‘NOS4A2’ Interview: Zachary Quinto, Ashleigh Cummings, Joe Hill and Jami O’Brien

NOS4A2 Cast
Ashleigh Cummings, Zachary Quinto, Joe Hill, and Jami O’Brien at the ‘NOS4A2’ Comic-Con press conference (Photo Credit: Rebecca Murray / Showbiz Junkies)

AMC hosted a press conference for season one of NOS4A2 at the the 2019 San Diego Comic-Con. Cast members Zachary Quinto (“Charlie Manx”) and Ashleigh Cummings (“Vic McQueen”) were joined by novelist Joe Hill and showrunner Jami O’Brien to discuss the show’s first season run and to tease what might be coming in season two. Although the official announcement that the show had been renewed wasn’t made until after the press conference concluded, it was fairly obvious the series would be sticking around from the hints dropped by the NOS4A2 gang.

Season one is currently airing on Sundays at 10pm ET/PT. AMC hasn’t set a premiere date for the just-announced second season.

Is there a character who’s become more of a breakout character than you expected them to be?

Joe Hill: “Wow, way to hit me with a really tough question at the start! I mean, I wouldn’t want to play favorites with the performances because I think everyone really poured their heart and soul into it and it shows on the screen. We have a complete newcomer in Jahkara Smith who plays Maggie Leigh, and Maggie Leigh is a little bit of a fan favorite from the book. I think Jahkara brought so much fun to the role and is so exciting. Her scenes with Ashleigh play like Butch and Sundance. So, that kind of feels like…because it’s her first thing, you know…that kind of feels a little bit like a breakout sort of performance.”

The relationship between Charlie and the Wraith is fascinating. Will we find out more about what it is that established the connection?

Zachary Quinto: (Laughing) “For me, the Wraith is the real breakout performance this season – temperamental lady that she is, actually. It was fun to work with that car. Challenging in some ways. But yeah, if we get a chance to tell more stories I think the relationship between Charlie and the Wraith is a great source of really interesting narrative possibilities. You know, Joe in addition to writing NOS4A2 the novel also wrote a graphic novel called The Wraith which is really all about Charlie’s relationship with the car and the backstory. You learn a lot about Charlie in that book in particular. The two pieces were really companions for me as I was getting ready to shoot and sort of diving into who the character is.

The car is an extricable part of who Charlie is and Charlie is an extricable part of who the car is. And so I joke but it actually is a kind of character in its own right.”

Did you do any of your own stunt work, Ashleigh?

Ashleigh Cummings: “Nope.”

Did you want to?

Ashleigh Cummings: (Laughing) “Yep.”

Joe Hill: “That’s not quite true. Now episode nine and 10 run real hard and Ashleigh took a beating filming those last two episodes. She got burnt and busted before it was over. She half-blinded herself and pulled her arm out of her socket.”

Zachary Quinto: “The exciting thing to be working with Ashleigh right now is like she’s at this moment in her career here in the States where she’s really emerging in such an incredible way. And to watch her passion for what she does and to see… I’ve been around the block and to see somebody so young and fresh and stepping into themselves in such a powerful way is such a great part of this experience.

She has The Goldfinch coming out in October and just has a lot of really exciting and interesting things happening right now, and is so committed to her work and to her life as an actress – and to her life just as a person. The balance in someone as young as she is is really impressive. So, she’s been remarkable to work with and to watch work. I know she really, really wanted to ride that dirt bike throughout the first season and there were some insurance hurdles that we couldn’t quite clear. But she’s really the kind of young actress who will literally throw herself at or into anything that she’s allowed to. It’s really cool to be a part of that with her.”

NOS4A2 Poster
Ashleigh Cummings as Vic McQueen and Zachary Quinto as Charlie Manx in ‘NOS4A2’ (Photo Credit: AMC)

What was your favorite part about playing Charlie?

Zachary Quinto: “I haven’t done an adaptation like this before and so I really loved the process of working on the character from the perspective of the book. And, as I said, not just NOS4A2 but also The Wraith. And then seeing how that was filtered through Jami’s point of view. The scripts were all really complex and compelling and interesting.

I was a little resistant at first. I wasn’t sure I wanted to go down this road again of playing this sort of archetypal supernatural villain. I have done it a couple of times in the past, and I think this will probably be the last time for me to do it for a while after I’m done with this run on NOS4A2. But it was an interesting kind of bookend, right, starting with Sylar and going through Thredson and now coming to this. They’re each very different but also there’s echoes.

Anyway, all of that stuff was interesting to me. I felt like it was part of the continuum. And the transformation of the character – the physical and vocal transformation – was a way that I was able to explore a whole other dimension of the character that I’ve never explored, no matter where they’ve fallen on an ethical spectrum. Those were the hallmarks of what made this really appealing to me. And, the people. It’s such a great group of people, really. Everybody is incentivized to do their best work and with a really good attitude. We have a great crew, great cast, and it’s just a great vibe on the show.”

Was there anything in particular in Vic’s personality you really enjoyed delving into?

Ashleigh Cummings: “Yeah, great question. I think I’m not a very combative person and Vic isn’t initially in our series. We kind of get to a point where she starts to find her voice and she uses it the best way she knows how to. Whilst I don’t feel that I’ve become combative as a result of playing Vic…my boyfriend might disagree…but I do feel that I’ve gotten my own voice in a different way.

I think prior to the show I was someone who…I’ve been raised to engage my empathy wherever I can. I think sometimes what I didn’t do was hold people accountable because I would always look towards their backstory and they’re a product of their nature or nurture and how can you really blame someone for the things they do. It’s finding the root cause of why people do the things they do and why they are the way they are. But what I learned is you can be empathetic and you can love someone and appreciate where they come from but still hold them accountable. That’s something that has been an enormous lesson for me throughout the show. I do feel like I’ve gained an inner strength through playing Vic. As an actor you do grow and evolve through your characters.”

Can we expect to see more Christmasland?

Jami O’Brien: “My hope is that we get more seasons and if we do, I think that we will see probably a lot more Christmasland. Fingers crossed.”

What was one of the things you were excited to see come to life from the book?

Joe Hill: (Laughing) “Christmasland.”

Jami O’Brien: “Christmasland. The bridge I was really excited about. I thought it was so vividly drawn in the book and I thought that our production designer did a phenomenal job of designing it and building it. He got some help from the VFX team on it as well. I just couldn’t be prouder of how it turned out. All of the kind of fantastical worlds I think were really fun for us – the dark tunnels, Jolene’s world was really fun. I love the car.”

Joe Hill: “The moon. I love that big crazy Charlie moon. It throws the big wink and I thought that was cool. I always wanted to see that.”

Jami O’Brien: “The Scrabble bag I think is really cool.”

The series is very dark and creepy. How do you deal with the young actors on the set?

Zachary Quinto: “First of all, because I deal with the kids a lot in a creepy setting and scenario, it was super important to me that the kids were well tended to and taken care of. I have to say as a real testament to our producers and to the production in general, the well being of those kids was like number one priority.

I think making sure that they were very clear about the differences between reality and imagination, that they had the opportunity to come by the makeup trailer while I was getting ready. They got to feel like they were part of the process. […] And then for some of the more intense or gruesome stuff that happens later in the season there was a child psychologist that was brought in to work with all the kids, talk to all the kids. I had a lot of respect for the way that was handled on our show. I feel like it’s a real testament to the integrity of our producers and to the nature of AMC to make sure that the environment is safe and that the most vulnerable participants in any aspect of any season of a show are taken care of and they feel engaged and looked out for.”