Zachary Quinto: Star Man
By Aaron Hicklin
And then there is Angels in America.
Quinto was standing in a coffee shop with Jesse Tyler Ferguson when he heard that Tony Kushner and the director Michael Greif were putting together an Off-Broadway revival of Kushner’s monumental two-part play exploring America’s response to the AIDS epidemic. He auditioned for, and secured, the role of Louis Ironson, the restless, conflicted heart of the play, and moved to New York City shortly after Heroes was cancelled. The experience was transformative, he says. He would spend hours walking around his neighborhood “just trying to fathom what that decimation [of AIDS] looked like, and what our history is as a community of gay people.” He read Paul Monette’s Borrowed Time and found it so terrifying, so bleak, that he had to put it down. “It really, really made me grow up inside myself,” he says. “Any young person who is questioning their capacity for relevance, or their own self-worth, need only to learn about those people who had no choice -- they had to get out in front of, and express, the horrors they were faced with.”
We have moved to a local restaurant, where Quinto orders himself a plate of lentils (“It’s a hearty dish -- they’re really good!”) and conspicuously avoids the bread. We talk about his growing political role, which was energized by his interview with New York last year, in which he described the hopelessness he felt on reading about the suicide of gay teenager, Jamey Rodemeyer, a victim of bullying.
“One of the defining conversations that I had with myself was that absolutely no good can come from me staying quiet about [my sexuality],” he says. “Literally, no good can come from it. But if I take the step to make the acknowledgment and be honest, so much good could potentially come from it.”
In the last six months he has expended a lot of energy campaigning for Obama, and his Twitter feed (more than half a million followers) reads like a daily call-to-action. He considers the election in November the most important in his lifetime. “It boggles my mind that there are so many extreme, Christian organizations that are adopting a stance against homosexuality with such vitriol and hatred and targeted aggression that goes against the tenets of the Christian faith,” he says. “The hatred that people are leading with in this discussion is really, for me, the biggest symptom of how sick we are. It’s the thing that makes me look at our culture and think, We are so far afield of any sort of connectivity or truth in relationship to one another.” He pauses. “I don’t want this to be too soapboxy,” he says.
Although Quinto says he’s chosen not to let his father’s death define him negatively, he thinks the loss he experienced found expression in his early relationships. “I found myself in a pattern of being attracted to people who were somehow unavailable, and what I realized was that I was protecting myself because I equated the idea of connection and love with trauma and death,” he says. “I had to do a lot of work on the couch to really get to a place where I was able to show up to a relationship with someone who was actually capable of being in one -- and that took a lot of trial and error. And I’m still working on all that stuff -- that will never stop. But I definitely want kids… I want to share.”
Right now, the man he is sharing his life with is the actor Jonathan Groff, and although this is where he draws the line between what’s private and what’s public, he says, “I’m incredibly happy, I’m incredibly lucky,” and we agree to leave it there.
Quinto says that lately he’s learned to slow down just a little. “I was never able to stop and just think, I’ve got a lot to be thankful for,” he says. “In the last year, I’ve gotten to a point where I feel so fulfilled, even though it doesn’t stop me from wanting to expand on that and do other things.”
Often he thinks about the life his father led. “He was really, really badass and confident and sexy and intelligent and sensitive and curious,” he says. “For years after he died, people would go out of their way to let me know how much he meant to them. And every time I heard it I was always so grateful to him for living that life. Now that I’m older, I know it’s because that’s what matters -- the things people can tell your child about you -- and I realize my father gave something really special to me even though he wasn’t here to give it to me in person.” He pauses. “People are going to be, like, ‘I thought I was reading Out -- not Psychology Today.’ ” Maybe, I say, but this is what’s interesting, surely.
“Good,” he says. “It’s what I find interesting, too -- bring it.”