BY JASON LYNCH
After shaking up the television landscape last summer with Mr. Robot, USA now has the daunting task of trying to top itself when the series returns for Season 2 this summer.
Before production began on 2015's best new series, the show's stars and creator Sam Esmail assembled at the Television Critics Association's winter press tour today to talk about what is in store for Elliot (Rami Malek) and the other characters next season.
"We could not be more proud of Mr. Robot," said Chris McCumber, president of USA Network. "This was a big week for the series," which won two Golden Globes on Sunday, for best drama and best supporting actor (Christian Slater). "The series struck a chord with fans that no television show has done in a while. From the moment we saw the pilot, we knew we had something special."
Now Esmail's challenge is to keep that momentum going in Season 2, which will address the fallout from the big twists involving Malek and Slater's characters. (Spoilers ahead for anyone who hasn't seen the first season.)
"The whole show has been about Elliot's emotional journey, and I really wanted to focus on that and make it less about the plot. For me, the headline for Season 2 is: How do these two guys reconcile? How does Elliot reconcile with the fact that he's just seeing this fantasy? So that's the struggle that is going to take over in Season 2," said Esmail.
Next season "is about a guy who becomes aware of this delusion he's been having. That's a tough pill to swallow. And we're really going to go into the mind of a person who has just become aware of that, and what is the next step to that? How do you reconcile that? Will twists organically derive out of that? If I were a betting man, I'd say 'yes,'" said Esmail, who is "close" to being finished writing Season 2.
The show's creator said he will be "filling in the blanks" of Elliot's past, present and future, comparing Mr. Robot to a painting, where "you step back, you see more of it." This season, "there will be a lot more backstory that will be shown. The timeline is going to get a little clearer. Not 100 percent more clear, because what's the fun in that?"
While Season 1 had a few major, jaw-dropping twists, Esmail added, "I'm not interested in gotcha moments or trying to shock the audience. It's not my agenda to keep shocking you."
Season 2 hasn't started shooting yet, but the prospect of prepping for production, given all that Elliot is struggling with, is "already giving me anxiety," said lead actor Malek.
Esmail also will have a lot on his plate this season: the creator will be directing all 10 episodes himself. "Seeing the first season, I just have a very distinct visual style for the show, and for me it's actually harder to collaborate when it comes to that aspect of the show," said Esmail, who admitted that USA was initially "terrified" about his plan.
"But the show's look is so singular it kind of makes sense in the end. And you're not going to believe this, but I think it's actually going to be easier on me," he said.
BD Wong, who played the enigmatic White Rose, will return for Season 2. "I would be stupid not to use him more this season," said Esmail. "But I do have to use him sparingly."
In other USA news from the press tour, the network has renewed Playing House for Season 3, and plans to bring back the VOD windowing strategy while enhancing it with further brand partnerships.