During the first seven episodes of Heroes fans were captivated by the shadowy menace known only as “Sylar.” The murderous brain-thieving villain never appeared in full light in the early episodes, only his thin baseball-capped silhouette. Around episode eight of Heroes that all changed when Zachary Quinto was unveiled as the face of evil when Sylar stepped out of the shadows to fatefully menace the cheerleader, Claire (Hayden Panettiere). BuddyTV was fortunate to have the opportunity to sit down with Zach to get his feelings on the success of Heroes, as well as the inner machinations of the force known as Sylar.
How did you get the role of Sylar to begin with?
I auditioned for it. It was sort of one of a number of auditions that had this particular week and I went in and I read for and everybody was there, all the producers and writers were there except for Tim Kring and so then I guess about I think that was on a Monday and then I think that following Thursday I had to go back in and read for Tim and Allan Arkush and Dennis and then I guess about five days later I got the job. It was pretty; it was about a week and a half from my first audition until when I got the job.
Was there a lot of competition for the part?
Yeah, they saw not quite a hundred guys but I think they saw like, you know, quite a few guys. I don’t really think they knew what they were looking for when they started seeing people because there were definitely a lot of older guys there, there were guys in their 50s and 60s and then I also saw a lot of people that I knew that were my age. I think they were casting a really wide net so it was cool that they ultimately went with me in the end, from my perspective.
Were there any names in there that we’d recognize who also tried out?
Oh, I’m sure there were. I don’t remember and honestly like I didn’t see everybody that they saw you know I was only there for a little while and I don’t know who came in when I wasn’t there so, you know, the only thing that matters now is this one right?
Initially, obviously through the series he spent a lot of his time in the shadows, were you actually playing that shadow figure at any point?
I played him from episode eight and on. But before that they had stunt doubles that they used and kept them in the dark.
So part of what makes him scary as a character is that he can completely conceal his evil side…
Is it difficult for you to balance those two personas?
No, that’s one of my favorite parts of the character is walking that line and sort of finding those different colors and those different layers in the experience, you know. I think it’s one of the best aspects of the character, one of many.
Definitely. Do you ever wish you could play one of the good guys?
Nope. Not in this show. I mean I think that’s you know, I mean, no I really don’t. For me, this is exactly where I want to be in my career and in the work that I’m doing so I couldn’t ask for anything else, anything better.
Well on the flipside of that, he does kind of carry with him the conflict possibly that he was once this nice guy that really got corrupted by his ability. Do you envision him as being redeemable at all or is he just bad to the bone?
I think there’s a certain point at which you cross a line and it’s sort of irrevocable. I don’t know, I mean you know I don’t know what the writers have in mind but it would probably be kind of a challenge at this point, you know? We’ll see where it goes. I think that that’s one of the really exciting things about this show is that they’re constantly coming up with surprising ideas and ideas that people would never expect so I don’t think anything is out of the question but I do think that he’s gone pretty far down a path that at this point might be a little difficult to back track.
So when you play him, do you play him as someone who is actually been totally taken control of by his impulses, or do you think there’s more to his back-story that we haven’t seen that maybe needs to be brought out?
I’m definitely operating with the information that I have, which is pretty much the information that most everybody else has as well. So if they give me other information at some point then I’ll certainly factor that in to how I make choices with the character. In the meantime I think you know he’s definitely somebody that has been overcome by a hunger and overcome by a pursuit for power and for importance that did start a little more innocuously than it evolved into, you know? Does that make sense? Is that even grammatically correct what I just said? I don’t know, we’ll see.
Hunger is a good word to bring up at this point because I’m sure you get asked this a lot but is he eating the brains of his…?
Yummy, yummy, yummy in my tummy. I don’t know I mean they’ve never really committed to that one way or the other. I’ve had conversations with a number of the writers and producers about it and I’ve certainly made my own decision, which again like until they tell me something else then I go on the information that I come up with. You know that’s sort of how it goes and if it doesn’t serve the work at a certain point, if it doesn’t serve the story then I’ll adjust. But in the meantime I sort of know where I’m coming from but I think the mystery is half the fun.
On that note they’ve recently said that they’re going to go kind of one story per season and some people consider this season to be Sylar’s story, other people consider it to be the exploding man story. Do you think that Sylar is going to be with us beyond Season 1?
Well, we’ll see what happens. I mean I think that just because there’s one story doesn’t mean that all the characters can’t be a part of it in some way, you know? Maybe you just see that story from a different angle or you see a different aspect of that story or you see how it affects a different person. I don’t really know what their long term plans are. I certainly know that I would love to stay around as long as I can so we’ll see how that road unfolds.
And, now that you have this really recognizable, super evil persona, how do people approach you in public?
Some people are really eager to approach me in public and other people are really actually scared, which is my favorite response when people are actually scared because anybody that knows me knows that there’s virtually nothing to be scared of. But I guess that means I’m doing my job and I love it. I mean I’m happy to engage people in conversations about the show. I’m also happy when my work elicits the kind of response where people don’t want to have anything to do with me because it’s all based on the work so that’s good news.
And you know you’ve done obviously parts in the past that were nowhere near like this. Like your part on So Notorious. How do you feel about the contrast? Was it hard for you to make that leap from that sort of role?
Not at all man. I mean that’s why I do what I do. It’s the best part of being an actor I think is surprising yourself and surprising what people expect of you. I’m just grateful to be working with people that have the kind of imagination and foresight to see me, to see that range in me. You know I think a lot of people in Hollywood tend to get stuck in their expectations of people and I consider it a real gift to be working with people that are not at all on that tip. These are people that use their imagination and aren’t afraid of them and that’s pretty exciting. I think that’s a big part of the reason why the show is so successful.
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(Photo courtesy of NBC)