BY ALEC MCPIKE
If you missed the recent ’90s tribute episode of “Mr. Robot,” you can still hear all about it — and so much more — in this SAG-AFTRA Foundation interview with Christian Slater, moderated by Indiewire’s own Michael Schneider.
In the 35-minute taping, Slater covers everything from his Comic-Con 2015 live reading with the cast of the FX comedy hit “Archer,” to one of his newest projects, a based-on-true-events film titled “King Cobra,” in which he stars alongside James Franco as a dark, obsessive, gay porn producer.
[Spoilers for “Mr. Robot” Seasons 1 and 2 below.]
After the screening of the 90s tribute episode, which includes a cameo from Alf (yes, the Alf), Slater told the audience, “It was [an episode] we were very excited to do. But we thought, even while we were filming that particular episode, people are either going to enjoy this or we’re going to go straight to hell — that was sort of the vibe while we were doing it.”
Staying true to the show’s theme of “sticking it to the man,” Slater talked about a number of instances where sweet irony was weaved in throughout the series, such as the show’s subtle references to NBC Universal and the network’s popular series “Burn Notice.”
“It was fascinating that USA was willing to do a show about taking down a huge conglomerate — when they are a huge conglomerate,” Slater said. “The thing is riddled with irony.”
In the talk, Slater also dug into the final scenes of Season 1 Episode 9, in which it’s confirmed that Mr. Robot (Slater) is not only a figment of Elliot’s (Rami Malek) imagination, but also a manifestation of his dead father. And then, referring to the flashbacks in the “Full House”-meets-“ALF” mash-up episode in Season 2, Schneider pointed out, and Slater confirmed, that he is essentially playing two different characters.
“One is the real version of the guy, who is scared and worried and extraordinarily human,” Slater said, “and the other is Elliot’s projection of what he would have wanted him to be.”
After the confirmation that Mr. Robot was in fact Elliot’s deceased father, Slater said he was unsure if he was coming back for Season 2.
“It was something I was a little concerned about, because I was enjoying playing the part so much,” Slater said. “And it definitely would’ve been a bummer if that had been it … so when we did the graveyard scene in Episode 9, I didn’t know what was going to happen in Episode 10. So I called Sam [Esmail] and said, ‘Well, dude, I loved working with you but I guess that’s it, right?’ And he said, ‘Oh, come on! — Elliot without Mr. Robot is like Bruce Banner without the Hulk.'”
Toward the end of the interview, Slater dug way down deep into his acting roots, telling Schneider, and the audience, about his early years spent trying to model other actors, while also struggling to find his own persona.
“I guess that’s what you do,” Slater said. “In the beginning, you sort of imitate a little bit, you adapt, you incorporate, and then you customize, and then you make it your own.”
To wrap it all up, Schneider fed Slater an audience question regarding his most memorable experience working on “Mr. Robot.” Slater paused for a second, seemingly preparing a profound and thoughtful response.
“Well, it’s probably Alf,” he said. “That’s the stand-out moment for me, particularly season 2. Getting to work with him was something I will never forget.”
“Mr. Robot” returns for Season 3 in 2017. Watch the full interview with Indiewire’s Michael Schneider below.