BY BILLY NILLES
If anyone didn't know the name Rami Malek yet, well, what's up with that? That should've changed this summer with Mr. Robot and certainly today with the SAG Award nominations.
His 2016 SAG Award nomination for his breakout work on USA's hit series was one of Wednesday morning's happier surprises and, as the star tells E! News, the gravity of being nominated by a group of his peers is not lost on him in the slightest.
"It's a tremendous honor to be recognized by people I go to work with every day," Malek tells us. "That means so much to me. And to be touted among guys I've respected for years and I've picked up a few things from, it's a very unique and profound moment for me and I'm very appreciative of all of it."
Though the nomination announcement meant an early morning for the self-described night owl—"I usually don't wake up this early in the morning unless there's craft services involved."—Malek tells us he's been enjoying the day. "It's been pretty great," he says. "I talked to so many of my family and the people who helped me get here, which I think is the most satisfying moment of it all."
All the acclaim Mr. Robot and its star have received isn't doing anything to relieve Malek of his nerves, he admits (and with the reveal of Golden Globe nominations less than 24 hours away, the praise is only likely continue to grow). "I'd be a little afraid if I wasn't a little nervous about season two," he reveals. "I have to say, I think the reason this has just struck a nerve with people—this show and this character, some of the audacious things that he says, I think, resonate with people and it gives people a voice or allows people to find their voice. I think that may have something to do with why people gravitated to it."
One of those people who've gravitated to it? Oh, just Malek's fellow nominee Jon Hamm. "I'll tell you this, we were at the GQ Man of the Year party the other night and I find myself in the elevator going up to dinner with Jon Hamm and he's like, 'Dig your show,'" he says. "Are you kidding me? It's a crazy moment that I didn't expect to end up coming full circle like this. I didn't think it was in the realm of possibility." (About Hamm, Malek tells us, "I couldn't be in better company.")
The paranoid techno-thriller, which also stars Christian Slater, hasn't just struck a nerve with audiences and Mad Men actors. It's also effected its star in a deep way. "I remember reading the script and going in, and I think the first thing I said toSam [Esmail, the series' creator] in the audition was, 'Your script breeds anxiety,'" he admits. "That has had a very tight grasp on me since then and it just continues to strangle us in a way."
That stranglehold will certainly follow into season two when it premieres on USA next year. Malek's tight-lipped on what's in store for Elliot, though he does warn: "He's not smiling any time soon, let's say that."
Elliot may not be smiling, but something tells us it'll be all smiles for Malek this awards season.
Mr. Robot returns to USA in 2016.