more impact than someone you tweet or email or even call. We are in a world where we are getting increasingly fractured. We focus on these devices and not on a real connection. The danger is that when we get fractured – without the personal connection – we are no longer accountable. There is someone you can talk to, face to face, to share how you feel and what you are going through.” Allred adds, “You can come talk to me. Really. ”

Allred moves to a different topic. “The banjo. I hear you play the banjo. Like Steve Martin”  Zach nods, “Steve Martin was an inspiration to me. I studied and got real good in 2 months. Then I hit a plateau. Then I was in the play and didn’t practice as much.” Allred jokes that the banjo doesn’t get much respect. “Really? That’s a pity. It’s a huge part of the history of our country.”

Allred said he’d wrap up Actors’ Studio style with the infamous questions.

What is your favorite word? “Brooha” Allred laughs, “Just the sound?” Zach: “It’s so evocative!”

What’s your least favorite word? “No”

What turns you on? [Deadpan look from Zach] – creatively, spiritually. “Good theater. Nothing moves me more.”

What turns you off? “Reality TV. Unless they’re doing something I can’t do. Chefs. I like The Voice – it gives people a chance.”

What sound do you love? “The subway under the streets. It’s a New York thing. In LA, I heard something like that under the streets – then realized it was an earthquake. [laughter] I love hearing in the subways the musicians playing in the distance, getting closer, moving away. In LA? NPR. [grins]”

What sound can you not abide? “Loud motorcycles! My brother has a loud motorcycle – I hate it!!”

ZacharyQuinto is a gentleman and a scholar_ He wouldn't swear in front of our little brother_ Thx for coming Zach

ZacharyQuinto is a gentleman and a scholar! He wouldn’t swear in front of our little brother! Thx for coming Zach

What is your favorite curse word? “Can I say it here?” Zach looks around. Allred urges him that it’s OK. “No, there are kids here. I can’t say it.”

What profession other than acting might you consider? “Psychologist. A friend and I were talking the other day. He was lying on the couch and talking about something that was bothering him. I thought ‘I could be getting paid for this!’”

What profession would you never want to do? “I might try anything – for a while. But I’d never want to get up and put on a suit every morning. I like the creative life. But I don’t know if it will last. There is no level of success that makes any actor feel comfortable.”

If heaven exists, what would you like God to say to you when you walk through the pearly gates? “I can’t relate to that. I just don’t think of it that way. I think it will just continue at another level.”

At this point, they opened to questions from the floor. There were two mics, one on each side of the stage. I didn’t capture all the questions and answers so will only report on a few parts.

Why here? What brought you here? “As I get older, talking to people like this is more important to me.”

Is there any project on your bucket list? “There was talk of a Gershwin movie. Spielberg got involved with other projects – War Horse and others. I would love to see that come back around. I’d love to work with Spielberg.  Another director I’d like to work with is John Crowley. Do you know his work? Bob Crowley’s brother.”

What do you look for in a project? “The material, the cast, and the director. If 2 of the 3 are solid, I’m more inclined to consider it.”

What is your advice to a perspective actor on LA vs NYC? “LA is easier to live in but you can get much more isolated. NY has more of a pulse that can sweep you up. “

What is your favorite and least favorite city? “Berlin is my favorite. I have good friends who live and work there. NY is the mothership.  My least favorite is Las Vegas. [groans from audience]. Sorry, but it is.”

What parts of Sylar and Spock did you bring into your performance? “I like to think that it’s the other way around – I brought myself into them.  They are both very logical. I possess a real duality in myself – heart vs head. I have a lot of love for Spock and compassion for Gabriel.”

What is your advice for someone on the production side? “The technology is so evolved that you can do your own work. Shoot on an iPhone, edit with iMovie. Just start doing your own work. Put your work out there.”

Zach at UU tweetedHow do you convince your Mormon friends that you should be tolerated? “If someone doesn’t see things the way I do, that’s fine. But don’t legislate that! [cheers from audience] Not Acceptable!! Gay marriage will be legal in the US in their lifetime. That’s the fracturing I was talking about.” Zach moves bottles around on the table. “Here is black. Over here white. Here is gay. Over here, straight. Mormon. Catholic. But really we are all in this shit together.”

Miscellaneous comments from Zach: He would love to do Sweeney Todd. For that he might brush off his musical background. He told one student, “You can’t get wrapped up in anything but doing good work.”

He was asked about Star Trek fans. “Yeah. I had some interesting moments. Probably more interesting for them than me. But only one person crossed the line. Bad news, but it was quickly handled.”  Allred quipped, “Yes, and I’m really sorry” as though he were the fan in question. The audience laughed.

Zach signing my photo Utah

Zach signs a photo for a ZQCer

When the presentation was over, Zachary moved to another room for a meet and greet. A lot of the audience followed. We’d been told that Zachary had requested no signing and no pictures, but judging from the tweets with pictures, he relented. A very class act, that gentleman!

For other reports on this see:

5 Responses

  1. Jennifer P.

    Lindsay, I still say your piece beats out the rest of the articles by the media outlets in attendance. 😉

    April 14, 2013 at 4:01 pm

    • Lindsay

      Thanks! In truth it’s more that I don’t have the space limitations they do.

      April 14, 2013 at 4:38 pm

  2. Thank you for crediting me for the pics. I appreciate it.

    April 14, 2013 at 10:39 pm

    • Lindsay

      You’re welcome. Yours were much better than mine!

      April 15, 2013 at 9:34 am

  3. Pingback: » Lessons Learned from The Chair Star Trek Magic

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