Carnegie Mellon University

Super-Villain to Spock

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Alum Zachary Quinto on Success

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A watchmaker turned super-villain, the character Sylar had viewers on edge throughout the first season of the hit show "Heroes." The man behind NBC's big bad? Zachary Quinto, a Carnegie Mellon alum.

"The interesting thing about my character 'Sylar' is that my strengths as an actor seemed to go completely against the shape of a character in the shadows," said Quinto  (A '99). "I stepped into this character and then realized how much there was to play with."

An alumnus of Carnegie Mellon's School of Drama, Quinto says his experiences at Carnegie Mellon have influenced his progress as an actor in innumerable ways.

"There are so many wonderful teachers there," he said. "Carnegie Mellon gave me the confidence to shape the role of Sylar."

While Quinto will be continuing in his role as the fearsome bad guy, he's also looking forward to taking on the role of a young Mr. Spock in Paramount's upcoming "Star Trek."

"I met Leonard Nimoy in the elevator the day they announced the movie. He turned to me and said, 'You have no idea what you're in store for' and then walked away," Quinto said, emulating Nimoy's mythical voice.

The two have since spent time together discussing the role in depth and the challenges of acting in general. Quinto said Nimoy has been incredibly supportive.

But success hasn't come without effort, Quinto stresses.

"I'm talking to you right now because my experience probably appears easy," explained Quinto. "But I guarantee you the path from when I left Carnegie Mellon to today was marked with great challenge, adversity and pain. It's a part of our experience as artists."

What advice would Quinto give to students today?

"Bring yourself to the work. Make it about the work," he said. "And stay open to everything that reveals itself. It's not always going to be comfortable or easy. Carnegie Mellon prepared me for all this."

He also emphasized the ways in which the university's College of Fine Arts has kept its programs and technologies on the cutting edge and looks forward to coming back for a production.

Quinto is still very much connected to his former classmates from Carnegie Mellon.

"They're my best friends and will be my best friends for the rest of my life," he said. "It's unfathomable how we stick together."

Case in point, he was doing the interview for this story from the house of his best friend and fellow grad, Brigid Ryan.

Photo courtesy of Joe Quinto/Retna Ltd.

Related Links: Watch Heroes Clip  |  College of Fine Arts