Zachary Quinto’s Before The Door Pictures boards “Secret Court” podcast series written by Abdi Nazemian
The scripted podcast series is based on the story of a clandestine purge of gay students from the Harvard class of 1920 – this year marking the 100th anniversary of events
Zachary Quinto’s Before The Door Pictures has partnered with Topic Studios, Vespucci Group, Spoke Media, and writer Rafael Moraes to develop “Secret Court”, a scripted podcast series based on the story of a clandestine purge of gay students from the Harvard class of 1920. Quinto (the Star Trek franchise, Margin Call) will voice and produce the podcast and award-winning author Abdi Nazemian (The Quiet, The Artist’s Wife, “Almost Family”) is set to write the series. Vespucci Group’s Daniel Turcan and Johnny Galvin will produce the podcast in partnership with Spoke Media, alongside Executive Producers Maria Zuckerman and Christy Gressman for Topic Studios.
This year marks the 100th anniversary when Harvard sophomore Cyril Wilcox (class of 1922) took his own life during a semester off school. It could have been a tragic, though recognizable, open-and-closed case of a student who commits suicide under extreme pressure or depression. Cyril, however, was part of a small group of gay male students, and his suicide led Harvard to instigate an impromptu and merciless Secret Court. It was led by the University’s then president and deans at the time, and condemned eight students, four “accomplices” and a handful of Cambridge locals. The ad-hoc court shamed and denounced these innocents as offenders, purging and erasing them from all official records as if they never existed at Harvard at all. And it had been kept a dark secret for more than 80 years.
“Secret Court” is a deeply felt, surprising and unflinching look into the lives of the young men searching for connection and community in a world that rejected and reviled them. Vespucci Group and Spoke Media incubated the story with writer Rafael Moraes through researching dozens of documents and letters stored in the Harvard Archives, including personal correspondence between the students, their parents, and the Dean.
Quinto says: “I’m honored to lend my voice and help amplify the story of these promising young members of the LGBTQ+ community, who were marginalized and sidelined due to the social intolerance of their day. A hundred years later, I am grateful to their contributions and sacrifices, and recognize that I stand on their shoulders today.”
Vespucci Group co-founders Daniel Turcan and Johnny Galvin say in a joint statement: “We are honored to bring this true story to a contemporary audience and let the voices of young men, silenced for 100 years, be finally heard. At the centennial anniversary of the events at Harvard 1920, this project also provides an important opportunity to explore the ways in we’ve progressed as a society, but also the places where we’ve fallen short in terms of queer expression and freedom.”
“This is an important story that needs to be told,” adds Spoke Media co-founder & VP of Content, Alia Tavakolian. “Brigham Mosley, the creative lead, has done a brilliant job of drawing out a beautiful narrative. Yes, there is tragedy and pain here, but there is also joy, happiness, and inspiration. And we’re thrilled to create a piece that showcases all the bravery and vitality of these tremendous young men who chose to pursue community and understanding despite living in a world that attempted to wipe out their existence.”
“We’re proud to join Zachary, Vespucci and Spoke Media on “Secret Court’ to further unearth this important history through Abdi’s authorial voice,” says Maria Zuckerman, EVP of Topic Studios. “We think that audiences will be moved and enthralled by this rich retelling and we hope that it inspires greater understanding and acceptance.”
Quinto is best known for his acting roles in Star Trek and its sequels. His other film roles include Margin Call, Snowden, Hotel Artemis, and Boys in The Band. He has also starred in a multitude of TV roles including “Heroes”, “NOS4A2”, “The Slap”, “Girls”, “American Horror Story”, “So Notorious” and “24”. On stage, he’s appeared in Angels In America, The Glass Menagerie, Smokefall, and most recently in the Tony Award winning revival of The Boys in the Band. His production company, Before The Door Pictures was launched in 2008, developing projects across film, television and other media.
Before The Door Pictures was founded in 2008 (and produced movies such as Margin Call, All is Lost and A Most Violent Year). The new iteration of the company has shifted to focus on developing TV, as well as podcasts. Before The Door has a first look deal at AMC Studios for scripted projects and Spoke Studios for unscripted fare.
Quinto and Vespucci Group are both repped by WME, Spoke Media is repped by ICM.
Zachary Quinto image credit: Chiun Kai Shih; Abdi Nazemian photo credit: Marc Ohrem-Leclef