‘Mr. Robot’ makes San Diego Comic-Con debut
For a show featuring a secret society, nothing has been secret about “Mr. Robot” at San Diego Comic-Con debut. USA Network’s tech drama, which recently scored six Emmy nominations, has treated fans to offsite virtual reality experiences and recreations of sets from the show. On Thursday, the cast — Rami Malek, Christian Slater, Carly Chaikin, Portia Doubleday and newcomer Grace Gummer— headed to their first-ever SDCC panel.
We sat down with the cast prior to their debut to get the exclusive scoop on what’s in store for Season 2.
While creator Sam Esmail clued key cast members in on big reveals in Season 1, such as Elliot-Darlene’s relationship and the manifestation of Mr. Robot in Elliot’s mind, the scripts were being written week to week. This season was shot like a movie, so the cast was given all 10 scripts at the same time.
Although Chaikin (Darlene) knew Elliot was her brother and knew the big twist about Christian, she said “getting all 10 scripts up front, I don’t how we would have done it without having all that information. There are things you might find out later might that impact who you are.”
Following fSociety’s Five/Nine hack of Evil Corp, Darlene has stepped into more of a leadership role, albeit reluctantly. Chaikin said she was excited for viewers to see Darlene’s journey in Season 2.
“We really get to see a lot more of her … it hasn’t been easy for everything to be so militant in that way, just taking control. It’s been kind of navigating and almost wanting to go back to old behaviors.”
The character has changed so drastically that Chaikin said she recently rewatched Season 1 and was shocked to see how different Darlene was.
“I totally forgot how I used to be because I’ve been living in this new world for so long. It’s been the most amazing role for any dramatic actor, just to be able to play all the different layers of the masking things,” she said.
Much like Darlene, Season 2 has given us a different Elliott (Malek) who is seen in seclusion, sticking to a regimented routine, trying to free himself of Mr. Robot (Slater), who we learned in Season 1 is a manifestation of Elliot’s deceased father.
“I want him to grow. I want him to evolve. There’s a period of time you can’t account for. Where to begin this second season — To have him evolve in a certain way. Shooting him, there was a more frenetic person.”
The relationship between Elliot and Mr. Robot has already become increasingly tense and antagonistic in the first 3 episodes as Elliot fights to stay on the right path.
Slater said playing Elliot’s emotional baggage has been “definitely unusual. After we did Season 1, episode 9, I had many questions about where the character was going to go. Sam was still writing the scripts from week to week. We didn’t really know what was going to happen … the character is initially was this manifestation of somebody that Elliott truly loved and needed to sort of needed to lead him and guide him along this path. As long as Elliott is moving along that particular direction, we’re fine. As soon as he starts to put up barriers and walls and things like that, and taking us off course, I’m not going to be happy about it.”
He added that having all of the scripts this season allowed the cast to sit down and be on the same page. Knowing the character arcs and the direction they’re headed has been “remarkably helpful.”
“Mr. Robot” is also unusual in its use of the audience as a character in the show. Elliot interacts with viewers — he confides in them, at times he obscures what he’s doing, there are always trust issues.
Malek said this relationship was one that would continue to develop throughout Season 2.
“There’s always going to be that tight personal connection between Elliot and the audience. At times, that’s who’s getting him through all of this. Knowing he has someone to listen, to go through the hardships. Be the voyeur into his life that is a sounding board. You’re in it with him the whole way. There will be trust issues. There will be moments of confidentiality. There’s a mutual dependence on one another that I really think lends itself to an alternate experience for someone watching the show, a special experience. There is a bond that you have with this guy who can do some malicious things at times, who can do some questionable things. Who I think has at his core has a very strong moral center, but he gets himself involved in some very questionable territory. and he’s human. That’s the thing we don’t shy away from. The guy is flawed. That’s why he’s relatable, he is imperfect, just like all of us.”
Doubleday echoed that sentiment, adding the characters on “Mr. Robot” are more interesting because they’re realistic. She said Angela has had a huge shift following the suicide she witnessed on live television and is now working for an incredibly dangerous, yet very seductive corporation.
“I think it’s what makes characters interesting that they’re realistic. What are the sacrifices you have to make to be around people like that? Are you doing things for the right reasons? Are you being comprised over time? You get to see a lot more of that this season,” she said.
Conversely, Malek admitted Elliot is “an unreliable narrator” and that we as viewers may question things he’s experiencing.
“There are moments he suffers from very difficult mental issues. Those things can be difficult for an audience to sit through. But, if you want to go on his path, you’re going to have to start to question things as well. Ultimately, he’s more reliable than people would think. Otherwise, who would want to go down that path.”
Gummer said she was already a fan of the show when she came aboard. Her character , Dominique DiPierro, is a FBI cyber crime agent investigating the five/nine hack. To prepare for her role, she spent time with female FBI field agents in New York and said they were just normal women and led normal lives at night.
However, unlike other main characters, her arc isn’t dependent on other storylines.
“My character doesn’t revolve around another character or a man, my storyline is independent, which is kinda cool.”
As Season 2 continues to progress, Slater added that he’s excited for Elliot and Mr. Robot’s relationship to unfold.
“Sam has put a lot of time getting to the bottom of this relationship … it’s very well thought out and thoroughly detailed. I’m excited for it to continue to unfold, for the character to develop a personality of his own, not just this idealized vision of what he manifested his father to be or what he would have liked him to have been had he lived. The character is staring to exercise his own will in a lot of situations.”
So, he said the power struggle will continue and the question remains, “Who really is Mr. Robot?”
“Mr. Robot” airs at 10 p.m. Wednesdays on USA Network.