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Published: Monday, 12/4/2006

The face of a villain; Zachary Quinto makes a quick impression in 'Heroes'

BY ROB OWEN
BLOCK NEWS ALLIANCE
Zachary Quinto plays Sylar, a villain who absorbs the powers of his victims on NBC's freshman hit, Heroes. Zachary Quinto plays Sylar, a villain who absorbs the powers of his victims on NBC's freshman hit, Heroes.
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Don t turn your back, lest you lose your noggin, because the big bad on NBC s Heroes craves brains. Actor Zachary Quinto, was recently revealed to be the face behind the show s primary villain, Sylar.

Quinto has appeared in just three Heroes episodes so far, but he s already made a killer impression. He was mostly seen in the shadows until last week s episode revealed his character s background.

Heroes, one of the few bona-fide hits of the fall 2006 TV season, concerns normal human beings who begin to develop unusual powers, including flight, mind reading, a split personality and indestructibility. Last week, viewers learned Sylar was once a mild-mannered watchmaker/repairman named Gabriel Gray. He took his alias, Sylar, from the brand name on the face of a watch.

The sad part is, he s initially well-intentioned. He wants to improve his life, Quinto said. He wants to make a difference. He wants to matter. Through the process of realizing how to do that, he gets blinded and loses himself in the pursuit of it and goes a little crazy a little being understatement.

The big question is, how, exactly, does Sylar absorb the powers of his victims. Does he eat their brains, Hannibal Lecter-style?

They haven t told me, Quinto said. The impression I was operating under was he actually ingested them, but I don t know. It s the question I m most often asked.

This week s Heroes (9 p.m., EST, Monday) is the last one to air until early 2007, and previews last week showed Sylar imprisoned and none too happy about it.

When Horn Rimmed Glasses (a k a Claire s dad) gets me in captivity, he s kind of merciless in trying to get at the root of what I m doing and why I m doing what I m doing, Quinto said of Sylar s Lecter-like incarceration. You really see (Sylar s) anger, the darkness that comes out. I don t like being in captivity, and I don t like being overpowered.

The stage is set for me to be around for a while, Quinto said. I would love for it to be the rest of the season.

But he s only as far ahead on the Heroes story as what s been filmed.

Information was also elusive when Quinto auditioned for the role in September.

The scenes we auditioned with were actually not really scenes, Quinto said. One ended up in the show. One was made up for the audition. They gave no details about who this character was.

Sylar is certainly Quinto s most prominent prime-time role to date. He previously had a recurring role as CTU computer tech Adam Kaufman on 24 in season three and he played Tori Spelling s best friend on VH1 s So NoTORIous earlier this year.

This couldn t be more different, Quinto said. Certainly more people tuned into one episode of Heroes than tuned into the whole nine episodes of So NoTORIous.

The 29-year-old also shot an unaired 2001 Fox pilot in which he played the shadiest character in the cast and he appeared in an uncredited role on Charmed as a warlock.

I had to be attacked by cats, Quinto recalled. In one of the setups for that they put chicken in my pockets and let these cats loose and they went scratching at my pockets.

For an upcoming Heroes episode, Quinto filmed a scene with a cockroach that got too friendly, climbing up the inside of his pant leg.

What was I going to do, jump up and have a tantrum? Quinto recalled, chuckling. So I was just laying there. As soon as they cut, the cockroach wrangler jumped up and went to get the cockroach, but it was a long five seconds. I think it trumped the cats.

Quinto has been acting since age 11.

He s wary of getting too caught up in the Heroes hype, recognizing it could set up expectations that would only lead to disappointment. But he does have one dream role in mind: To play a young Spock in the new Star Trek movie. Quinto certainly has the complexion and bearing to pull it off.

I missed the Superman Returns boat, Quinto said, although many have commented about his resemblance to Clark Kent when he wore glasses in last week s episode. So I m angling for Star Trek. People are constantly telling me I bear some resemblance to Leonard Nimoy.

He joked about talking to Heroes regular Greg Grunberg, a former star of Alias, whose creator, J.J. Abrams, is expected to direct the new Trek.

Maybe Sylar should tell Greg, I promise I won t kill you if you get me an audition, Quinto said, laughing. We ll see what happens.

The Block News Alliance consists of The Blade and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

Rob Owen is the TV editor for the Post-Gazette.

Contact him at: rowen@post-gazette.com



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