BY ANTHONY D'ALESSANDRO
EXCLUSIVE: The writers from Mr. Robot have officially headed back to the writers room to hammer out Season 2 of the USA Network show. While fans are waiting, they can catch the 24-hour Mr. Robot Marathon before New Year’s Eve, beginning at 11 PM December 29. The marathon starts with the commercial-free pilot and ends with commercial-free Episodes 7-10 running from about 7:45-11 PM.
The news was announced at USA Network’s Mr. Robot cross guild event Wednesday night in Los Angeles. The panel included series creator-writer-director Sam Esmail, stars Christian Slater (Mr. Robot) and Rami Malek (schizophrenic hacker Elliot Alderson), as well as music composer Mac Quayle, costume designer Kim Wilcox and editor Franklin Peterson.
Esmail kept a number of Season 2 spoilers close to the vest. When a question arose about how Mr. Robot, a figment of Elliot’s imagination, can dialogue with other people in his son’s life — read: a car scene where Mr. Robot meets up with Elliot’s E-corp nemesis Tyrell — the creator replied, “We’ll specifically address that scene in the second season.”
In response to whether Elliot would encounter drug lord Fernando Vera in Season 2, avenging his girlfriend Shayla’s death, even if it was over a cup of coffee, Esmail quipped, “We have the writers in the room tonight; we’ll consider that pitch.”
What Esmail and his below-the-line crew did unveil were their various processes used to heighten Season 1.
Esmail gave props to Malek at the top of the session. Having created a protagonist who is so enraged at the world, Esmail was concerned that he’d turn viewers off. So he needed an actor who would make society rebel Elliot sympathetic.
“I’m listening to all these great actors (during the audition), and what they had wasn’t working at all,” said Esmail, “Then Rami comes in and added this warmth. It changed everything. He added a vulnerability to Elliot. I wanted to hug Elliot and say, ‘Don’t go away and stop talking.’ Rami is a big owner in this character I created.”
In forging an avant-garde style on the show from its skewed camera angles to its dramatic sound, Esmail says that when he assembled his crafts team, “My prerequisite for hiring these guys was that they were a little off, and not completely stable.” Esmail referred to how his DP Tod Campbell was right for the job since he wanted to prioritize the weird shots on A camera, not B.
From a blurred coffee cup in the back of a shot to uber hacker White Rose’s wizard black-and-white brick pants suit, “There’s a 20-minute conversation behind their meaning,” said Esmail about his conversations with Wilcox and production designer Stephen Beatrice.
Music, which can span from Quayle’s techno metallic score to classical pieces like Shostakovich’s “Suite For Variety Stage Orchestra,” is the primary building block to stringing scenes. While most editors refuse to cut to it, it’s Peterson’s compass. Esmail has worked with the editor since his feature directorial debut Comet, prizing him for his vast knowledge of tunes.
Esmail pointed to the scene of Elliot discovering Shayla’s body as one where the pulsing sound design melds with the pounding bass to complement the hacker’s fierce, bitter reaction.
“There’s this convention with music, that it’s suppose to be a bed, that it’s not suppose to overpower except when there’s a big dramatic scene,” explains Esmail, “I hate that. It’s terrible; you’re squandering a terrific opportunity to create atmosphere.”
It’s that creative attitude to push back against the norm, that has given Mr. Robot its signature as an edgy noir. In fact, it’s the score that pushes other below-the-line elements to the top of their games.
Said Esmail: “I told everyone that the music has to be really loud. And when you say that, it forces everyone to get creative — the dialogue mixers, the sound design and foley.”