Photography by JUCO | Retouching by Anna Glen at Wet Noodle
The Moment: July 1890: Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray is first published as a serial in Lippincott’s Monthly Magazine.
Zachary Quinto is very much indebted to Oscar Wilde for becoming a professional actor. He landed a coveted equity card playing a rent boy in the Pittsburgh City Theatre’s 1999 production of Moisés Kaufman’s Gross Indecency, which dramatizes the trials for homosexuality brought against the legendary writer.
“I have a profound respect and affinity for him,” says Quinto, 37, who sees Wilde’s subversion as visionary. “There’s something about his uncompromising intelligence and wit, the way he used it as a defense and weapon. He was able to integrate himself into a mainstream society that otherwise would have marginalized him by using the very thing that set him apart.”
For LGBT actors who come out, the dilemma of marginalization in today’s hermetically closeted Hollywood is still very real. Quinto himself came out publicly only two years ago, on the precipice of A-list stardom. “One of the most defining conversations that I had with myself,” he told Out shortly thereafter, “was that absolutely no good can come from me staying quiet about [my sexual
Luckily, that scenario was never remotely in the cards. As an actor and an advocate, Quinto has shown over and over again that he’s unafraid to be bold. His beautifully nuanced performance as Spock in J.J. Abrams’s highly successful Star Trek reboot has given him Hollywood cachet that he’s channeled into a series of striking and admirable choices, from his powerhouse performance on Ryan Murphy’s hit series American Horror Story to his ardent support for President Obama’s re-election.
This year Quinto turned in a “career-defining performance” (in the words of the New York Times critic Ben Brantley) as Tom Wingfield in the celebrated Broadway revival of Tennessee Williams’s The Glass Menagerie, while still finding time to shoot five upcoming film and television projects and take the reins as co-producer of the Starz reality show The Chair, in which two rookie filmmakers compete to make a movie using the same script. (Meanwhile, Quinto’s production company, Before the Door, has backed two Oscar-nominated indies: 2011’s Margin Call, in which he also starred, and 2013’s All Is Lost.)
Quinto’s rise and sheer ubiquity in Hollywood are reflective not only of his strength as an actor or his professional savvy, but also of the rapidly shifting currents of gay rights in America. And yet, while history is being written in the present, he urges us not to forget the past.
“I think there’s a tremendous sense of complacency in the LGBT community,” Quinto says, citing the rising number of HIV infections in adolescents. “AIDS has lost the edge of horror it possessed when it swept through the world in the ’80s. Today’s generation sees it more as something to live with and something to be much less fearful of. And that comes with a sense of, dare I say, laziness.”
Quinto is similarly candid on prophylactic drugs, like PrEP, which many gay people have embraced as a long-awaited panacea. “We need to be really vigilant and open about the fact that these drugs are not to be taken to increase our ability to have recreational sex,” he says. “There’s an incredible underlying irresponsibility to that way of thinking…and we don’t yet know enough about this vein of medication to see where it’ll take us down the line.”
It’s somewhat disorienting to hear a celebrity speak so passionately about divisive issues in the LGBT community. But as the public faces of American culture become more diverse over time, sober, thoughtful voices like Quinto’s will steer the type of dialogue that is honest and vital.
Photographed at ACME Studios, Brooklyn on October 9, 2014
Syling by Michael Cook. Set Designer: Greg Garry. Hair and Makeup: Tasha Brown for Exclusive Artists using Bobbi Brown and Kevin Murphy. Fashion Assistant: Taja Whitted. Zebra Rug, The Evolution Store. Dress by Nili Lotan. Shoes by Nicholas Kirkwood. Jewelry available at Early Halloween, NYC.