'Mr. Robot' season finale: Rami Malek on hearing voices, hacking and his crazy eyes

  USA Network

USA Network

BY JACOB MARGOLIS

Note (and minor spoiler ahead): The season finale for "Mr. Robot" has been delayed a week following the shootings in Virginia this morning. In response, the official twitter account for "Mr. Robot"  tweeted, "The previously filmed season finale of Mr. Robot contains a graphic scene similar in nature to today’s tragic events in Virginia. Out of respect to the victims, their families and colleagues, and our viewers, we are postponing tonight’s episode. Our thoughts go out to all those affected during this difficult time."

Rami Malek used to skip out of his computer class in high school.

Which isn't noteworthy, except for the fact he's been playing hacker Elliot Alderson in the hit USA Network show "Mr. Robot" for a full season now. He recently had a chance to speak with Take Two's Alex Cohen about the show, which has been a runaway success.

"I didn't want to play the typical computer hacker. I wanted it to come off as very authentic, but at the same time, play against type," says Malek. "I looked at [Elliot] and I love the idea that there he was with his drug dealer and sleeping with her, and surrounded by a couple really attractive women in his life, though he was not able to have the human contact relationship he hoped to. But he wasn't someone who sat behind the monitor. He actually pushed himself beyond that."

"Mr. Robot" shirks the now-tired TV hacker trope of a Mountain Dew-drinking hermit for something different, and fans and critics seem to appreciate that.

As the season has moved along, Elliot, while compelling, has become less and less of a reliable narrator, forcing the audience to question what they think they know. The suspicion and paranoia are helped along by everything from Malek's voiceover (which we'll get to in a minute), to his outfit (something he's described as an urban combat uniform: black hoodie, jeans and boots), to his eyes.

"There are times when I look around and I'm, like, why can't my eyes just be a little bit smaller?" says Malek. The show relies on nuanced closeup shots of his face about as often as it does musical crescendo or plot twist.

Malek says given the tight framing of these shots, he's gotten a lot of feedback on how to act with his eyes:

"One director on the show 'The Pacific' I did, he kind of came up to me and took me away from the rest of the cast. I think he felt like he might be insulting me. And I don't know if it was an insult, but he said, 'Your eyes can get a bit big every once in a while. And I don't know if you see how close I am with the frame.' So, I think I started squinting after that in some scenes. And then the next director came on and he's like, 'We want to see your eyes! Why are you squinting?' And I'm like, 'I don't know how to control these quite yet!' But I'm getting the hang of it on this show."

"The fact that I have to contain it hones the performance even more, if that makes sense," Malek says.

Another staple of the show? The voice inside Elliot's head. 

The voice serves as the main character's direct line of communication with the audience. And on the show it's Malek's voice that we hear, but on set it's a different story.

When he's acting, Malek has the voice of Production Assistant Sarah Block piped into his ear. She reads the narrated lines to him while they're filming so that he can react to them in real time.

Malek explains that they tried playing several voices over the ear piece, including his, but none of them made him feel what he needed to feel at the right time. So he took it upon himself to have impromptu auditions for the voice inside his head.

"There was one PA that came on that was a young guy... I never felt that a male voice was what I was looking for and what Elliot needed," Malek says. "I feel like for Elliot, to be his honest self, he needed someone he could confide in. This young lady and I got close working together. It was like someone I trusted having around."

http://www.scpr.org/programs/take-two/2015/08/26/44245/mr-robot-tackles-hacker-stereotypes/