MR. ROBOT'S CYBERPUNK PRINCE

BY SEAN FITZGERALD

There's just something about grey skies that feels comfortable for Rami Malek.

The 34-year-old actor - one of the breakout TV performers of the past year as the star of cyberpunk thriller Mr. Robot - connected with 24 Hours on the phone during a rainy day in California.

"I'm in Los Angeles at the moment, where it's raining," he says. "And I'm okay with that. Because it's not your [Canadian] weather."

Mr. Robot - which earned favourable comparisons to movies like American Psycho, The Matrix, Fight Club and Taxi Driver when it first premiered on USA Network last summer - maintains a fairly dark, paranoid tone. You won't see many blue skies in the New York City depicted in the show.

"I actually get disappointed when we're shooting outside, exteriors, and there's a blue sky," he says. "It doesn't feel emblematic of our show, really. It should be gloom and doom."

In the series, Malek plays Elliot Alderson, a withdrawn computer programmer who works at a cyber security firm, defending a corporation he hates. The star's performance has earned him a best actor nomination at this weekend's Golden Globes, where he's considered by some critics to be the favourite in the drama category. Mr. Robot has received two other nods, including a best supporting actor nom for Christian Slater.

If you're hoping to catch up on the show before Sunday night's ceremony, you'll be able to binge the entire first season on shomi, starting this Friday.

Malek says that a win on Sunday "would just be a big bonus, because we've done well already."

You're going up against some TV heavyweights, like Jon Hamm, in your category at the Golden Globes on Sunday. How does that feel?

Jon is someone I've admired and that I've been watching for years. It's an honour to be included with guys like that - guys that are just powerhouses, from an acting standpoint. It's a really huge honour.

Do you have any sense of what you might say if you win?

Man, I'm not expecting anything. I know people say that it's enough just to be nominated, and as cliché as that might sound, I'm happy to be there. If you told me a year ago that I was going to be there, I wouldn't have believed you. So, that's a pretty special thing, in and of itself.

As a viewer, Mr. Robot is the kind of show that makes you second-guess your own online security. Did starring in the series make you rethink your passwords?

Yeah. I think everyone should second-guess what their passwords are. I think it's the most major vulnerability we all share, regarding technology and our privacy online.

Are you putting tape across your laptop camera, so that hackers can't spy on you? I know that Elliot does that in the show.

Yeah, I've been doing that. They used to laugh at people who did that. But I take every precaution now.

Do you think starring in a show about hacking makes you more susceptible to hacking in real life?

I'd rather not put any of those thoughts out there. I hope I'm not a target at some point.

Why do you think Mr. Robot has caught on so much?

It's a show that not only hits people emotionally, but also socially. People who are conscious of the issues and problems that we face in society are gravitating to a story that not only deals with those things, but actually is entertaining at the same time. So, it's pleasurable in that respect. But it also broadens people's awareness, and hopefully even provokes them. The show talks about technology in a way that makes you question whether that's bridging us or driving us further apart. This isn't just a show about technology and hacking. It's about who we are as a society, what we hope to become, and how we explore that together through the relationships that we build.

Can you give us a quick teaser for season two?

All I can say, is after this phone call, I'm already working on it. I'm in the midst of plotting my own work ethic for this year. I can't tell you much about the story, because obviously this is a show that's shrouded in secrecy. Everyone in the cast and crew is already hard at work on making season two just as good, if not better than the first season.

So even though you guys aren't filming until March, you still need that prep time.

Yeah. Despite having done a season of the show, it's not something where you can just step on set and expect it to have the depth that it deserves, in that mechanical way. I definitely need to put a lot of work into getting into the right headspace, and continuing to do this character justice, because he speaks to so many people. I've really realized that in this hiatus, just by an overwhelming response by people who could relate to him for so many different reasons. I just don't want to let them down.

Do you think this upcoming season will take its toll on you, mentally?

I will say that almost everything I do, acting-wise, ends up taking a toll on me.

Some characters more than others. And when you think about the ordeals that Elliot endures, there is probably some therapy that I'll need down the line.