Story by Scott Tady
Photos by Joe Quinto Photography
Talk about an anti-hero.
Watchmaker-turned-serial killer Sylar never met a super-powered person he didn’t want to carve up on NBC’s Monday night hit “Heroes.”
Almost overnight, the sinister Sylar has become TV’s most riveting bad guy, played with steely determination by Green Tree’s Zachary Quinto.
Two days before filming the five-episode arc that culminates with the “Heroes” season finale, Quinto gave GO a call to chat about his breakout role, the appeal of “Heroes,” his earlier TV jobs and the places where he hangs when back home in Pittsburgh.
GO: So, what’s a nice Catholic school boy from Pittsburgh doing running around killing people?
ZQ: I just got lucky I guess. So what’s going on in Pittsburgh today anyway?
GO: It’s rainy. A little chilly. What do you miss most about Pittsburgh?
ZQ: Definitely the views. And I suppose on some level that I miss the weather. L.A.’s been great, but when you’re from the East Coast, it’s hard to get used to the fact it’s 75 degrees here every day. I miss the change of seasons.
GO: Well, getting back to your “Heroes” character, Sylar, what’s it like to play such a diabolical, evil person?
ZQ: It’s so much fun. The world the writers have created for me is so heightened. It’s really cool to slip into that. I feel like I’m on the playground every day enjoying myself.
GO: Is it difficult to slip into or out of such an intense character?
ZQ: It depends on what we’re shooting that day. The specifics dictate how I prepare for any given scene. Sometimes it’s easier than others.
GO: “Heroes” has gone from cult favorite to TV phenomenon. What’s your take on that?
ZQ: I think because our show is really well made and well executed from the top all the way down. The characters have a lot of depth. They’re not one-dimensional television characters. They experience a lot of things that people can relate to and plug into, like waking up to your potential and recognizing your powers. People can connect with that.
GO: Is the show’s success spilling into your personal life? Like when you walk down the street now, do people stop you and want to talk about Sylar?
ZQ: Oh, yeah. There’s definitely that side of it. It’s been nothing disruptive or abusive, at least not yet. They just want to talk about the show and talk about the character.
GO: Did you have a favorite superhero growing up?
ZQ: I actually liked the “Greatest American Hero.” Though I guess that’s not a proper answer since he was kind of a bungling superhero. I was really drawn into Superman when I was a kid. I was in awe of Superman’s powers to save lives and fight bad guys.
GO: Some of us remember you as CTU analyst Adam Kaufman, always getting in Chloe’s face on “24.” How would you compare being on the sets of “24” and “Heroes”?
ZQ: Very different. Very different shows. I enjoyed “24,” but I was more cautious of everything because I was getting an education in acting. “Heroes” is a different time for me. I’m grown up as an actor and a person, though there’s a lot bigger sense of play and fun, and a sort of connection with the characters. Adam Kaufman was just a perfunctionary, information disseminator; Sylar is a character you can really sink your teeth into, pun not intended.
GO: The girls at GO magazine wonder if there are any romantic interests looming for Sylar?
ZQ: It’s possible next season. We’re not sure where they’re taking us. On Monday, we’re gonna start shooting the season finale, so it’s all hands on deck getting through that. The actors aren’t sure what’s up the sleeves of the powers that be. Maybe some sort of Bonnie and Clyde deal is in the cards for Sylar.
GO: Let’s talk about some of your other TV appearances, like when you were on an episode of “Joan of Arcadia” where you portrayed God. No pressure there, right?
ZQ: (Laughing). No, not really. That appearance was over in a couple of days but it was one of my best. I did a lot of small roles.
GO: Like “hip guy” on “Six Feet Under.”
ZQ: That one was great. I was a classmate of Claire’s in art school. I kind of thought that character might come back around but he didn’t. Being on “Six Feet Under,” even for just one episode, was a thrill because that’s one of my all-time favorite TV shows. I have a profound respect for that show.
