BY STACY LAMBE
When Gloria Reuben first became a TV star, then on ER as physician assistant Jeanie Boulet, she famously left the series after six seasons to sing backup vocals for Tina Turner on the Twenty Four Seven Tour. In the 15 years since, the actress has become a reliable supporting player onscreen, with notable roles on Law & Order: SVU -- which also sees Anthony Edwards reuniting with Mariska Hargitay this season -- and Falling Skies as well playing Elizabeth Keckley in Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln.
Most recently, she’s found herself in a recurring role as psychiatrist Krista Gordon on creator Sam Esmail’s USA series, Mr. Robot, which has garnered as much attention for its shocking twists as it has for the formidable acting of its cast, including the renaissance of Christian Slater and an Emmy win for breakout Rami Malek.
“The pilot was pretty intense,” Reuben recalls to ET, “and it was unlike anything I ever read before.” That first episode sees the show’s protagonist, Elliot, ranting about societal economic problems in an imagined monologue to his therapist, who is “having a difficult time getting underneath the skin of this young man who is obviously guarded, very smart and very sensitive,” she says. Later, Elliot shows off his hacking skills by focusing his attention on Krista’s boyfriend, discovering that he’s secretly married and has a wife in the suburbs, and eventually forcing him to break up with Krista.
“For me, it was the relationship between Elliot and Krista and what was happening there,” Reuben says of her interest in the show. “Obviously, the bigger story was with Elliot but I thought it was fascinating and nothing I had seen on screen until this time.”
By the time season two premiered in July, there was an expectation for an even bigger twist than the revelation that Elliot was Mr. Robot and Slater’s character was actually a mental re-creation of his father. The show didn’t disappoint when in episode six, it revealed that Elliot had been manifesting an entire alternate reality. While some fans may have guessed it, it was still a shock to many viewers -- and its cast.
“A number of us discover the real twists and turns at the table reads for the episodes,” Reuben says, referring specifically to the season two reveal. “I remember sitting at the table, reading the line, ‘I have to ask you something, Elliot. You know that you haven’t been living with your mother, right?’ When I read that out loud, I remember looking at Sam at the end of the table, we caught eyes and I mouthed, ‘What the f**k?’”
“I love that kind of storytelling,” she continues, offering no official confirmation about whether she’ll return for season three. “I don’t know how Sam does it. I don’t know if I want to know to see how his mind works. I’m just going to let him do his thing and see what happens next year.”
With the show in between seasons, fans can catch Reuben in the multi-generational Jamaican-American family film, Jean of the Joneses, about the secrets and truths that are revealed when Jean Jones’ (Taylour Paige) estranged grandfather dies on the doorstep of her family’s brownstone.
The film, which premieres Sunday, Oct. 23 at 7 p.m. ET on TV One, hit home for Reuben, who plays one of the sisters, Janet. Born of Jamaican parents, Reuben and her sisters were raised by their mother after their father died. “Those were two fundamental similarities,” Reuben says. “Our parents’ generation wasn’t necessarily as open about everything that went on in their lives or in their relationships.”
In a scene, premiering exclusively on ET, Reuben does a first in her onscreen career: throw an epic meltdown. “I really loved it,” she says of the scene that takes place outside their grandfather’s wake. “Too bad there wasn’t a gag reel because I know some of the sh*t that went down while we were filming. I was beating on the hood of the car. It was just a bunch of women on the verge.”
“When there’s a death in the family or someone’s going through a divorce, things can have a tendency to get a little nasty,” she adds.