Leonard Nimoy originated the role of the ever-logical Mr. Spock, and Zachary Quinto of Heroes braves the bowl cut for the latest Star Trek film – and so does Nimoy, thanks to some sci-fi plot twists. PEOPLE was all ears as the two actors mind-melded about playing the famous Vulcan.
What was your first meeting like?
Nimoy: We met in the elevator. I said to him, ‘Do you have any idea what you’re getting into?’
Quinto: You did tell me the stories about the people who would call you in your hotel room when you’d get somewhere. You’d get all these messages from people that found out where you were staying.
Nimoy: I called [director] J.J. [Abrams] and I said, ‘I think he’s terrific. I think the resemblance works. Most importantly, he has an interior life.’ That’s very essential to the character. Then we had some very good conversations and I think that we come from the same kind of ethos as far as the work is concerned. I feel very comfortable with him. He’s also a smart guy. I like smart people.
Leonard, was it fun to see someone else have to deal with the Vulcan ears, eyebrows and haircut?
Nimoy: Yeah, it was! I didn’t have the severe problem with the eyebrows because mine weren’t so prominent to begin with. I would pencil in the missing portion of the eyebrows so that I could get away with it.
Quinto: The eyebrows for me were probably the biggest challenge, just because my eyebrows are such a big part of my face. There’s really no way around it and to lose three-quarters of them for six months…! Did you have any irreparable eyebrow damage over the years? Did they always grow back?
Nimoy: I asked about that before they shaved them: Will they grow back? They told me that they would and they did, but I think that over the years the more and more I shaved them the less and less they came back!
Do you have a favorite encounter with the intensely devoted fans of Star Trek – or Heroes?
Nimoy: People talk about the positive influence that Star Trek and the character have had on their lives. A lot of people will tell me that they’re in the sciences because of Spock, [or] that during adolescence they used Spock as a role model on how to function with some dignity and equilibrium, dealing with the logic versus the emotional issues that all of us feel sometimes. It’s just good to hear that.
Quinto: We spent a day [in Kuwait] screening the film for the troops. There was one encounter that I had with a soldier who told me that she would ration her episodes of Heroes and she would only watch them at a half-hour at a time on her breaks when she was in the thick of fighting a war because it was something that she really looked forward to and really, really took her out of the horror that she was in.
Where you surprised by Spock’s emergence as a sex symbol, both then and now?
Nimoy: Are you going to write about that? I think that my wife might get upset! [Laughs] There’s a truth in that, yeah. I didn’t see that coming. I really didn’t see that coming.
Quinto: It’s really a fascinating thing to have happen when it’s the last thing that you would ever expect. I’ve already gotten messages from people that I know either well or not so well saying, “If you put on those ears, I don’t even know –!” It’s a strange phenomenon.
Leonard, what did you take away from your Star Trek experience that you also hope Zach gets to enjoy?
Nimoy: Ever since the show went on the air in 1966 I’ve had all kinds of wonderful opportunities. I’ve never had to search for work or be concerned with work. I’ve gotten to have work of all kinds beyond my wildest dreams. I’ve acted all over the place and in all kinds of characters that aren’t as well known as Spock. The opportunity that’s going to come to him is going to be extraordinary.
But even as you pass the baton, are you truly done with Mr. Spock?
Nimoy: I’ve said time and time again: If J.J. Abrams calls me, I have to take the call!