It’s been a slow year for actors. with film productions shut down and Broadway stages dark, there have been limited opportunities for many performers to work. And while Zachary Quinto has spent recent months lying low between his homes in New York City and Los Angeles, for all of us who have been glued to our TV screens, Quinto—who stars in the AMC series NOS4A2, which had its second season premiere in June, appeared on the Apple TV+ series Little America, and has a lead role in the upcoming film The Boys in the Band, airing this month on Netflix—might just be more present than ever.
But that’s only on screen. In real life, Quinto fled Italy—where he was filming an episode of genealogy documentary series Who Do You Think You Are?—just as the coronavirus pandemic hit in favor of New York City, where he keeps an apartment downtown. “I feel really fortunate in that I was able to be in New York from March through Memorial Day,” he explains. He then made his way to Los Angeles, which fast became the pandemic’s epicenter after things had settled down in New York. “This pandemic has been following me!” he jokes. “In many ways, Los Angeles is an easier place to be in lockdown—especially with two dogs. It doesn’t feel so acute or oppressive here.”
But Quinto has found this time to be a delicate balance between rewarding and challenging. “Any time we have an opportunity to reflect and slow down, there is value in that,” he says. “We prize ambition and drive in our society so that it’s easy to lose sight of meaningful and actual connections. I am grateful for the chance to turn down the volume and have more space. And not feel so motivated by ambition and by what’s next. That said, I like that as well.”
Indeed, his upcoming projects include the dramatic series Biopunk, a voiceover part in an animated Superman series and a reported reprisal of his role as Spock in an as-yet-untitled Star Trek sequel. So, while he’s not too worried about what might come next, Quinto’s still learning to navigate his newfound downtime. “It feels so surreal that there is a complete cessation of production. We’re all affected.” Quinto, who helms his own production company, has been channeling his energies into finding other creative outlets during this period. “I’m really looking forward to the development floodgates reopening.”
Fans, on the other hand, will get the chance to see plenty of him when Band premieres on Netflix. From a 1968 Off-Broadway play by American playwright Mart Crowley to a 1970 film adaptation, a 2018 Broadway revival and the small screen in 2020, the project has had more lives than most. In the Netflix film, produced by Ryan Murphy and directed by Joe Mantello, Quinto plays Harold, a cutting and colorful gay man who’s celebrating his birthday at a friend’s apartment and is spiraling about aging. The cast, all reuniting from the Broadway production, includes Jim Parsons, Matt Bomer, Andrew Rannells and Robin De Jesús. “It was pretty magical to work with this group of actors, and we had the added bonus of coming back together a year later to do the film,” says Quinto. “We’d established a pretty remarkable short-hand after performing on Broadway together for months.” But Quinto was initially resistant to the idea of bringing the play back to life. “I had misgivings about it,” he explains, “but I said yes because of the actors and the collaborative spirit.” Crowley died in March at age 84, after living to accept the Tony Award for best revival of a play in 2019. “I would be so bereft had I not said yes,” says Quinto. “To watch this journey for him and experience it through him and be a part of the ensemble who brought this play to life was so profound for me.” Crowley’s seminal play is just as relevant today as it was 50 years ago, and it paved the way for con-temporary gay projects like last year’s The Inheritance and television series from Queer as Folk to The L Word.
For Quinto to explore this self-loathing, larger-than-life character for a year and a half of his life was “an endless playground.” He explains, “Harold is the most vivid and bombastic character. He’s so dry and sardonic but also objectively the most self-examined of the group assembled. He’s gotten himself to a place where no one could hate him as much as he hates himself. He’s transported self-hatred into self-acceptance. He always maintains a lot of distance from the situation and is also so present in it.” Filming the role was vastly different than playing it on stage. “The play was much more abstract on stage. There was a broader sense of time, and it wasn’t specific to the period. With the film, you’re able to get more specific,” says Quinto. “The film is much more rooted in the period, and we really embraced that. Capturing the spirit of that apartment and the party was a great evolution.”
Having the chance to work on the project in two iterations also gave Quinto an unexpected perk—the chance to develop real-life friendships with the men who play his pals. “We’re all incredibly close, creatively and personally,” says Quinto. “Where there weren’t relationships before the play, now I consider those people lifelong friends.”