BY ADRIENNE GAFFNEY
Mr. Robot creator Sam Esmail found himself embroiled in a hacking scandal this summer when his name was included in the release of Ashley Madison site users. It was all part of Esmail’s preparation for the show’s pilot, in which hacking genius Elliot Alderson (Rami Malek) blackmails the philandering boyfriend of his therapist. “I swear I didn’t do anything,” Esmail said to the audience at PaleyFest’s Mr. Robot panel last night. “When I wrote the pilot, I wanted Eliot to bust this guy and to use that leverage. I did create an account — this totally sounds ridiculous now — I created accounts everywhere online,” he explained. “And then the Ashley Madison hack happened! Of course my name is in the thing.”
It was just one of many examples of Mr. Robot eerily mirroring current events. (Ashley Madison got a shout-out in a later episode.) Esmail, who was joined onstage by cast members Malek, Christian Slater, Portia Doubleday, and Carly Chaikin, mentioned that the show was picked up by USA on the morning that the world learned of the Sony hack, and that a group of Eastern European hackers had stolen millions in a massive malware plot and were calling themselves Evil Corp.
While Esmail is notoriously tight-lipped about his show’s plotlines (a running theme of the evening), he did manage to dangle a tantalizing tidbit for season two. Esmail and Malek became particularly animated when a question was asked about the potential for an Elliot/Angela romance, with Malek recounting an office scene between the two that came early in the pilot. “The camera still had to see what was going on beyond, which was Terry Colby getting arrested, but the camera couldn’t quite get the full shot because I kept getting too close to Portia’s face, and I kept hearing Sam go, ‘You can’t kiss her!’ But there’s definitely some good chemistry,” he said. For a creator who's essentially duty-bound not to reveal anything, Esmail was definitive about that chemistry coming into play eventually, admitting, “I would be a fool not to go down that path at some point.” Let the shipping commence.