Star Trek’s Zachary Quinto on How Spock Avoids Swine Flu

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Photo: Courtesy of Paramount

Next weekend, J.J. Abrams's rebooted Star Trek beams into theaters to sear your corneas and un-sully the reputation of geeky, space-based megafranchises. Much has been made of Trek's sexy new cast, and nobody's getting more attention than new Spock Zachary Quinto. Two nights ago, we ran into him at the after-party for the Broadway revival of Eugene O'Neill's Desire Under the Elms, starring Quinto's college buddy Pablo Schreiber (brother of Liev). Quinto answered our questions about the movie, then dropped some Vulcan wisdom on us that just might save your life.

How did you get into Star Trek? Were you a Trekkie at any point?
I was not; no, not at all. I had a very limited exposure to it as a kid, and saw few of the movies and a handful of episodes, but was always sort of drawn to the complexity of [Spock] and the depth of him. And in terms of preparation, you know, I did a lot of reading. There’s no shortage of information about Star Trek and the mythology and the history and the characters. I chose not to watch the original series, but also because Leonard [Nimoy] was so intimately involved with the process, I had him as a direct resource. So basically between reading and meeting with Leonard, I had all my bases covered. J.J. [Abrams] set the mandate very early on — we were not expected to create what came before us, you know. We were expected to make something new and to have our own points of view and our perspectives on the characters, so that’s what the job was.

When you do Spock, you're just Spock for the rest of your life, right?
It’s a part of you for the rest of your life. I don’t think I’m going to be inextricably tied to him for the rest of my life, but that’s because science fiction doesn’t have the same stigmas attached to it now as it did 40 years ago, because people’s attention spans aren’t as stalwart as they were 40 years ago, and it’s also because I know I didn’t create the role. No matter how strongly people respond to my performance, it doesn’t matter, because it wasn’t my brainchild, you know.

In the movie, Kirk is a total asshole. Why do you think Spock puts up with him?
I think eventually Spock comes to understand that softening his point of view, softening his rigidity, and understanding that other people who might operate from a different end of the spectrum also have value and insights that he himself might not have actually strengthens the bond between those two characters.

Why do they fight each other?
Because they come from completely dimensionally opposed points of view, you know. Kirk is this bravado-driven, swaggering, arrogant, impulsive force. Spock is this very moderate, reserved, internalized, thoughtful being. And those two are like oil and water.

We can tell you like Spock better, right?
Only because I’m legally more on his side and his virtues, but he has his flaws, as well.

And what about the sideburns? Because they look really cool.
The sideburns … All of it was mine, all of it was mine. My hair, my eyebrows: Everything that we did in this movie was really mine. I mean, you know, I shaved my eyebrows, I cut my hair into the bowl haircut, and the sideburns were pointy. It was all me.

The movie's being marketed as a Star Trek movie for people who hate Star Trek. Do you think nobody likes Star Trek anymore?
I think it’s infusing the franchise with new energy, and I think it’s honoring the past while inviting a whole new group of people to join us for future adventures. No, I think there’s millions of people in the world that love Star Trek, and we made this movie with them in mind, but we also made it for people who might not know it or might have preconceptions about it. We wanna shake up expectations.

The Beastie Boys' "Sabotage" is played in the movie. Is that really something a member of Starfleet would listen to?
Oh yeah. Spock just loves the Beastie Boys. I think Kirk loves them, too.

Are you worried about swine flu?
No, because every time I get on an airplane I have a routine. It’s not Airborne. That stuff doesn’t work. What I do is, I cover the inside of my nostrils with anti-bacterial ointment. I’m serious. It’s to block any bacteria from coming in. I’m popping Zicam like it’s candy. And I drink, literally, from L.A. to New York, six bottles of water. One an hour. And then I cryogenically freeze my head for the duration of the flight, just for good measure. No, I’m kidding about that. That would be going too far.

View our Party Lines slideshow for Zachary Quinto and more.