GO: There were so many other appearances, like on “CSI” and “Lizzie McGuire”...
ZQ: Those are the jobs you take to tide you over. I didn’t come to L.A. as an overnight success. I’ve been out here seven years. Cumulatively, I think all the TV shows I did prepared me for “Heroes.” Each one taught me something a little different. I’m grateful for that experience.
GO: Your mom says you initially showed a strong interest in musical theater.
ZQ: Yes. I was in the Pittsburgh CLO Mini-Stars and from there I performed on the main stage of the CLO. Then as I got into high school I began to focus more exclusively on acting, although I ended up going to Carnegie Mellon enrolled in the music theater program.
GO: Do you still have a yen for musical theater?
ZQ: Absolutely. I’d really love to go to New York and do Broadway but I think that will be when I’m older. Maybe a show like “Sweeney Todd” or “A Little Night Music” would want me. I have a lower voice, a baritone, so I’m not going to be a lyric tenor leading man.
GO: While attending Central Catholic High School you won a Gene Kelly Award for your performance in “Pirates of Penzance.” Where’s your trophy?
ZQ: It’s in Pittsburgh at my mom’s house.
GO:Talk about your childhood in Pittsburgh. What did you do for fun?
ZQ: I was kind of a young kid. I definitely hung out a lot in my neighborhood where I’d imagine little adventures for myself or my friends. We’d play Release or go to the park or ride our bikes. I think coming up with those little adventures when I was 8 or 9 has helped a lot with developing my creative side.
GO: What was high school like?
ZQ: Well, since Central Catholic was in Oakland I learned a whole other side of the city. The neighborhood kids took a school bus to Keystone Oaks, but I rode a PAT bus to Oakland. And then for college I went across the street to Carnegie Mellon, so I was in the same neighborhood for eight years, which was a great feeling. I can’t imagine going to a college somewhere you’re not familiar with and have to learn a whole new city and how to get around.
GO: So, you’ve had your share of O fries?
ZQ: That’s true.
GO: When you return home to Pittsburgh where do you hang out?
ZQ: There’s this really cool place in Bloomfield called the Brillobox. I’ve been there two or three times. Bars like that didn’t exist before I left Pittsburgh. It goes against the grain of what I’d come to expect from a Pittsburgh bar. And, of course, it’s hard to come back to Pittsburgh without going to Mad Mex.
GO: We’ve seen Sylar wearing a Ramones T-shirt. Maybe he can wear a Steelers T-shirt next season.
ZQ: Wouldn’t that be cool. Maybe if I kill a Steelers fan.
GO: The girls at GO magazine also wonder if you, or the actor who plays Mohinder, are dating anyone seriously?
ZQ: I, myself, am not. Sendhil, who plays Mohinder, is actually married with a 17-month baby. He met his wife when she was studying in London.
GO: Is the “Heroes” cast tight-knit? Do you socialize off set?
ZQ: It’s a wonderful group of people. I feel grateful to be able to call them my friends. I hang out a lot with Adrian (Pasdar), Milo (Ventimiglia) and Greg Grunberg. Every month-and-a-half the whole cast gets together and has dinner. Because of the nature of the show, you sometimes don’t get to work with certain people but that doesn’t mean you don’t hang out with them. There are no egos, no attitudes. It’s a true ensemble and I feel lucky to be part of it.
GO: “Heroes” fans would love to hear some special insight from you. What can you tell us about the show that might surprise fans?
ZQ: (Almost singing) You’re trying to get me to tell you some spoilers!
ZQ: I’ll just say this. The last five episodes of the season start on April 23, and I just really feel they’re gonna take it to a whole new level. Honestly, I’ve never seen anything like it on TV and to be part of that is a thrill. It’s both gratifying and humbling and I hope the people who watch us feel the same way.
Y U So Dam Secksy?
And why aren't you and Mohinder making out at every opportunity? Is anyone else pyched for the return of Heroes?