BY ABBEY WHITE
Mr. Robot, USA Network’s summer hacker hit, has taken the television world by storm. Its quiet, nerve-wracking tension and sharply driven narrative has catapulted a series in its screen infancy into one of the best dramas of 2015.
The show stars Rami Malek as Elliot, an antisocial cyber security engineer by day and genius hacker vigilante by night. His disillusionment with society, coupled with his tenacious sense of morality, has led him to tracking down the country’s richest and worst; the people who profit both personally and financially off the backs of others.
But when he’s approached by a strange leader of an underground hacker group, known ominously as Mr. Robot (Christian Slater), Elliot finds himself lured into the idea that he can permanently stop the people who are running the world from ruining it.
Just before Mr. Robot stars Christian Slater and Rami Malek appeared at New York Comic Con’s Hammerstein Ballroom to a packed house on Friday, they spoke with ScreenSpy about the series’ ‘hit’ status, working together and what it was like to shoot in Times Square.
Considering Slater and Malek’s bankability, and creator Sam Esmail’s vision, the series could have easily achieved a modest degree of success. Most series though take a full season to find themselves — and for audiences to find them — which may be why many initially underestimated the show’s potential to reach its current level of critical acclaim.
That includes the series’ leads, who knew they had a good story, but were still unable to anticipate the degree to which it would be positively received.
“We knew we had something really good on our hands and we just wanted to give it the service it deserved,” Malek explained. “But no one could have anticipated this.”
“We started with the pilot at South By Southwest Film Festival and immediately I just thought ‘Well, that’s unique in and of itself.’ A television show screening at a film festival — I just thought that was very unusual,” Slater added. “Then winning the audience award there I went ‘Wow, okay.’ But you’re still kinda going ‘Eh, I know I like the show but are [other] people actually?’ It’s always surprising.”
Many would argue that Mr. Robot‘s unexpected rise to hit status is due in large part to its smart and stylish shooting. Two scenes in particular, both filmed in Times Square though revealed at opposite ends of the season, immediately come to mind.
For Slater it was a uniquely exciting experience, especially as a native of the ‘Big Apple.’
“When I read it I was very — well, I was excited,” Slater shared. “First of all, I’m a New Yorker, so the idea of getting to do a scene in Times Square was thrilling. But this wasn’t just any scene. This was a very unique and, I thought, a beautifully written speech.”
“I was excited, then got very nervous about it,” Slater continued. “I knew [Rami Malek] had shot a scene already in Times Square and had talked about what it was like being there. Just the crowd and the lights, and the people milling about whenever they see a camera, which can just be absolutely insane. So that all made me nervous.”
“I just ended up going to Times Square every day and night prior to shooting that scene, maybe five or six days prior to with a bluetooth headphone, just like any other douchebag in the city,” Slater joked. “[I pretended] I was talking to somebody, and rehearsing that scene in the middle of Times Square.”
For Malek, who shot his scene for the first episode, it was an overwhelming experience as well.
“I remember doing it in the pilot, and it speaks to what you were saying. We’re making something really special here,” Malek recalled. “He’s running from guns, shooting in Times Square. I thought, ‘Who’s ever going to get to do this again?’ And then here we are in the finale doing it. It’s an iconic moment.”
It’s clear that both actors feel the work they do for the project is a near unbelievable experience. However, Malek and Slater admit that one aspect of their job in particular is real magic — Elliot’s hacking.
“He’s a magician,” Slater said.
There are guys who can do that which is very scary,” Malek followed up. “I mean, that’s what all of our government is concerned with these days. One guy sitting behind a computer who can systematically destroy major components of military and corporations.”
So, is it all acting for Malek or has he picked up any skills of his own?
“Who can do what Elliot does? Can I do that? No, I’m an actor,” Malek said, laughing.
Curious to know how Christian Slater and Rami Malek feel about shooting scenes with each other? Watch below to see what the actors said about their favorite part of working on set together.
Mr. Robot returns for a second season in 2016.