SPOCK ‘N’ ROLL
ZACHARY QUINTO OWNS HIS STAR TREK CHARACTER
Zachary Quinto made his film debut as Spock in J.J. Abrams’ hit 2009 Star Trek reboot but has never been able to quite make the role all his own.
All that changed last year when Leonard Nimoy, the man who originated the highly logical, pointy-eared, greenblooded Vulcan in the trailblazing 1960s TV series, died at the age of 83.
The two Spocks had bonded during the making of Abrams’ Star Trek, in which Nimoy played a key role in passing the baton from the original cast to the new cast, which also saw Chris Pine step in for William Shatner as Captain James T. Kirk and Kiwi Karl Urban play DeForest Kelley’s ship doctor, Leonard “Bones” McCoy.
Having been brought together by the common role, one of the most loved in TV and film sci-fi history, the two forged a much deeper bond, which continued right up until Nimoy’s death.
“It was kind of shocking to me. The character brought us together but then life itself carried us beyond that,” Quinto says of just how close the two became.
“By the end of our relationship and of Leonard’s life, I’d say that Spock was one small aspect of this friendship that we cultivated and nurtured over the last 10 years.
“I’m grateful that it’s Spock that brought us together but I am more grateful that our connection went beyond.”
After Nimoy had a small cameo in the second of the rebooted Star Trek films, Into
Darkness, the third entry in the franchise, Star Trek Beyond, which opens globally today, was the first time Quinto would inhabit the character all by himself.
He says it was always the intention of writers Simon Pegg and Doug Jung to honour the passing of the late actor and his character in the new film. That tribute made Quinto feel even more of an integral part of the ever-expanding Star Trek universe, which celebrates its 50th birthday this year and has comprised 13 films and six TV shows, with a seventh to premiere next year.
“(Leonard’s) passing last year I think was a real transitional moment for me,” says Quinto. “Prior to that moment I had shared this role and now I have sole responsibility for it moving forward, assuming we make more films. Even if we don’t, my association with this character and how beloved this character is throughout the world and what an impact he has had on generations of people is something that I don’t take lightly.”
Throughout its half-century journey of boldly going where no franchise had gone before, Star Trek has always presented a hopeful picture of humanity’s future. Rather than being set a long time ago in a galaxy far away like those other space movies, Star Trek is an idealised vision of where creator Gene Roddenberry hoped we were heading as a species. The sometimes cerebral, sometimes silly, always entertaining original series tackled hot-button issues of the time such as racism and prejudice through the prism of a United Federation of Planets encountering new species and civilisations in deep space.
As a case in point of the traditional Star Trek inclusiveness, Star Trek Beyond introduces a gay main character for the first time, when helmsmen Mr Sulu is very unshowily depicted as having a same-sex partner and the father of a daughter.
The internet predictably went into meltdown with accusations of tokenism and revisionism as well as rapturous messages of support.
“The LGBTQ community has for a long time commented on the fact that as inclusive as the world of Star Trek has been, there has not been an openly gay character represented in the universe,” Quinto says. “So I did feel like there was a modicum of progress and a reflection of the progress we have made in our part of the world — it hasn’t quite made it down here yet — and I think that is emblematic of where we are going.”
The decision to make Sulu gay was in part a tribute to George Takei, who played the character in the original series and at the time was unable to reveal his own sexuality for fear of losing his career.
“Look at the times that we live in,” Quinto says.
“It’s because of people like George who had to sacrifice their own authenticity and happiness that people in my generation and beyond are able to embrace theirs. ”
Star Trek Beyond opens today
American actor Zachary Quinto plays Spock in Star Trek Beyond