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7 Questions With… NOS4A2’s Zachary Quinto: ‘It took up to four hours every day to transform into Charlie Manx' - Exclusive
We chat exclusively to NOS4A2’s leading man Zachary Quinto about his leading role as Charlie Manx in AMC's supernatural horror TV series.
Mark your diaries, horror fans, because supernatural TV drama NOS4A2 season 2 will be premiering in the UK very soon.
Emmy-nominated American actor Zachary Quinto, who you might recognise from roles in the Star Trek movies and the Heroes TV show, completely transforms into vampire villain Charles 'Charlie' Manx in a return to the sinister role.
Speaking exclusively to BT.com, Quinto answers seven burning questions about the show - from its links to the Stephen King world (the book that the show is based on is written by King’s son, Joe Hill) to sitting in the make-up chair for over four hours every day...
*interview conducted ahead of the launch of NOS4A2 season 1*
1. What attracted you to the role of Charles Manx?
I felt like there was a lot of unexpected complexity and intrigue in this character, that he’s scary, but he’s also kind of oddly funny, and this opportunity to transform myself into this grizzled, old, husk of a person was really interesting as well. So I’d say that was the main thrust of my interest.
[To get into the mindset of Manx], I think it’s about understanding why he is that way, and really learning about his past, which luckily I was able to do with the amazing novel that Joe Hill wrote, and also this graphic novel that he wrote called The Wraith, which is a story mainly about Charlie’s history.
You know, really understanding that he himself was this abused, neglected child, who was never really able to overcome the trauma of that, until it kind of warped and manipulated himself in him, to make him truly believe that he was helping the kids, which is an interesting part of the character also.
2. You underwent quite a drastic transformation to become Charles Manx. How long did it take?
It depends. There’s five different phases of Manx, depending on what age he is. The first is closest to me in age, which is late 30s/early 40s, the second phase is 65, then 85, then 105, then 135. So phase one takes less than an hour, phase five takes up to four and a half hours.
While in the make-up chair, I’ll do emails, admin, I read books, listen to podcasts, I meditate, I sleep. I do all sorts of things in four hours. I can get a lot done. There are days where the work is really challenging, or there’s a lot to drop into, I’m really just focusing on the day ahead, so that becomes part of the process.
It really just depends on what the day’s work is, and how extreme the process is. But it’s a unique experience I’d say. If I’m going to be in one place at one time, I might as well make the most of it!
3. Did you get to drive some nice British cars on set?
I got to drive *the* car, which was the 1938 Rolls-Royce Wraith, below, which was a really unique experience and really fun actually. I had to really spend some time behind the wheel of that car because I’d never driven a British car before. It’s a manual transmission, and the gears are on a different side to what I’m used to.
There’s a lot of calculations that I needed to do to make it believable that I’ve had a relationship with this car for 75 years. So I spent some weeks driving around with a great team of mechanics on the show teaching me how to use the car. It was really cool. I was never really a car person, but doing this show made me understand why people are.
The car really is an actor in its own right, and it had its own temperamental personality. There were times when the car was a bit of a diva! It broke down, and wouldn’t run. I would have layers and layers of prosthetics on and it was a hot autumn day in Rhode Island and the car wasn’t working, it could be a little bit frustrating.
So this job has really, among other things, really helped me cultivate a sense of patience and discipline, and staying connected to what I’m there to do, and not letting myself get distracted or frustrated. The car was probably the biggest teacher of those lessons for me.
I didn’t have any accidents with the car, I feel like I got pretty good at driving it, but it was more like the mechanics of it, like it not running, or it breaking down or overheating.
4. Could you see the show crossing over with any Stephen King books or films?
Well I think the Stephen King parallel is that Joe [Hill, NOS4A2's author] is his son. One of the greatest things about Joe as a writer is his acknowledgement and his reflection of his father. He brings his father with him, but he doesn’t hold his father’s hand. He’s a part of the stories, because that’s how Joe learned what storytelling was, and there’s something quite beautiful about that for me, the idea of what we inherit from our parents, and what we do with it.
I think Joe does some really remarkable work in carving out his own space as an author. So I think those parallels are clear. The Rolls-Royce Wraith is evocative of [the Stephen King novel] Christine, and the kids, right? The fact that Charlie Manx preys on these kids, and the imagination and vulnerabilities of these children is sort of like It. There’s a lot of overlap I think in that world. But I also think it’s totally unique in its own right, and its own experience as well.
5. Ashleigh Cummings has been compared to Jennifer Lawrence - what’s your highlight from working with her?
Ashleigh’s incredible, she’s so talented, and this is her first big TV gig, so it was wonderful to watch her step into it and do it with such grace and talent. She’s got a big movie coming out this autumn, she’s in The Goldfinch. So this is the beginning of a wonderful journey for her.
She’s an incredibly intelligent young woman who’s also studying. As soon as the season was over, she went to university in Morocco and studied. She grew up in Saudi Arabia.
She’s this very interesting, colourful young lady and I feel really honoured to have shared this experience with her, and to learn from her, to embark on this journey together is really fun, so I respect her a lot and I really enjoy her company. She’s really lovely.
She and I didn’t end up working together very often, until later in the season, but I spent most of my time with Darri Ólafsson, who plays Bing [Partridge], so I’d say that was a real highlight of the season for me, is just how lovely he is, and what a generous, thoughtful, talented guy he is. He really is a great spirit, and a great energy, and a really talented actor.
I think his character is going to be one of the fan favourites of the show, because he’s so childlike, but then so sinister and so scary. There were times when I was watching him on set and I was like ‘ooh, this is going to be good!’
6. Can you give us three reasons to watch the show?
I feel like it’s unexpected, I feel like it’s really genuinely, psychologically frightening, and I feel like the stories are really well told. They’ve written really compelling scripts, and there are really complex, multi-dimensional characters in this world, and audiences will be able to plug into and relate to those characters in different ways.
It’s unexpected in that it’s not a traditional horror/vampire story. First of all, there’s two kinds of narratives that are happening. You have the Vic McQueen story, which is very character-driven, a family drama about this young woman who is pushing against people’s expectations of her to define who she is, at the same time as she’s waking up to this incredible supernatural ability she has, and the responsibility she has to be the only person to stop this vile, evil creature.
Then you have the other side to the show, which is this more supernatural, heightened, stylised world. These two things run on a parallel track until they collide, and I think that collision makes it a unique format for a TV narrative, and that’s something that’s exciting.
7. Showrunner Jami O'Brien is hoping for more seasons if season 1 is a hit. Would you be up for it?
Yeah, I would be! I never get ahead of myself in terms of that sort of thing. It’s like, we made the first season, we had a great time, hopefully audiences watch it, that’s why we’re here. I want to get it out into the world, I want to share it with people, and then we’ll have a conversation about the future. But I would be interested in continuing to explore the narrative, for sure.
NOS4A2 season 2 starts Tuesday, July 7 at 9pm, exclusively on AMC (BT TV channel 332/381 HD).