San Diego Comic Con 2016 was a good year for the critically and commercially acclaimed Mr. Robot. Last year, the show had only just premiered and was too late to hold a panel in the actual convention center, opting instead to bring Rami Malek and Christian Slater to Nerd HQ for a fan panel.
This year, the show greatly expanded its presence to fan delight! Not only was there an off-site experience for fans to visit, but they also teamed up with Uber to bring a VR experience directly to fans, and gave out fsociety masks in the Gaslamp.
We were fortunate enough to sit down in the press room with some of the cast to talk about the current season and what audiences can look forward to. Be wary, as there are some spoilers for the first three episodes of the season discussed!
Christian Slater remarked on how his acting has changed this season, now that everyone knows the identity of Mr. Robot. There is a freedom in that information being known, as well as the ability to push the envelope as the relationship between Elliot and Mr. Robot becomes more clear. With his acting in season two, Christian plays Mr. Robot as an idealized projection of what he imagines Elliot’s father to be, slowly taking on a personality of his own, and finds that a powerful dynamic to explore.
He finds that his character is there to challenge and protect Elliot, acting as a larger than life figure who is powerful, loving, and scary all at once. Christian thinks that this season goes to a lot of unexpected places and he had a lot of visceral reactions when reading scripts.
…Like when he shot Elliot point blank in the head early on in season 2. When he read the script for that scene, he thought it was nuts, but he gave a lot of credit to Sam Esmail and Tod Campbell, the cinematographer for the show. It’s indicative of the power struggle between Elliot and Mr. Robot, figuring out how much power each of them can have.
When discussing Elliot possibly medicating Mr. Robot away, he questioned whether Mr. Robot being gone will really equal Elliot suddenly being well. He hinted at the possibility of there being a point and a reason to Mr. Robot in Elliot’s life.
Newcomer Grace Gummer, who plays FBI Agent Dominique DiPierro, hadn’t seen the show before auditioning, relying on her instinctual acting to get through the process. But once she was cast, she watched the first season to know the backstory of what had been happening on the show. The feel, mood, and vibe informed her character and she described the theme as “what you see is not really what you get.”
And once she binge-watched the first season, she became a huge fan of the show and felt honored to be a part of something she would personally watch. She teased that her friends now ask her questions about the show or she’ll threaten to spoil plot points for them and they don’t want to know! Gummer admitted that Dom may be the best part she’s ever played, and possibly the best job she’s ever had.
Speaking of her character, she says that there are a lot of surprises throughout the season, which will clear up more of her backstory and why she’s drawn to the five/nine case. She’s driven to find answers and Gummer played coy in explaining any connection her character might have to Elliot.
When asked how the federal government fits in with Evil Corp and fsociety, Gummer says it’s really left up to the audience to interpret, while also saying that she’ll definitely be an antagonist to fsociety. Her role on the show makes sense in expanding the consequences of season one.
Portia Doubleday also had to be careful in discussing Angela in season two, she couldn’t expand on the relationship role she fills for Elliot in the current season, nor could she talk about the changes Angela wants to make or could make from the inside of Evil Corp.
But she could tease that Sam Esmail reminded her, before filming for season two started, to remember who Angela is different around. Her specific dynamics with both Elliot and Darlene will get some light shed on them in season two. She also talked as vaguely as possible when saying that, if she can work her way in, then when she gets to a certain place, Angela will be able to start playing around with Evil Corp.
Portia could also speak passionately about her character, claiming that she related to her on so many levels. In the second season, there are a lot of moments where the audience should ask themselves if they would do what Angela’s doing. She’s exploring whether Angela’s inner needs will become bigger than being a good person or maintaining her moral compass, if the validation from Evil Corp will be enough or if she’ll turn against them.
This season is so unpredictable, with people going back and forth and something so unexpected happens that Portia couldn’t even guess the scenario, no matter how many she ran by Sam Esmail. She first learned of it at a table read with the rest of the cast when she was reading out her lines and was shocked.
But she maintains through everything, that Angela is a character who is frequently underestimated. Her intelligence makes her unpredictable, but she always has a game plan and she sets about it with single-minded determination.
Last, but not least, we got to hear from Elliot himself, Rami Malek, who discussed his character choices for season two at length.
To get himself into Elliot’s mindset, he admits that he has put in the work to get as close to that feeling as possible. He interprets Elliot as someone who manages to get himself out of such dark places, while being relentless, conflicted, and feeling the pressure. He’s a flawed character with questionable ethics at best. Depending on the day, he prepares for a scene by being close to the cast or finding a quiet space.
Looking to the fallout from season one, Rami says it never ends well for Elliot. He’s feeling guilty for what happened to Gideon and says more repercussions have yet to be seen. To garner that feeling, Sam Esmail researched societies in disrepair and explored the costs of affecting society and the world.
As far as his performances with Christian Slater in season two, Rami consulted a psychologist to understand the feelings of a revelation like the one Elliot had. He says he doesn’t look at Christian or give him anything in a scene, warning Sam Esmail before filming started that he wasn’t going to look at Christian or acknowledge him. Jokingly, he said that he feels bad about that, but that Christian would brush him off with, “You’re fine! You give me nothing anyway!”
When asked about Elliot as an unreliable narrator, Rami got especially candid with the audiences, saying things are real for those who are watching it, “It better be real to you, because it is real to him!” He also teased, “…things may or may not come crashing down on us, but we’re in it together.” He urged people to question why they’re watching the show and to think about things that may be a bit more real than people have surmounted so far.