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Q&A: 'Star Trek Into Darkness' star Zachary Quinto

Capt. Kirk and his first officer, Spock, probably wouldn’t belt out Bon Jovi’s “Livin’ on a Prayer” aboard the starship Enterprise.

Yet Zachary Quinto, who returns as Spock in the exciting sci-fi/action sequel “Star Trek Into Darkness,” names that song as the hypothetical theme to Kirk (Chris Pine) and Spock’s relationship. It feels appropriate—if you ignore the track’s romantic implications—for the film opening in IMAX May 15.

The iconic characters strengthen and challenge their bond while discovering that they’re only, say, halfway to discovering their own beliefs and abilities and how they pertain to their roles onboard the Enterprise. The enemy this time: John Harrison (Benedict Cumberbatch), a former Starfleet officer bent on destroying everyone he used to work with.

From London, 35-year-old Quinto talked about Spock running like Tom Cruise, why the character’s so beloved and he and Leonard Nimoy breaking cosmic rules by putting two Spocks in one place.

Complete this sentence: Kirk without Spock is like …
Peanut butter without jelly.
 
What kind of jelly?
[Laughs.] I was always a grape jelly fan as a kid. Now I like cherry preserves.
 
You needed to prepare for a lot of physicality in this film. What was the hardest part of that training?
The sprinting. Definitely the sprinting. Because I work out in my real life and I go running for exercise, but actually having to sprint—like really, really, Tom Cruise-style sprinting—it’s harder than it seems. Or it’s harder than it looks to maintain the physicality and also to be playing a character so historically associated with economy of movement, with stillness. To have to accelerate and to engage in that level of exertion was probably the most challenging aspect of the physical training.
 
How fast were you going at the peak?
I don’t know in terms of mph, but I know that I was hauling ass and pushing myself to the absolute limits of my capabilities. [Laughs.]
 
How do you feel you look when sprinting? I love the way Cruise runs in the “Mission: Impossible” movies because he looks like an absolute maniac.
I don’t know. You saw the movie; how do you think I look while I’m sprinting?
 
Like less of a maniac, which I think was good for the character.
Yeah, that’s right. I mean, I had to contain it, right? But I think in containing it I was able to create a physicality that was both appropriate for the situation but also existing within the framework of the character for sure.
 
If people know someone like Spock, who’s a great, reliable guy but is always correcting others and isn’t naturally fun, how should they deal with someone like that?
[Laughs.] I guess I feel like they would be served by respecting the boundaries and the framework that their friend puts forth. And just in as many ways as possible [try] to draw them out and make them more enjoyable and also cultivate some level of tolerance.
 
You say you’ve learned a lot from the character, and there are many universal explorations about integrity and intelligence within Spock. What do you think it says about someone if they don’t relate to him?
Maybe that they’re not completely in touch with a sense of moderation. It’s tough to say. Maybe they just aren’t interested in someone who doesn’t express emotion in the way that they think they should. But again, I feel like my relationship to the character is really based on a real respect for him, so it’s difficult for me to—I guess I would say that those people aren’t very much like me.
 
Do you see that group as a minority?
Well, Spock’s a pretty beloved character, and I think part of the reason that he’s so beloved is because he doesn’t express what he’s feeling, but he feels it very deeply. And I think for an audience he really exists in a lot of ways as a blank canvas for them to project their own experiences and their own feelings onto the character.
 
You and Leonard Nimoy [who played Spock in the original "Star Trek" series) have established a close relationship in the past few years. Can you tell me a memorable or unexpected experience that’s come from that?
Leonard and I have a lot of experience. We see each other very often. I’ve spent a lot of time with [Nimoy and his wife] whenever we’re in the same city. If they’re in New York or if I’m in—they came to Boston to see my play … they were meant to come up on the train from New York one weekend and a blizzard swept through Boston, and we had to cancel three performances and one of them was the one that they were going to come to. And so a few weeks later they made a special trip from Los Angeles. They flew all the way to Boston and came to see me in the play, and I just have such respect and admiration and love for Leonard and his wife, Susan. They’ve really ascended to a really important part of my life, and I’m grateful that that has come out of this film. For me, ultimately when I look back on my experience and my association with “Star Trek,” getting to know Leonard and seeing what a fulfilled and fully realized life he lives is going to be the thing that I appreciate most.
 
Have you ever been together and been recognized by a passionate “Star Trek” fan whose mind was blown by seeing two Spocks together?
Not that I can recall. But I’m sure if they recognized us, they kept it all to themselves.
 
I think that might be more than some people could handle.
Maybe. It’s sort of like a cosmic glitch, I imagine. We’ll see; I’m sure it’ll happen again.

Watch Matt on “You & Me This Morning,” Friday at 6:55 a.m. on WCIU, the U

mpais@tribune.com

 

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Copyright © 2015, RedEye
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