‘NOS4A2’: Zachary Quinto on Manx’s Backstory & ‘Lust for Revenge’ in Season 2

NOS4A2 Zachary Quinto San Diego Comic Con Panel
Cara Howe/AMC

“What is dead may never die, but rises again harder and stronger.”

As far as we’re concerned, NOS4A2‘s psychic vampire Charlie Manx (Zachary Quinto) would have fit in just fine on Game of Thrones. He’s extremely manipulative, pure evil, and can evade most normal modes of death (like being cut open and then stabbed in the heart).

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A different kind of vampire story returns on June 21.

As viewers saw during the June 21 Season 2 premiere of AMC drama, Manx is back in the game after an eight-year coma and trip to the morgue. This is really not good news for poor Vic McQueen (Ashleigh Cummings), now living a comfortable life with boo Lou (Jonathan Langdon) and her son Bruce Wayne (Jason David), who thought she finally ended her long-term foe with a blade to the heart. Unfortunately, Manx’s connection to his Wraith—the subservient Bing (Ólafur Darri Ólafsson) put the motor back into Manx’s Rolls Royce that Vic set on fire last season—proves he’s beyond a traditional death.

Now, Manx is on the warpath, targeting Vic’s 8-year-old son in his plan for revenge. Below, Quinto previews what’s coming next on the dark, book-based horror series.

Ashleigh Cummings as Vic McQueen (Cara Howe/AMC)

At the end of the Season 2 opener, we see the engine being lowered back into the car, which simultaneously restarts Charlie’s heart and turns the lights back on in Christmasland. What’s going on in Manx’s mind when he wakes up?

Zachary Quinto: A lot of time has passed between Season 1 and Season 2, so I feel like there’s a lot of stored up lust for revenge in Charlie. So, when he awakens again, I feel he becomes pretty singular-minded. First to restore his own power, to return to Christmasland and care for his children, particularly Millie [Mattea Conforti], who is his actual child. And then, we see Vic through the time that has passed, build, or try to build, this life for herself. She now has a family, she’s with Lou, and her son Bruce Wayne is going to factor pretty heavily into Manx’s desire to get to Vic, and conquer Vic, and he’s going to use her son as leverage to do that.

Luckily, we also just saw Vic teaching Wayne about Manx, which should prepare him, theoretically. Right?

Sure, but you know, Manx can be totally manipulative and incredibly smart. He’s going to set his sights on Wayne pretty early on, and I think that his pursuit of Wayne is going to be part of the journey of the season. Maybe he doesn’t quite succeed, but, ‘if at first, you don’t succeed, try, try, again,’ is a motto I think Manx has to embrace this year. And eventually, I think he kind of will crack the case and get what he’s after.

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Now, let’s talk about Millie for a second. Are we going to get to see the origin story of Millie, Charlie and Christmasland?

Yeah, I think it’s one of the cool things that Season 2 does. It really dives into the backstory of Manx, and gives context for who he is, and why is he the way he is. So, we look back and see flashbacks into his younger adult life, and also even into his childhood. I think the important thing always to remember when you’re playing a character like Charlie Manx is that, they weren’t born that way, and Season 2 really explores the traumas and the abuses and the abandonments and the neglects that Manx experienced as a young person that led to some of the choices and decisions he made in his life.

In addition to the book, there’s also a graphic novel that Joe Hill wrote, called “The Wraith,” which is pretty singularly about the relationship between Charlie and the car. That storyline ends up factoring into Season 2 in a great way. Jami O’Brien, our showrunner, and the writers did a great job of folding those stories into the season.

That’s awesome. And we also know that Bing is out there searching for him, and that he will be eventually reunited with his boss. Has anything between them changed? How do we see that relationship develop after this eight-year gap?

The relationship between Manx and Bing is one of my favorites on the show because I absolutely love Ólafur Darri who plays Bing. He’s amazing and so fun to spend time with. I just really love him. We had a great time working together all through the run of the show. This season you’re really going to see, at a certain point, Bing wakes up and realizes he’s mad as hell, and he’s not going to take it anymore. In a way, Manx just kind of assumes he’ll absorb this abuse and come back for more, and we see that that’s not the case. And so, toward the end of the season, I think that’s some of the cooler stuff as well. It’s just a great dimension to their dynamic.

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I wanted to ask about the scenes, like the one at the end of last season where we see him age drastically. What were the challenges of doing that scene in particular? It wasn’t all effects, right?

No, anytime that happens in the show, and it happens a few times throughout the course of the seasons, it’s pretty technical. Each scene has to be done twice, once when I’m in old, old age makeup, and once when I’m in just the young-ish look. Then, the special effects team, who throughout the course of the show, have come in at various points—at the beginning of each season we do photographs and scans of our bodies so that they have in their computers, all the necessary measurements, and physicalities to build all the post-production special effects. On set, it adds a lot of work to the production, so you have to board those scenes twice, and spend as long as it takes to shoot them twice. And then there’s the makeup and hair stuff involved in the look. A lot of the rapid transformation happens in post, but the beginning and the end look are both special shots.

What is your favorite age to play Charlie in?

I signed onto the job partly because I was excited by the opportunity to play him older. It’s fun as an actor to dive into that physical and vocal landscape, but in the end, I think my favorite stage to play him is actually the second one. It’s just old enough. It’s not close to me, in my life or sensibility, but it’s also not like absolutely so far away from the realm—it’s like 25 years older than me, or something. So it’s kind of interesting to see where we’re heading, you know? The older one has become more challenging because it’s more drastic, just physically and vocally. I guess fatigue sets in, and then the hours that are involved in makeup, you know, it’s just a bit of a process. But I’m grateful for the opportunity to do it and to do it all is really fun.

Zachary Quinto as Charlie Manx, Celeste Arias as Cassie Manx – NOS4A2 _ Season 2, Episode 2 – Photo Credit: Cara Howe/AMC

And finally, there’s obviously tons of material to go off of, but how long could you see this show going on for?

You know, I think that Jami has a really fantastic imagination, and the world that Joe Hill created is so vivid, that even though this season kind of brings us through a lot of the book and the graphic novel opens up other possibilities, we’ve introduced other characters along the way, and there’s this whole idea of the United Inscapes of America. The story we’ve been chronicling is the collision of only two Strong Creatives in a world where you imagine there are an infinite number of possibilities in terms of stories you can tell. So I really think it’s a matter of where Jami and Joe would see it going, but I don’t think there are any limitations. I think you can still keep telling stories, and I hope that’s an opportunity that everybody gets.

NOS4A2, Sundays, 9/8c, AMC