On the night of March 11, as the coronavirus clamped down on cultural life, the actor Zachary Quinto was in the audience at a Broadway theater, watching the recent revival of “West Side Story.”
“There was something in the air that felt like a cloud was descending,” Quinto recalled, “but it hadn’t yet landed.”
He’d been planning to see a bevy of shows: “Caroline, or Change,” “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” …
“I was in the starter block to go on a marathon,” he said.
It didn’t happen: Broadway shut down the next day.
Soon after, Quinto left the city to stay with friends in the Hamptons. He filled the cultural void with movies, books and “Take Me to the World,” the Stephen Sondheim tribute that was livestreamed in April (“I just, from beginning to end, watched that without even getting up once”).
Quinto, known for playing the sharp-minded (and ear-tipped) Spock in the most recent “Star Trek” movies, is now on TV in the second season of AMC’s “NOS4A2,” a supernatural drama that casts him as an age-shifting villain who consumes the souls of children. Over the phone late last month, he discussed the cultural content he consumed during quarantine weekends in the Hamptons (he’s since relocated to Los Angeles). These are edited excerpts from the conversation.
I’m quarantining with some friends who have more 9-to-5 schedules, so the weekends are times when we can all congregate a little more freely. We rewatched “Y Tu Mamá También.” We rewatched “Talk to Her” — Almodóvar is one of my favorite filmmakers of all time. I watched this really amazing Chinese film called “Ash Is Purest White.” We rewatched “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.”
I’ve gone back and revisited some old favorite films, like “Magnolia.” I haven’t seen it in a long time. [What stood out to me this time] was the kind of interconnectivity, the universality of mortality, which is a huge theme in that film, and something that a lot more people have been forced to consider and reconcile lately.
I definitely watch “[RuPaul’s] Drag Race” every week. I witness so much healing on that show, and so many young people stepping into themselves and creating paths for themselves for success that never would have existed otherwise.
I wake up usually between 8:30 and 9. I let the dogs out, run around, feed them. I have a 10-year-old terrier mix named Skunk — he’s a little guy, like 20 pounds. And then in January, when I was in Los Angeles, I found a dog on the street and took him in. He was at the time a three-month-old shepherd mix who was probably about 25 pounds — and now he’s a seven-month-old shepherd mix who’s pushing 60, 65 pounds. His name’s River.
Meditation, for me, is something that’s a nonnegotiable. I do it first thing when I wake up. Even when I don’t have time, I make time for it. Twice a day. At the minimum, my sessions are 20 minutes. And then depending on what kind of a program I’m doing that day, they can go as long as 55 minutes.
On the weekends there’s always music playing in the morning. There are a number of people here, so you never know who will connect to the speaker and just start playing music. We try to keep things mellow around the house. So a lot of Joni Mitchell. My friend is really into Ethiopian music. There’s an artist whose name is Hailu Mergia — I’ve been listening to a radio playlist of that music. I love Maggie Rogers. I love stuff that’s thought provoking but also kind of mellow. Perfume Genius’s new album is genius. He embraces the full range of human experience in his music. Resonance is the thing that any artist wants to awaken in somebody, identification with their point of view and their way of communication — and his way of communication musically is something that really awakens a lot of parts of me.
And then some kind of excursion on a Saturday to the beach, or we’ll go on a hike. It’s always kind of centered around the dogs.
We might throw a game of Monopoly in there. I’ll play the banjo at some point during the day, invariably. I’ve been playing for about six years. I now do at least one lesson a week with my teacher. We video-chat, which is actually a really great format for it.
A lot of cooking happens Monday through Friday, and then usually at least one night of the weekend we’ll order food in and pick it up. That’s also a part of really wanting to support local businesses.
Every night is about watching something. I’ve been diving into “The Last Dance,” that Michael Jordan documentary. I thought it was beautifully done and really compelling — the humanity mixed with the kind of supernatural talent that he possessed, but also that his teammates possessed. I didn’t expect to fall so deeply for it.
Any Given Sunday (or Saturday?)
The days do tend to blur together. If we’re not hiking or something, some kind of exercise vibe is important to stay connected and active. I love what’s emerging in these online communities, like Ryan Heffington’s Sweatfest.
I’ve tried to carve out time to get to books that I either have wanted to read or have been carrying around in my backpack with me for months. Right now, I’m reading “Norwegian Wood” by Haruki Murakami. He’s such a fascinating, meticulous, thoughtful, imaginative writer. Reading him has opened me up to different aspects of my own psyche and my own kind of spiritual perspective in ways that I wouldn’t have necessarily imagined.
My next effort is going to be Samantha Power’s memoir, “The Education of an Idealist.” I’ve always been a real admirer of hers. And in line with my meditation stuff is some reading that I’ve been doing of old Indian texts like the Ramayana and Mahabharata.
Sunday, 10 p.m.
There remains that kind of “Sunday night, school night” awareness. I think around Sunday night at 10 o’clock, everybody starts to shift back into, “Oh, we should probably start winding this down.” A lot of my life has been — when I’m not on set for something or in rehearsal for something — there’s a lot of free-form nature to my days. I like the freedom. But I do think there’s something nice about resetting the clock each week.
Starting a New Week
I had a rule early in quarantine, which was “no sweatpants before 6 p.m.” Sometimes I adhere to that rule, and then other times I’m taking Zoom meetings at 2:30 in sweatpants and a T-shirt. The most important thing is that we set goals for ourselves, and then we also understand that we’re human, and that we’re humans experiencing an unprecedented, unimaginably challenging time right now, universally. And the more we can love ourselves and be patient with ourselves and learn from ourselves through this, the better off we’ll all be when we come out of it.