Zachary Quinto might be best known for his more serious roles in Heroes, the Star Trek franchise, or Netflix's recent adaptation of the award-winning Boys in the Band, but the Pittsburgh native is taking a welcome turn with his latest project in the Audible Original podcast series, Sorry Charlie Miller. Recorded during the height of the pandemic last year, the comedy-crime series of twists and turns from At Will Media follows the disappearance of a D-list reality TV star (Ashley Benson) with an overzealous fanbase and the police department employee turned "detective" who sets out to find her with his vast knowledge of celebrity gossip.
Produced by Will Malnati alongside the dynamic writing pairing of Tanner Cohen and David Ludwig, Quinto tells PopCulture.com exclusively he couldn't pass up on the project for several reasons — starting with the reprieve it offers listeners during these challenging times. "We want people to have some place they can go and feel like there's some levity to experience," he said in a telephone conversation on April 5, adding how he hopes the show brings a little "fun" to everyone's life. "The best humor I think is rooted in reality and so I think the kind of reflection back at audiences to the culture we live in and making fun of it and embracing it, I think is all part of this experience and that's what I'd really love people to identify."
Brilliantly blending the particulars of the TikTok-era with sharp, witty comedy against a mysterious backdrop, Quinto adds recording the series during the midst of a pandemic was "another really interesting aspect" to the overall experience. "Recording it in April of last year and having to do it remotely from all corners of the country, where everybody was stationed and holed up and building these makeshifts studios that are in our homes, there was something very unifying about the experience, I would say."
Voicing the role of Mark Green, a police department employee who lives and breathes celebrity gossip might seem like it comes natural to Quinto, who has been in his share of iconic pop culture moments over the years, but the 43-year-old admits he is nothing like his character. "I'm not a pop culture junkie," he said with a smile. "But I'm as aware of it as I need to be. I don't seek out pop culture. I'm not a big reality television watcher. I sort of lay low in those terms, but I appreciate the humor of it and certainly the relevance of it in our culture and our society."
Written most stylishly by the brilliant minds of Cohen and Ludwig with production by Malnati of At Will Media, Quinto adds sharing the experience with his friends played a significant factor in his interest as well. "I'm friends with Will, who is the producer of the podcast; and Tanner, who is the writer, and so it was really my friendships with them that brought me into the experience, initially," he said, adding how he ran into them at an Audible Christmas party for several projects they were pitching the Amazon-owned platform, and a separate project he was involved with. It was then they all reconnected and talks sprang about the series coming to fruition.
"They started telling me about [Sorry Charlie Miller] and it was a very organic evolution into joining the cast," he said. "It's really unique and charming and I think all of those things, not to mention the fact that it was something that we were able to work on at the beginning of the pandemic at a time when there was so much uncertainty and it became a kind of lightning rod for all of us who were involved to be able to maintain some creative outlet during a time when so much in the world was just stopped cold."
Starring alongside a number of hilarious actors, including the likes of Modern Family's Jesse Tyler Ferguson and comedian Michelle Buteau as the vibrant Tiana Jones — Mark's best friend and no-nonsense colleague — Quinto reveals because the script is extraordinarily distinctive and complete, there was still "a lot" of room for improv.
"Because you're not locked into shots or camera angles or blocking, you have the freedom of it simply being an audio scape," he said. "So yeah, we got to play a lot and Tanner and everyone involved really encouraged that. It was great fun to be able to improvise and bring our experience of each moment to the process and that gives it a whole other element of humor and engagement."
Thanks to a script that lends itself to strong visuals and entertaining writing, Quinto reveals he has discussed with Malnati and Cohen the possibility of Sorry Charlie Miller getting the small-screen adaptation. "I do think this world and these characters would thrive in television," he said, admitting he would like to be involved in a possible show, but creatively behind-the-scenes and not reprising his character, Mark. "I have a production company and produce a lot of film and television and develop things and so this is kind of my wheelhouse in terms of bringing things to life."
Quinto adds how "there's probably a younger actor that would be more right" for Mark's role in the visual world. "I think Mark is probably someone who's really hungry looking ahead to what's possible and I think I would probably want to catch somebody a little younger in the role," he said. "I hope we get to have those conversations in a meaningful way because I do think that it could be really funny and I think people would really respond to it, but we'll see. We're talking about it. That's for sure."
With Quinto nailing his comedic timing every minute in the role of Mark, the actor admits he would love to star in more comedy if given a chance. "I would love to. I definitely feel like expanding my repertoire is something that I'm always interested in doing, diversifying my experience," he said. "I think as we're emerging from this time of dormancy and isolation, I'm really open to the opportunities that have presented themselves to me and I would love to include comedy in the projects that I work on from here. So, we'll see how it all played out."
All 10 episodes of Sorry Charlie Miller are currently available at Audible. For more with Zachary Quinto, all your favorite Audible Original series and more, keep it locked to PopCulture for the latest in entertainment news.