Zachary Quinto on What He Misses About Auditioning and Live Theater
“I loved auditioning because it was just an opportunity to act. Whether or not I got the job was the next hurdle, but the idea that I would get to act that day was the thing that excited me the most about it.” – Zachary Quinto
It’s fair to say that actor Zachary Quinto never aspired to play Mr. Spock in blockbuster Star Trek films, mostly because when Quinto decided to become an actor he never really dreamed of being on a television or movie screen. In a revealing piece in Interview magazine, Quinto speaks about why he always envisioned himself as a stage actor, why he misses auditions, and why his future in acting is currently up in the air.
Quinto explains that he got into acting at a young age for several emotional reasons. He explains, “I was definitely an extroverted personality at a young age and theater was an outlet for me to channel that energy. Also, my dad died when I was a kid, so I think it became a place for me to go where my mom knew that I was safe and taken care of and looked after. It served a dual purpose. It was definitely a place where I could get a lot of emotions out and have them constructively expressed, rather than destructively expressed.”
The Drama Desk Award nominee says that theater still feels that way for him. He explains, “It feels that way when I’m doing a play, absolutely. On film and television, it’s more complicated than that I think, and when you start to add the business into the mix, and the industry into the mix, it doesn’t maintain it’s purity. That’s something that’s inevitable and unavoidable, but that’s why I try to do plays as much as I possibly can. There’s nothing so freeing as going to rehearsal and having that experience. Maybe it’s because it’s connected to my childhood, or it’s connected to the origins of what drove me creatively, but I feel like my life never makes more sense than when I’m in that process. ”
In fact, Quinto admits that moving to Los Angeles to pursue a career in film and television was not his original plan as an actor. He reveals, “It was weird, I graduated from school, I never thought I’d live in L.A. and I always wanted to be to New York. I assumed that would be my trajectory—that romantic ideal of moving there and doing plays Off-Broadway and being scrappy about it. Then we did a showcase in New York and a showcase in L.A., and for whatever reason the response that I generated in L.A. was significantly more enthusiastic. We did monologues and scenes, and New York I did a scene from Amadeus and a monologue from Pounding Nails in the Floor With My Forehead by Eric Bogosian, and then in L.A. I switched the scene to This is Our Youth and did the same monologue. I was spiky-haired, super skinny. A lot of people were like, “You should come here and do a sitcom.” That was the feedback that I got. Obviously it was quite a different journey than the one I’ve actually had, but I just listened to people. It worked out in the long run, but who’s to say what would have happened if I had trusted my instincts and moved to New York like I thought I would.”
Though many actors see auditioning as a difficult part of the process of landing a role, Quinto says he looks at auditions as a chance to act, pointing out, “I loved auditioning because it was just an opportunity to act. Whether or not I got the job was the next hurdle, but the idea that I would get to act that day was the thing that excited me the most about it. I had to learn how to modulate my performances and interpretations of these roles in auditions for the camera. I would say auditioning was my real training ground. The technical aspects—like hitting marks and pacing yourself and preparing and dealing with the downtime—the first recurring role I had on 24 was probably the way I learned that stuff.”
Following up on that, Quinto confesses that now he’s an established name and no longer has to audition for projects that it’s something he misses about his younger years. He says, “I miss it very much, actually. This has been something I’ve been asking to do more of. I also feel like the kinds of jobs I want right now—I consider them aspirational. I want to raise the bar for myself, and I am in this interesting spot where I do get offered a lot of things, but frankly, the majority of the things I get offered I’m not really interested in doing. I want to do the things that I have to fight for. I want to be working with directors who are at the top of their game. I want to be raising the bar for myself, and to me, the best way to do that is to prove to them that I’m the best for this job. I’ve been looking for ways to audition more, because it also keeps me sharp and keeps my ambition at its firm edge. That’s something that I’m actively engaged in conversations about now with my reps: What’s out there that I can really either put myself on tape for, or meet with the director for and read for? How do we do that? We’re now at the end of the Star Trek reboot trilogies and whether we are going to do another movie remains to be seen, and so I feel like I’m at the end of this cycle that began with me coming out of school and auditioning and building my way up. Heroes and Star Trek were 2006 and 2007, and I was just about to turn 30, and everything changed. I found myself on this amazing journey, which continues, but it’s now at a natural transition point. I’m reevaluating and reexamining how and where I go from here.”