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Zachary Quinto, Pittsburgh and Star Trek

on Thu, 08/14/2014 - 00:00

“It’s so strange,” actor Zachary Quinto told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette shortly before the release of the J.J. Abrams-directed Star Trek motion picture reboot in May 2009. “I never would have imagined science fiction to factor so prominently in my career but I’m glad that it has. I think science fiction tends to be very theatrical. I come from a theatrical background. There’s something about the canon of Star Trek which is almost evocative of a Shakespearean dynamic in terms of the epic storytelling, characters that come in and out of sweeping narratives, and stakes that are really high.”

Zachary Quinto portrays First Officer Spock in the reimagined Star Trek films of the Twenty First Century, a role originally brought to life by Leonard Nimoy. It’s a long way from Pittsburgh to the fictional planet Vulcan, but the journey mirrors Quinto’s own career trajectory from a Green Tree native who was first drawn to the stage at an early age to Hollywood success story. His professional acting debut, for instance, occurred at the Benedum Center as a munchkin in a Pittsburgh Civic Light Opera production of The Wizard of Oz when he was 11. While attending Central Catholic High School in Oakland, meanwhile, Quinto received a Gene Kelly Award for his portrayal of Major-General in Pirates of Penzance. He later expected to relocate to New York City upon graduation from Carnegie Mellon University but instead ended up in Los Angeles in pursuit of a screen career as opposed to the stage.

After appearances in a handful of television commercials while waiting tables at L.A. restaurants in order to make ends meet, Zachary Quinto achieved his first major break during the third season of the FOX drama 24 as computer tech Adam Kaufman. Following a one-year stint on Tori Spelling’s short-lived VH1 series So NoTORIous, he was then cast as the villainous Sylar on NBC’s Heroes, a science-fiction drama about ordinary people who suddenly discover that they have superhuman abilities. Sylar was initially supposed to die at the end of the first season, but the popularity of the character—as well as Quinto’s performance—kept him around throughout the series run. It also allowed Quinto to become acquainted with fellow actor Greg Grunberg, a childhood friend of J.J. Abrams. It was Grunberg who suggested Quinto to Abrams for the role of Spock in Star Trek, resulting in Zachary Quinto to be the first actor cast in the classic sci-fi franchise’s big screen reboot.

Despite his success in Hollywood, however, Zachary Quinto has not forgotten his Pittsburgh roots. “It’s such a great city and every time I get to come back, I’m happy,” he told the Post-Gazette. “I miss the familiarity of it. I grew up there and went to college there, so I have a strong affinity for the city and the people have been incredibly supportive of me personally and of my career, so it’s always nice. Even though you can never really go home again, it’s always nice to come back to Pittsburgh.”

One of those trips back to the Steel City occurred in April 2013 when he returned to alma mater Carnegie Mellon University to preview Breakup at a Wedding. The film was produced by Before the Door Pictures, a production company that Zachery Quinto co-founded with fellow CMU graduates Neal Dodson and Corey Moosa in 2009. “With so many of us having some affiliation with Carnegie Mellon and Pittsburgh, it seemed natural for us to do a screening on campus,” Dodson explained at the time. “We’re doing an old-fashioned college tour, and Carnegie Mellon was at the top of our list.” In 2014, meanwhile, Quinto teamed up with Hollywood producer Chris Moore and Steeltown Entertainment Project president Carl Kulander for The Chair, a reality show on the Starz network that follows two independent filmmakers as they construct their own unique versions of the same movie script. Pittsburgh was selected as the locale for the initial season of The Chair, with Point Park University serving as the base of operation for the competitors.

Mr. Spock may hail from the planet Vulcan, but it obvious that for actor Zachary Quinto, Pittsburgh still comes first.

Anthony Letizia

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