Zachary Quinto has played characters both terrifyingly evil and tremendously good. He has an eye for the iconic part and eyebrows to match. And next up, the versatile actor co-stars in the action flick Hitman: Agent 47, in theaters August 21. Learn more about Quinto by watching the video above, and read an excerpt of InStyle's interview with the 38-year-old below. To read the full feature, pick up the August issue of InStyle, available on newsstands and for digital download now.
A thick, hazy heat engulfs New York's East Village, turning the corners fragrant and the tarmac steaming. But inside the Bowery Hotel, a fire crackles, the air is cool, and the armchairs are soft. Zachary Quinto, 38, an actor for whom the term "best known" is increasingly irrelevant after a series of memorable roles, from the villainous Sylar in the cult-favorite television series Heroes to Mr. Spock in the Star Trek reboot and John Smith in the shoot 'em up Hitman: Agent 47 (out August 21), orders a glass of rosé. "It's 5 o'clock somewhere," he says, loosening the collar of his Alex Mill chambray shirt. But Quinto, who calls his off-duty style "comfortable and understated," needn't worry. For a few weeks, at least, he's enjoying time off, letting his scruff grow, peddling around the East Village with his boyfriend, model Miles McMillan, and, surprisingly, perfecting his banjo technique. Anyway, he's right. It's happy hour somewhere. Here, in fact.
Between blockbusters, cameos on shows like Girls, roles on series like American Horror Story, and theater, you appear to work nonstop. Is it strange to have a bit of free time?
I used to prefer to be busy. Just after I finished a long run of Tennessee Williams's The Glass Menagerie on Broadway this past February, I was really hungry for work. Hitman: Agent 47, a film based on a video game, came up and I dove into it. I literally closed the play on a Sunday, flew to Berlin on Monday, and started shooting on Wednesday. In retrospect, I am recognizing the value and need for space and time between experiences.
Since then, you've filmed Oliver Stone's biopic Snowden, which comes out at the end of the year, right?
That's true. It was such a timely story I couldn't say no. Joe Gordon-Levitt plays Ed Snowden, and I play Guardian journalist Glenn Greenwald. We filmed in the same Hong Kong hotel where it all went down. It was a profound experience. Look, they even shaved my hairline and trimmed my eyebrows, which feels really weird now.
You make sacrifices for your art.
[Both laugh] Yeah, so true.
Many of your characters seem to have a strong moral compass, whether it is Spock or Greenwald. Are you drawn to rectitude?
The main criterion I have when considering a project is whether the role has layers of complexity and dynamics beyond what meets the eye. Can I get in there and play against expectation a little bit? So though I like the moral aspect, I've also played some pretty despicable parts too, like Dr. Thredson on American Horror Story. That guy is a demented sociopath.
You've pulled off some advanced menswear, like at 2013's Met Ball when you sported a blue mohawk and a Vivienne Westwood tux. Who are your style icons?
Yves St. Laurent and my dad. He died when I was young [shows me a picture on his phone of his father as a young man playing guitar], but he was awesome.
You've also been very active in the marriage-equality movement. Since that finish line is in sight, will you move on to another cause? [Ed. note: Same-sex marriage became legal in all 50 states on June 26, 2015, after this interview took place.]
The battle for acceptance, against bigoted hatred, is not yet over. That said, I do think the gay-rights movement is evolving into a transgender-equality movement.
Are you a fan of the Kardashians?
If you had asked me that a few months ago, I would have been dismissive. But I have a lot of admiration for Caitlyn Jenner. And to the extent the family is reflective of it— I can't believe I'm saying this—I have more of an appreciation.
For more from Zachary Quinto, watch the behind the scenes video above. To see his full feature, pick up the August issue of InStyle, available on newsstands and for digital download now.