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Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Zachary Quinto on the New Global Reach of ‘Boys in the Band’ and His Decision to Come Out as Gay

Zachary Quinto has never seen William Friedkin’s 1970 big-screen adaptation of “The Boys in the Band,” based on Mart Crowley’s play about a group of gay men who gather in a New York apartment for their friend Harold’s birthday.

You’d think he would have by now. Not only did he play Harold in the 2018 Broadway production of “Boys,” but he takes on the role once again in the new Joe Mantello-directed Netflix film adaptation.

“When I got invited to do the play, I thought, ‘Well, I don’t want to watch it before we go into rehearsals.’ And then I thought, ‘I’ll watch it when the play is over,’” Quinto says on Thursday’s episode of the Variety and iHeart podcast “The Big Ticket.” “But then I went right into another job after the play was done. By the time I would have watched the movie, our movie was on the table. And so I thought, ‘Well, I don’t want to watch it now.’ So I’m going to wait until we’ve put it out into the world. I very much look forward to the experience.”

The time is now. “The Boys in the Band” premiered on Netflix on Wednesday.

“I was thinking about this the other day — how excited I am to be able to share this story and our version of this story with such a wider audience,” Quinto says. “I’ve encountered so many people since we did the play, either virtually or in person, who would say, ‘I’m so disappointed I wasn’t able to make it to New York’ or ‘I couldn’t see it on Broadway.’ That we get to take this story and amplify it around the world now is really exciting.”

At the time of the 1968 run, gay actors in the production were warned not to come out publicly because doing so would likely ruin their careers. The “Star Trek” actor recalls first entering the business in 1999, when there was still “explicit stigma” about being out in Hollywood. “I did feel like me coming out would have potentially had an impact on my career and it wouldn’t have been a good one,” he says.

He then remembers a time when he was with a gay friend and they ran into a studio executive. Afterward, Quinto worried if there were “going to be some ramifications” of even the appearance of possibly being gay.

But in 2011, Quinto talked publicly about his sexuality for the first time with a post on his website. “That was at a time when a lot of young gay kids were killing themselves around the country because of bullying. There was a huge spate of teen suicides that were happening,” he says. “I just felt like I had an obligation at this point. Having enjoyed a certain level of success, I felt like the hypocrisy was too much to bear for me to be enjoying this life that I had created for myself and not acknowledging my identity as a gay man. I felt like it was actively harming a group of young people who the choice to come out could benefit.”

Quinto relocated to Los Angeles from New York during the pandemic.

“L.A. seems to be, for me anyway, a better place at the moment,” he says. “I miss New York and I’ve heard from a lot of people that it’s incredibly vital and vibrant, and people are out and about, and the streets have a kind of European quality to them. I miss that, but I love that I can be still connected to nature here in a way that it’s a lot easier.”

Not that he’s not thinking about work. Asked to name his dream project, Quinto doesn’t miss a beat. “I really want to do ‘Sweeney Todd,’” he says. “That’s what I want to do on stage.”

He first saw a production of the Stephen Sondheim musical when he was about 11 years old in his native Pittsburgh.

“I remember sitting on the floor of the mezzanine, kind of like leaning back against the chair that was folded up,” Quinto recalls. “We were all waiting for the show to start and then that pipe organ music starts at the beginning and then that work whistle goes off and I leapt about five feet up off the ground. From that moment until the end, I just couldn’t move. I was so absorbed by it. I’ve seen that musical more than any other show in the theater.”

Listen to the full interview with Quinto above. You can also find “The Big Ticket” at iHeartRadio or wherever you listen to your favorite podcasts.


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