BY CHRIS E. HAYNER
If there's one thing that can be said of USA's Mr. Robot, it's that it can be a very confusing show. With so many twists and turns, it is practically impossible to guess what's going to happen next. And that is not a sentiment simply true for the viewers, but for the cast as well.
With a thumping soundtrack provided live by Mr. Robot's composer, Mac Quayle, the cast gathered Monday night at Hollywood's Create Nightclub to celebrate the show at a FYC Emmy event. With the venue essentially turned into an underground fsociety rave, complete with moody red lighting and a small museum of costumes from the series, Rami Malek and his co-stars were quick to admit that there was one person they owed everything to when it came to the show, and that is creator, showrunner and director Sam Esmail.
Esmail was unable to attend the event as he's currently honeymooning with his new bride, Shameless star Emmy Rossum. He was certainly there in spirit, though, as the cast gushed over the importance of having him work on every script with a team of writers and directing every episode himself.
"We're fortunate in that we have Sam Esmail as our continuity master," Christian Slater, who plays the titular Mr. Robot, told The Hollywood Reporter. "He's the guy who has it all planned out in his head anyway, so the fact that he's there, he's the guy I rely on to let me know where I am at what point and what has happened."
Given that the show films its scenes and episodes out of order, thanks to a block shooting schedule, that makes Esmail an especially valuable asset to the castmembers as they often find themselves jumping around within the timeline of the series.
"Sam is really good at going, 'Look, here you are. These things happened. This is the moment before. Remember?'" said Portia Doubleday, who plays Angela. "He's ridiculous. You can ask him anything at any point in time. He's the encyclopedia for the show."
Added Carly Chaikin, who portrays Darlene: "That's why season one, it was really hard when he wasn't on set. It was a weird thing where directors would want to give us notes, of course, but I was also like, 'You don't know what's going on. You don't know the story.' So it was hard not to have him there to be like, 'What the f—? What is happening and where is this going?' So it's precious that he directs every episode and is always there."
Luckily, the cast also has the luxury of having a season's worth of scripts before a single frame is shot. "The fact that these writers and Sam take the time to write all the scripts, then we come in and have the opportunity to read the scripts over a two-day period, it gives for me enough of an awareness level or view of what the big picture of the season is going to be," Slater said. "I respond to it in an emotional way and I love those read-throughs."
For Grace Gummer, who plays Dom, Mr. Robot's way of doing things is a bit of a departure. "I feel so well-informed and confident about what I'm doing because I know everything so far. Usually with a TV show, you're one episode to the next," said the actress, whose previous small-screen credits include American Horror Story and The Newsroom. "I used to think I didn't want to know what happened later to inform what I was doing in the moment."
That all changed when she joined Mr. Robot as a series regular in season two. "In this case, it's kind of like you have to know all of that stuff," Gummer said. "You have to have the answer to make the equation work."
Still, while having the scripts ahead of time might sound like a luxury, it also creates extra work for the cast.
"If you haven't done the proper homework to step in on the day, you will flounder on that set," said Malek. "That's why I think the performances are so grounded and so powerful on this show. Not only do we have Sam as a bible or a guide, but if you haven't done the proper work to get in there, you will drown."
The third season of USA's Mr. Robot is set to debut in October.