Zachary Quinto’s performances as Spock in the Oscar-winning blockbuster franchise Star Trek have made him a household name. His work on hit television shows like American Horror Story and Heroes didn’t hurt either.

When I met Zach, I felt that he encapsulated the spirit of so many modern American gay men: smart, out of the closet, and seeking real meaning and balance in life. Turns out, that’s what everybody’s after — even movie stars.

I sat down to ask Zach the questions I really want to know the answers to…

Jordan Bach: The first thing I noticed about you is that you’re very cerebral. You think deep thoughts and you’ve got the eloquence to communicate them. Is that a natural Gemini thing or were you once insecure about expressing yourself?

Zachary Quinto: I’ve actually always had an aversion to the idea of “cerebral” because I feel like it can be a limiting adjective. I grant that I tend to be incredibly analytical — and it’s always been a primary goal to understand myself and the world around me in an intellectual way. There were periods of my life in which I didn’t have the confidence to put myself out there as assuredly as I can today. That was a process of self-acceptance and discovery that unfolded over time. I’ve always been outspoken — but confidence doesn’t always equal sensitivity or emotional accessibility. Those things evolve as we do, and I think the best thing any of us can do is be gentle with ourselves. And be specific about the direction in which we want to go in life. I happen to always want to go deeper. Within myself and within my relationships there has to be a channel of communication that remains open and free. The minute we start restricting expression there is bound to be conflict. And my Gemini nature is strong. I’m sure that factors in to some degree.

Lately, I’ve been really into Brené Brown. She’s this amazing expert on vulnerability. She says there aren’t “authentic people” and “inauthentic people,” but rather that authenticity is something you practice. I suppose we all sometimes feel like our behavior isn’t aligned with who we really are. What do you do to get grounded again when you’ve lost your footing?

That’s an interesting concept. I feel like authenticity is a constant pursuit in this ever accelerating and disconnected world, and it circles back to communication. Being able to engage each other with a sense of compassion is a big part of that for me. So, first I surround myself with people who hold me accountable to my authentic self. Particularly people who have known me for many years, well before all the hoopla of my career. It’s more complicated to pursue authenticity when people have preconceived notions and ideas about my personality based only on a public persona. Old friends help me stay solid and committed to a truth that can be easily obfuscated by the chaos of my particular industry. I also have pets. They help remind me often of simplicity and unconditional love. Yoga. Meditation. A good book. A museum. A walk in Central Park. And always, always, always the theater. These things are essential for me.

What’s one lesson fame has taught you?

Fame is an illusion. It’s something all too easily plugged into, and it’s become an unhealthy obsession in our culture to a startling degree even in just the last 15 years. It used to be that celebrities were people who were particularly good at a specific craft or vocation. They were great artists or great thinkers — people who contributed to society in meaningful and significant ways. Nowadays that’s clearly not the case. So for me it’s a slippery slope. I engage fame with clear and immovable boundaries that allow me to maintain a life of relative normalcy, which is the only kind of life that appeals to me in the end.

You decided to come out publicly after Jamey Rodemeyer killed himself in 2011. You said he changed your life. I believe all the bullied children who have ended their lives are now our greater angels, urging us to live more boldly and more compassionately. Your coming out helped heal a lot of people. Did it heal you on some level?

Absolutely. It’s hard to describe the hugely positive impact that decision had on my life. But the thing I never really thought about before I took that step was the impact it would have on the lives of so many young people still struggling toward self-love and acceptance. The letters I get and the kids that I encounter affirm everyday that stepping into full acceptance and integration in my own life actually had power far beyond my own experience.

I needed to wrestle and confront and eventually embrace my own layers of inner-conflict and uncertainty. Internalized homophobia can often be the most damaging. Our inner enemy can often be far more cruel and hateful than the most aggressive bully because it knows our weakness from within. Ultimately pacifying that enemy was the deepest healing for me. Everything else is an extension of that.

Our inner enemy can often be far more cruel and hateful than the most aggressive bully. Click To Tweet

On your blog, you wrote about “an enormous shift of collective consciousness” in the world today. What kind of shift are you talking about?

There’s an undercurrent of anxiety in our culture that’s affecting us collectively in very unsettling ways. Technology is literally rewiring our brains and we’re becoming less connected on a fundamental human level. We’re in constant contact with one another, and easily able to track each others’ comings and goings, but the contact is so much less substantial. So now the responsibility is ours: to decide the direction in which we want to evolve. I think there’s a kind of awakening which is possible in the midst of so much chatter and chaos. But we have to wake up ourselves before we can wake up each other.

People toss around the word “spiritual” a lot. What does it mean to you?

It’s about realizing that each and every human being is connected on some level. Within that realization is a quest for the meaning of Self. That’s a universal and lifelong pursuit if we open up and commit to it.

So many of us grow up with some kind of inner knowing that we’re here for a reason, or that we might be able to do great things with our lives.

I think we need to seek guidance from the universe in that regard. It may sound cheesy or cliché but the truth is there are answers out there for most questions if we can be specific enough in the asking. I was fortunate to find a calling at an early age. To some degree, that makes it easier to speak to this. I feel as if I was encouraged and supported at every turn by people in my life. And if I look at it more deeply I can see that those people are an extension of the universe and therefore a part of the very collective unconscious that fuels my idea of spirituality to begin with.

You said in a recent interview that, in the past, you’ve been attracted to people who were somehow unavailable. What’s that about?

Emotional unavailability is an increasingly common phenomenon, and so I think we’re conditioned to expect it to a certain extent. At the touch of a button we can “meet” people on Facebook or on Twitter. We can watch what people are up to on Instagram. And of course there are many portals for more sordid modes of connection. It diminishes the potential for genuine connection because it puts multiple filters between us. People are unavailable because they live with their faces buried in devices as the world whooshes by. Of course, I’m guilty of it myself, but I try to be as mindful as possible of seeking out real connection instead of the virtual idea of connection.

Don’t you think every person comes into our life to teach us something? As we become more open and honest and loving, we attract other open and honest and loving people?

Absolutely. We need to clean our own kitchens and then people will want to come for a meal. Is that a weird metaphor? I just made that up.

Now let’s talk about the things that really matter. Who was your first celebrity crush?

Brad Pitt. Thelma and Louise. 100%.