BY MATTHEW GILES
USA’s Mr. Robot melded hacking, financial inequality, and psychological illness to create the breakthrough show of the summer. Headlined by your summer crush Rami Malek as the brilliant-yet-troubled hacker Elliot, and helmed by Sam Esmail, Mr. Robot emerged as a program that could move USA beyond Law & Order reruns and into the prestige-television arms race. Naturally, Vulture attended Mr. Robot’s NY Comic Con panel (moderated by Grantland’s Andy Greenwald) held at Hammerstein Ballroom this Friday where the cast talked about what they hoped for season two and who was technologically illiterate. It marked the first time the cast had all been together at the same time since the season finale, so what did we learn from their reunion?
Nope, not even the cast knows what’s going on with season two.
The cast all rode in a car together to the panel, and Portia Doubleday (Angela) said that they each tried to press Sam Esmail into revealing details about the upcoming season. “Sam gets scared to be in close quarters with us,” said Chaikin. “During the car ride here, I kept on trying to predict what would happen.” Though the cast, audience, and Greenwald all prodded, Esmail didn’t reveal much: “The one word I kept repeating to you guys in the car was, ‘It gets really fucking dark.’”
But, they do have hopes: Martin Wallström would "love" to see Tyrell kiss Elliot. (Um, yes.)
Towards the end of the panel, Greenwald asked each cast member what they hope happens when Mr. Robot returns to the air. Malek was straightforward about his desires: “I’d like to eat something in the show, and change my clothes.” Chaikin is most curious to learn more about her history with Elliot, as well as their family history. “I want to know more about Darlene’s past relationships,” she said. Christian Slater is eager to learn what happens to Tyrell, whose fate was left unclear during the finale. While Martin Wallström, who plays Tyrell, “would love for Tyrell to kiss Elliot.” Doubleday quipped, “You guys did get pretty close.”
Sam Esmail thought Carly Chaikin ruined a major twist on Instagram.
While killing time between takes, Carly Chaikin (Darlene) and Portia Doubleday (Angela) made themed videos to post to Instagram. Chaikin decided one video should be soap opera–inspired, and called out, ‘Fernando! Fernando! You slept with my sister.’ Sam was within earshot, and only heard, ‘My sister!’ multiple times. According to Chaikin, “Within 20 seconds of it being posted on Instagram. Sam called Portia and yelled at her. In a stone-cold voice he told her to take the video down.”
Rami Malek needed a typing instructor.
When the show first began shooting, Malek and Chaikin were by far the most technologically challenged. Now, though, “I can hack everyone in this room,” says Chaikin. She got good, because Esmail took the cast to hacking seminars. “I also was given Hacking For Dummies,” laughed Chaikin (who might have been joking). The cast all agreed that at the onset, Malek was the worst typer. Because of the numerous close-ups of Elliot’s hand as he typed, Esmail arranged for Malek to have a typing instructor, and he often carried a keyboard with him around the set. “I am pretty quick now,” Malek claimed.
Sam Esmail defends his creative inspirations.
Esmail doesn’t hide that he is influenced by a wide variety of work, from Fight Club to Taxi Driver to everything in Stanley Kubrick’s oeuvre. “I rip off every movie and TV show I ever watch,” he said. “I’ll have to send you my library.” There was a minority of critics within the show’s Twitter and Reddit following that felt the hat-tip to Tyler Durden and Fight Club was a bit too cute, a notion Esmail pushed back against when he was asked about it during the Q&A: “Who cares? Those are great fucking movies. Compare me to great movies, I love it.”
Rami Malek loves pranks.
“I don’t believe anything Rami tells me anymore,” Chaikin revealed, when asked if Malek was similar to Elliot in real life. “As soon as we cut, Rami is like Doo da doo,” said Chaikin, mimicking a cartoon noise. “I am a pain in the ass,” Malek agreed. Chaikin went on to describe several of Malek’s pranks, one of which included punking the cast that there was an actual financial panic (the Instagram photo just showed people waiting in line for a play, not for an ATM) and filling Chaikin’s trailer with gummy bears right before they shot the scene where Elliot learns Darlene is also his sister:
It was a heavy scene, and I wanted her to be comfortable. I wanted her to have a lightness before we filmed. So I asked her "What would Darlene’s favorite candy be?" She said, "Gummy bears, duh." And there is this great candy shop in Coney Island, and they have every gummy bear imaginable. I bought the store’s worth [of] gummy bears and I covered her trailer with them. There was even a five-pound one. It was epic, so much fun, and right before our huge scene.
Rami Malek talked about working with Robin Williams.
Before taking the lead in Mr. Robot, Malek starred as Ahkmenrah and worked with Robin Williams in the film franchise Night at the Museum. “No one was more of a gentleman than he was,” said Malek. “He couldn’t be more kind to everyone on set. He sees it as everyone collaborating to make something special together. He learns everyone’s names on set, and when he is called to set, he is the first guy there … He was a fine human being. And it is very sad not to have him around. I picked up a lot from him. He was a special man.”