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He attends a party later that night. Sitting outside, drink in hand, he declares to a friend, "They're making a new Star Trek movie. I think I'm going to play Spock." He acknowledges, in hindsight, that kind of certainty seemed unfounded, but at the time he simply decides to set a goal of landing the role. He does more than just wish for the part; he creates the opportunity by talking openly about his desire to play Spock—a move his friends and former acting teacher say shows business savvy. He doesn't hold back his interest in playing Spock during media interviews, which leads other journalists to ask him about the role.
Six months later, Quinto gets his chance to audition, but because of secrecy surrounding the new Star Trek, he isn't allowed to take home script pages for his audition scene. So he goes to the casting office to study the script. "They let me sit in an empty room for 45 minutes," he says, "during which I surreptitiously copied the script into my journal so I could work on the dialogue at home before my audition."
The extra work pays off. He lands the role and is the first cast member named to the film, months ahead of his co-star, Chris Pine, who plays Captain Kirk. In addition to his rubber band regimen, Quinto prepares for his role in conversations with the original Spock, actor Leonard Nimoy, who also appears in the movie, and with college friend Corey Moosa, a longtime Trekkie.
Today, with his Star Trek and Heroes body of work, Quinto hopes to capitalize on his cachet by adding to his artistic endeavors as a producer. Teaming up with Moosa and Neal Dodson, both 2000 graduates of Carnegie Mellon's School of Drama, he recently formed Before the Door Pictures, a production company named after the school's acting exercise. Before the Door is developing movie scripts, proposed TV series, novels, and Web-based content.
"We wanted the name to reflect our shared experience and how long we've known each other," Quinto says. "Before the Door is the first creative endeavor you embark on in your time at Carnegie Mellon. We thought it was appropriate we would name our first creative venture in the larger marketplace accordingly."
Quinto also looks forward to some stage work. He sees his move to Los Angeles as a means to an end. Even in his most difficult jobless days, he says he told himself that working in TV and film offered an eventual route back to his first love—the theater. For now, though, stage roles will have to wait. Between his day job on Heroes and his current duties promoting the Star Trek film, his routine is the antithesis of that unemployed actor with the rabbinical beard.
Boldin, Quinto's college roommate who now is a Pittsburgh-based professional singer, has remained in touch with Quinto and says his friend has learned to handle the limelight with aplomb, both when it comes to Hollywood dealmakers and everyday fans. He says he's been in a car with Quinto when the actor is on the phone with his agents—he's all business, Boldin says—but Quinto is relaxed with fans.
Last fall, during Quinto's return to Carnegie Mellon for Homecoming—in which he co-emceed the university's Inspire Innovation gala—he met Boldin for some drinks at a downtown Pittsburgh bar. A college student saw the pair chatting and approached Boldin after Quinto left the table for a moment. The student, unsure whether Quinto would mind him saying hello, asked Boldin for advice. Boldin assured the fan that Quinto wouldn't be upset. About 15 minutes later, after a conversation with Quinto, the student walked away with a star struck smile on his face.
"I remember the kid saying he just wanted to get an autograph, but Zach really engaged him in conversation, showed him pictures from Star Trek on his iPhone," Boldin says. "He's very inviting like that and comfortable doing it. It's a very typical gesture."
Quinto—later dining at a restaurant, just a few miles from campus and that windy Schenley Park road—says it was no big deal.
Rob Owen is author of the book Gen X TV: The Brady Bunch to Melrose Place, a former president of the Television Critics Association, and the award-winning TV editor/TV critic for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
- Watch "Training Spock" -- Drama alumnus Zachary Quinto (A'99) talks about the training he received at Carnegie Mellon University.