Zachary Quinto Reflects on Playing Villains, From ‘NOS4A2’ to ‘American Horror Story’ (Exclusive Video)

Actor tells TheWrap the research he had to do to play Dr. Thredson was “incredibly disturbing”

On the whole, Zachary Quinto has played more likable characters than he’s played hardcore baddies  — he notably portrayed logic-driven but good-natured Spock in the latest “Star Trek” films. But still, somehow, we remember him best for his deliciously evil roles. The man has a face for villainy (and we love that about him).

From the forehead-splitting Sylar on “Heroes” to the skin-lamp-making Dr. Oliver Thredson on “American Horror Story: Asylum,” it seems that Quinto has a dark side that he can’t resist indulging in. Which brings us to his latest role, the “135-year-old, immortal, vampire-esque” Charlie Manx on AMC’s new horror drama series “NOS4A2.”

When he was originally approached for the part of Manx, Quinto reveals he turned it down.

“Originally I said no, actually. When I first got the call, I was not sure if I wanted to explore territory that I’ve explored before in terms of the nature of the role,” Quito said in an interview with TheWrap, which you can watch above.

But in the end, he just couldn’t resist diving into his dark side one more time. 

“The cool thing about this show was that all 10 episodes, or the majority of the 10 episodes, were written before we started shooting. So I said no, and they said, ‘Well, read some of the scripts.’ And I did, and they were really good, actually,” he says.

“So it started there, my interest was peaked,” he added. “And then the opportunity to transform into this character, to disappear in a way into this other kind of physical landscape was really cool for me. So then it just sort of was like an avalanche. All the things I was a little unsure of started to build and flow in the opposite direction and I was like, ‘I think I would be silly not to do this.’”

So how does Quinto manage to keep from getting too method when it comes to playing these nefarious dudes? Usually he’s good about drawing a hard line — with an exception for Thredson, the psychopathic psychiatrist from Season 2 of “American Horror Story” who moonlights as Bloody Face and makes lamps out of people’s skin. Playing Thredson was “the one experience where the lines got a little blurred,” Quinto says.

“It’s different for different characters,” he says. “Thredson was the one where the lines were the blurriest, because some of the other archetypal villains I’ve played have been in a supernatural word. So wherever that’s the case, there’s an element of heightened reality and stylized nature to that storytelling, which is true of ‘Nos4a2’ as it was for ‘Heroes.’”

“With ‘American Horror Story: Asylum,’ it was definitely grounded in reality, and the research I had to do for that role was incredibly disturbing,” he says. “So I think cultivating a clear boundary between imagination and reality is for me part of my process…I prefer to keep the lines clear. It’s easier when I’m playing a 135-year-old immortal vampire-esque character than when I’m playing a really psychologically disturbed — and drawn from reality — psychopath.”

Despite his intentions not to always play the villain, there is one dream role he’s always wanted to play — the Demon Barber of Fleet Street.

“The only role that I ever really want to do is Sweeney Todd, which is kind of back in this wheelhouse, but in a totally different way which I think would be really fun,” he says. “And he to me, I think, is probably more than anything just a real tragic hero.”