Christian Slater On the Challenge of Playing a Character within a Character on ‘Mr. Robot’

USA Network

USA Network


Christian Slater of USA’s Mr. Robot talks to Awards Daily TV about keeping secrets, that chess scene, and Elliot and Mr. Robot’s mental tug-of-war.

No one was more excited for the Mr. Robot secret to be out in the open in Season 2 than Mr. Robot himself, Christian Slater.

“I think it actually gave me more freedom,” says Slater. “There was so much stress in Season 1 about holding our cards so close and keeping it under wraps that once it was out, it was a great relief, and it freed me up to have more fun with it, to be more excited about where Sam was going to take the character and what he was going to do.”

For those who thought creator Sam Esmail revealed the big twist too soon (Spoiler: The character of Mr. Robot is actually in Elliot’s head), Season 2 proved that there were many more surprises in store for Elliot (Rami Malek) and the fsociety crew and associates.

“Season 2 was a very exciting and outrageous season. I feel like Sam gave us the opportunity to go deeper with our characters and really just have a lot of fun.”

What’s especially interesting about the character of Mr. Robot is that not only is he not real, but he’s also an interpretation of a character through another character, something that Slater enjoys exploring.

“As we get deeper and deeper into the story and into Elliot’s mind and the actual events that we begin to investigate [as the story unfolds], I get to play the real guy when Elliot was a young boy and have those exchanges with him. You get to see this character as the human being he actually is. He’s dealing with being terribly sick, a marriage that he’s not particularly comfortable in, a lot of real-life world issues. His best friend is really his 10-year-old son. This is a guy who’s extraordinarily human and relatable in a lot of ways.”

USA Network

USA Network

Elliot’s father doesn’t sound like the leader of a revolution, which is why Elliot has to create a new persona in the form of Mr. Robot.

“Elliot’s imagining of him is a lot more boisterous, confident, secure with himself, and has a great deal of swagger and intelligence.”

One of the most memorable scenes of Season 2 is when Elliot and Mr. Robot engage in a series of chess matches with Elliot trying to completely rid himself of his late father’s presence in his life.

“That was actually one of the more challenging scenes to do, to be perfectly honest with you, because we had to move the chess pieces at exactly the same point at exactly the same line, and we had to really know how to play the game. We both had to coordinate exactly when and where we were going to say the dialogue and watch YouTube videos of how these particular games were played. We were both kind of nervous about that because we wanted to do a good job and wanted both of us to stay on our toes and be able to play the game as though we’d been playing it together our whole lives.”

Slater and Malek spent a lot of time together off camera, going through the scene and working on it over and over again to make sure the pieces moved at the right place at the right time, and it comes off effortless on film.

“[Elliot] does everything he possibly can in Season 2 to control me and places as many boundaries and restrictions as he can, even putting himself in handcuffs and behind bars, literally. I think I spent a lot of Season 2 extraordinarily frustrated by the choices that he was making, particularly when he’s creating his imaginary world, why he would choose to live with his mother, a woman that I [when I was alive] didn’t have the closest relationship with, also a little bit of a slap in the face. So our relationship is definitely a tug-of-war that goes back and forth and is very frustrating, but at its core, there is a great deal of love. My mission is to get him to complete the mission that he created me for.”

And just what is that mission exactly?

“The true answer for that does reside in the creator’s mind, Sam Esmail. He has always said that he has an end game and what the final goal is. He is very open and collaborative and tends to communicate with us about all these things. As far as that question goes and what that answer is, it’s certainly something that at this point I’m going to have to keep a lid on, at least for the next two years.”

More secrets for Mr. Robot to keep. Just as fans might have a desire for more answers, Slater is frustrated he can’t give them.

“In Season 1, it was very difficult to keep those cards close and not let anything out. I would have been devastated if I was the one to leak anything. We’re living in a world where leaks are happening everywhere, and I certainly don’t want to be the one contributing to that.”

But remember: For every question Mr. Robot answers, more new ones are created.