“The Slap” represents a new step for NBC. The hourlong show is a drama based on an Australian program, but it’s a limited episode run, with only 8 shows in its season, and a serious list of prestige players took part. “The Kids Are All Right” director Lisa Cholodenko directed every episode, playwright Jon Robin Baitz wrote it, and the show stars Peter Sarsgaard, Thandie Newton, Zachary Quinto and Uma Thurman. The action centers around a group of Brooklynites whose urbane existence is shaken up when one of them (Quinto) slaps another’s misbehaving child at backyard barbecue.
Asked what it’s like playing the person at the heart of the action, Quinto says, “It’s only the center of the controversy because it’s the incident. There are so many other things that are happening and there are so many other levels of complexity in each of these characters. They all have their own epicenter of disaster in their lives.”
The series examines ideas of parenting in America, always a heady topic, as there’s a clash between the Greek immigrant family on one side of the debate, and the longtime U.S. residents on the other. Is the slap child abuse, or an accepted mode of discipline for a rowdy child? Despite the fact that these are all people who are close enough to attend a party together, Quinto says the characters will “very clearly” divide into camps, but on a broader scale, he hopes audiences are more torn.
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“I think if it works, there’ll be a lot of going back and forth,” says Quinto. “I like to hold a mirror up to the audience and I like for them to take responsibility for their feelings and their thoughts and their beliefs.”
It’s a new direction for Quinto, who many audiences know from his work as Spock or as the villainous Sylar on “Heroes.”
“I was thrilled to get the opportunity to do this. I’ve known Robbie [Baitz] for years. I’m a big admirer of his work,” says Quinto. “I’m drawn to things that invite an audience in and light a little bit of a fire to generate some discourse, dialogue, debate, and it doesn’t give the audience the answer. There’s no clear cut point of view with this story and I like that.”
Though Quinto is making the change from genre to a more straightforward drama, he’s still getting into trouble. “[My character] Harry is arguably the villain of the series, but in a very human way, so for me it was about getting into a world that was not elevated or supernatural or science fiction. This is a very human world. So now that I’ve had the opportunity to do that I feel a sense of closure on the sort of villainous aspect of my persona.”
Just how goofy can Quinto get? He says he’s “looking forward to a future of varied opportunities,” and jokes that what’s coming next will be “some lighter fare.”