Horror fans have known of the villainous Charlie Manx since they met him in Joe Hill's novel NOS4A2 back in 2013, but it was Zachary Quinto who really brought the ghoul to life last year in the debut season of the AMC TV series. Despite Quinto having a passionate following from his involvement in the Star Trek films, and TV series like American Horror Story and Heroes, fans had never seen him play a character quite like Manx, due in part to the actor undergoing an intense makeup overhaul that rendered him nearly unrecognizable. Quinto returns for the second season of the series, which premiered earlier this week and airs on Sunday nights on AMC.
NOS4A2’s second season picks up eight years after the events of season one. Vic McQueen (Ashleigh Cummings) remains more determined than ever to destroy Charlie Manx (Zachary Quinto). Charlie, having faced his own mortality, emerges desperate for revenge against Vic. This time, he sets his sights on the person who means most to Vic – her eight-year-old son Wayne. The race for Wayne’s soul sends Vic and Charlie on a high-speed collision course, forcing both to confront the mistakes of their pasts in order to secure a hold on Wayne’s future.
ComicBook.com recently caught up with Quinto to talk about the second season of the series, revisiting the villain, and what the future of the Star Trek franchise could hold.
ComicBook.com: We're not going to pull any punches so we're going to get the toughest question out of the way first: when you saw the title "NOS4A2," did you know it should be pronounced "Nosferatu"?
Zachary Quinto: I did. Sure. It doesn't roll off the tongue, per se, it's not the first place that people's minds go, but I think once you know the context and understand the meaning behind it, it's a fun little puzzle.
Thank you for bearing with me, everything will be much easier from here.
Much like in the first season, you undergo a pretty rigorous makeup application to transform into this grotesque character, but we also get to see plenty of a younger, healthier Manx. Did you prefer the scenes in which you physically transformed or did you prefer the freedom of not having makeup?
It was a conversation I had with the showrunner, with Jami O'Brien, before season two as they were launching the writers' room. And we got together to talk about the things that were important and I felt like, on one hand, we had established this trope in Season One. So audiences knew what it took for Charlie to go from old to young and vice versa. Knowing that we were going to start the season in the place of he's super old, we would see this reverse transformation happen off the top of the season.
And then I was like, "I don't really see the point in necessarily just doing it to do it. We get that it's a thing, but why don't we position the season in a way that we can explore other stuff?" We spent so much time in Season One establishing story and relationships and I think we did a pretty good job of it, so now let's let Season Two be a place and a time where we can let those established things pay off.
So that's what we did more. I'm old in the first couple of episodes and then in the middle of the season I sort of stay kind of young and then ... I won't tell you what happens.
I think what I like so much about the show is that, no matter how familiar you are with the book, the show honors that but also explores all-new perspectives of the journey.
I had that all the time where I would be like, "Wait, is this memory that I have from the book? Or is this a memory I have from Season One or is this a memory I have from..." And I think that's a real testament to Jami O'Brien, our showrunner, and also her collaboration and the support that she had from Joe Hill to make it her own and make it thrive in the context of a TV series, which is very different context than a novel.
I really am grateful for that and have a lot of respect for Jami and Joe and their willingness to let it find its own way rather than rigidly adhering to what the novel dictates.
You say that you got involved early on with the writers to talk about the new season, did you get to personally contribute some history to the character's backstory?
Well no, because those are all really in the books. They're in Wraith and they're in the novel. Wraith being the graphic novel that Joe Hill wrote about Manx and his relationship to the car. So I didn't really have to contribute per se, but yeah. I mean, we had an initial meeting and I talked about what I thought would be cool. Jami presented the idea of learning more about Manx's backstory and I felt really great about that, I thought that was really cool.
She kind of presented to me the layout of the season in terms of Manx's pursuit of Vic and leveraging Wayne against his mom and all that stuff. So it all made sense. I'm not a writer on the show, so I feel like I have conversations and give my feedback to things, but I'm thrilled to be in the very capable hands of Jami and her staff so I just let them do their thing.
Both the show itself and your character blends a lot of different horror and fantasy tropes but brings them together in a unique way. Were there certain horror figures you went to for inspiration to motivate your performance?
No, I don't really work that way myself. And so, for me, in this case, the books, the novel and the graphic novel, were my Bibles for understanding Manx and creating him. And then, in the beginning of the whole project, before we started shooting Season One, I started to take some time on my own and with a collaborator to do some movement work and to do some physical and vocal work to kind of figure out where Manx was as a result of and in the context of his psychology and frame of mind, right?
"What does this kind of existence do to someone's body?" was the question that I asked myself and started to explore in a movement studio for a couple of months before we started shooting Season One. So by the time I established that, when we started the show, that became the foundation for the choices I made that were consistent through Season Two.
While Manx and Vic have a bitter hatred of one another, they don't share the screen that often, making for more volatile interactions when you finally meet. Would you attempt to maintain that distance on set to amplify that tension we saw on screen?
No, I don't work like that. I guess under certain circumstances I've had moments where I need to really carry the energy of a scene over into real life but only for particular scenes, not like in whole projects. I'm not going to not talk to my co-star because we're enemies on the show. [Cummings] and I get along really well, I adore her. And this was Ashley's first really big job in the states on TV. She's done a lot of work in Australia and some other films and things, but this is a pretty big step for her and her career, so it was a real honor for me to get to witness that and participate in that and I wanted to support her in every way I could. So that was the nature of our relationship and just becoming friends. And I really enjoy her.
Then in the middle of Season Two, she showed up one day with the cutest dog you've ever seen. She rescued this dog and then I would bring my dog to work all the time. So then our dogs would play in our trailer while we were on set, going at each other's throats, our dogs were in the trailers cuddling up to one another. That pretty much sums up our relationship I would say in a nutshell.
What has been accomplished on this series or other TV shows you've worked on rivals the production value of anything seen in movies, and your Star Trek co-star Simon Pegg recently said that he thinks the franchise might be better suited to a TV format than feature films and I was curious what you thought about that.
It's already thriving in the television format with Discovery and Picard and the spinoffs. I can't even keep track of how many new Star Trek stories are being told since our last film in 2016.
All I know is that we, all of us, had an incredible experience making those films. If there is an appetite for more of those stories with us in them, I'm sure that we would all be thrilled to come back and do one more or whatever, but I'm not really attached to it anymore. I kind of stepped away from any kind of expectation or any kind of real certainty that it's ever gonna happen again. I think that's the only real way to move through the world, right? If it happens, that'd be great, but I'm not gonna sit around waiting for it to happen.
I have a ton of other stuff in my life, in my career. I have lifelong friendships from those films and working relationships and a lot of respect and fond memories, so if that's what it ends up being and I can look back on my life and say that's what it was, then that's incredible, and if we get to do more, that's also incredible. But as far as the stories go, they've been around for decades and generations and I think that that will continue, whether or not we continue on with them.0comments
Season Two of NOS4A2 airs Sunday nights on AMC at 9 p.m. ET.