BY KEVIN P. SULLIVAN
Christian Slater’s role in USA’s Mr. Robot changed drastically over the course of the first season, and by the end of Wednesday’s finale, we got a preview of where his relationship with Elliot Alderson (Rami Malek) might head in season 2. EW chatted with Slater about the end of a very successful first season and whether we can expect to see him around next year.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: When did you find out the truth about Mr. Robot?
CHRISTIAN SLATER: When I read the pilot script. There was nothing specific in there that jumped out at me, but I had a funny sense about it. I remember saying to my agent, “I don’t know if this guy is really there.” The other thing too that was funny is you get a script called “Mr. Robot,” I’m thinking, “Oh, God. What is this going to be?” I was so relieved that I wasn’t mechanical. Then I had a meeting with [producer] Chad Hamilton and the director Niels [Arden Oplev] and [series creator] Sam [Esmail]. I just said, “Hey, I’m just curious. What’s the deal with this guy?” Sam said, “Do you really want to know?” I said, “Yes, I think I do.” I think he said that Mr. Robot is the ghost of Elliot’s father. I said, “What?!” I got really excited about it and much more intrigued and fascinated. I just thought, “How are they going to do this?” I really didn’t fully understand, but I was glad at least that Sam and I were on the same page. I felt like I was in on the secret early on that not a lot of other people had picked up on.
When you know a big twist ahead of time, is there extra pressure not to tip your hand?
Definitely. We were as careful as we could be while shooting to not reveal anything, maybe just leaving little breadcrumbs, little clues along the way. The most frustrating thing I think has just been not being able to talk to people about it. Not being able to unload it. As the episodes have aired for the last 10 weeks, that has definitely been a question that I have been hit with all the time. Every time it’s come up, I walk away from the person just thinking, “Oh, my God. I hope I didn’t reveal anything.” I’m not a great card player. Keeping my cards close has always been a challenge for me.
Were you ever concerned that the show couldn’t pull off the twist?
It’s always a leap of faith when you get involved with somebody. I think the thing that really put me at ease the most was the preparation that Sam had done and the amount of work that he had done going into this production, how he had thought it all the way through. That made me feel safer and more secure that he did have a specific vision. I did question certain things. When I read the episode after the pilot and I push this young man off of this pier, I felt terrible. I said, “Sam, how am I going to recover from this?” He had to remind me of what the whole arc was and what the journey was. A lot of it was taking a leap of faith and putting myself in another creatives hands and having faith that we’re going to see this vision all the way through.
Rami mentioned to me that he also had concerns about episode 2.
Yeah! When you sign onto something, you want the character to be redeemable and likeable hopefully and understandable. It was hard because my son saw that episode, and he even said to me, ‘Wow, that was such a jerky thing to do.’ It was another opportunity where I had to keep my mouth shut knowing what the full journey was going to be able to say anything. It just made it that much more frustrating.
Actually, both the pier scene and the name of the show being Mr. Robot both make more sense after the twist.
It was an interesting choice. The truth of the matter is that I didn’t push him at all. Elliot is dealing with an emotional struggle. He is certainly delusional and seeing things and imagining things, and it’s hard to know exactly what’s real. If you really look at it, the truth of the matter is that I wasn’t there at all. He’s just dealing an issue that’s actually taken physical shape from his childhood, and trying to reconcile that relationship. When we were filming the scenes at the cemetery, it was very emotional and affected a lot of the crew. Who can’t relate to a father-son relationship and those questions and those issues and all the stuff that that brings up? It hit me to my core and a lot of people around us to their core.
That was a really powerful scene.
The truth of the matter is that I haven’t even seen the show. I’ve been waiting. We filmed them, and I know for Rami, it was such an exhausting show for him to film and the depth that he had to go to while filming. We both have been waiting until the whole thing is out there before we actually sit down and watch one episode after another. Maybe we’ll watch it together.
Did playing two aspects of the same character affect your collaboration with Rami?
When we started, Rami wanted to know everything. Then as we continued to move forward, Rami became less interested in having all of the information and very much like Elliot, wanted to be a little bit more in the dark. How much he knew, I don’t know.
How much Mr. Robot will there be in season 2?
The way Sam described it to me — but honestly, I have the same question — he said, ‘Elliot without Mr. Robot is like Bruce Banner without the Hulk.’ Whenever Elliot is backed into a corner or needs some information or feeling scared. There are going to be times when Mr. Robot is going to have to take over and be that slightly more fearless, maybe more dangerous and crazier character. And there are a lot of secrets that Mr. Robot still possesses. Elliot doesn’t necessarily know that he has the answers himself, but I don’t think Mr. Robot is going to let on until he’s ready for Elliot and his abilities to be able to deal with those answers.