7 Key Takeaways from the 'Farewell to Mr. Robot' Panel
The cast and creator of Mr. Robot -- including Rami Malek, Christian Slater, Carly Chaikin, and Sam Esmail -- returned to the Tribeca Film Festival this weekend to reflect on where they've come since 2015 and what to expect later this year, when the show returns for its fourth and final season. Here's what we've learned!
Mr. Robot takes place entirely in 2015
From the takedown at Ron’s coffee shop in the pilot, to the 5/9 hack, to what’s coming in season_4.0 -- everything exists in 2015, making Mr. Robot very much a period piece of our current age.
“The tagline for the first season was, ‘Our democracy has been hacked.’ A year later it happens,” said the show's creator Sam Esmail, also pointing out that, the day after USA Network picked up a show about hacking, the Sony hack was all over the news.
“In the writer’s room, we’re continuing to let current events inspire us, and that’s what feels relevant… Part of the reason people connect to the show is because we wanted to talk about now. The show is still set in 2015 for this reason. The technology will always look dated, but we specifically said, this is about 2015, so it’s almost like a period piece for current day.”
season_4.0 will basically be one long Christmas special
Esmail shared his fondness for British television and explained how TV series across the pond will often wrap with a Christmas special. “So the final season of Mr. Robot is one very long Christmas special that will last about a week over Christmas of 2015,” Esmail shared. Again, in season_4.0, he will be directing every episode and it will be filmed in block-shooting – where shooting days are scheduled by location, rather than by episode. Basically, they’re making a 600-page movie!
Esmail had serious doubts…until Rami Malek showed up
Esmail confessed that he was almost ready to bail on making Mr. Robot -- when Rami Malek came in and read for the part. Out of 100 actors who read for the part (including the coffeeshop scene and the “f--- society” monologue from the pilot), something about Rami “hit the bullseye.”
As for Rami, the actor kept his expectations low for the audition: “There were a lot of guys waiting outside and I just said, ‘I don’t think I’m going to get this.’ At that time, I didn’t think TV shows represented the diversity of our culture the way that they perhaps do now and I thought, ‘I’m never gonna play the lead of this show -- they’re gonna go with the usual suspect. So I just went in there and did my version of what I thought this guy was and immediately I thought I had a pretty good handle on it.”
Interesting, Carly Chaikin auditioned for both the Angela and Darlene roles – and, ultimately, ended up in the role that was more suited to her own personality. Christian Slater pointed out that Carly and Rami even look like they could be related. We can't imagine it any other way!
Christian Slater totally guessed the season_1.0 twist
Christian was hip to one of the biggest reveals of the first season (when even the directors of the early episodes weren’t in on the two biggest twists of the show.)
“We had our first meeting with [producer Chad Hamilton] and I just said, ‘What’s the deal with this guy? Is he really there?’” Christian recalled. “And [Sam asked], ‘Do you really want to know?’ And I said, ‘Yeah, I’d be curious,' and then [Sam] told me the deal and I remember being so excited about that because it was such an unusual thing to hear. Usually, you play it safe -- you don’t go for that -- and so this was, from the get-go, extraordinarily unique and different.”
Now, Christian’s excited to be more ‘real’ in season_4.0. “This season, I do become a little bit more real to a certain degree,” the actor teases. “And that’s been very interesting because I love working with other actors.”
Rami started acting like Elliot (even when he wasn’t acting)
Talk about method acting. Rami made a special effort to be like Elliot when he was first digging into the role, going around New York City in Elliot’s signature all-black ensemble, hood up, and avoiding human interaction as much as possible. The method gave him incredible insights into Elliot’s social isolation.
As the show has progressed, always granting viewers access to Elliot’s psyche, Rami has been consistent in not wanting to pinpoint exactly what Elliot is going through mentally. “I never wanted to ostracize anybody who felt like they could relate to him,” the award-winning actor said. Meanwhile, for all four seasons, the show has had a psychology expert consult on Elliot’s emotional journey.
Bohemian Rhapsody producers watched Mr. Robot
A lot has changed for Rami Malek since arriving on the scene as Elliot Alderson. In fact, these days he’s more likely to walk down the street like Elliot -- just to make it without being stopped by fans and press.
“I’ve done some things I thought were special in the past -- and they still are," Rami shared. "But this show just put me in a position where people could see what I was capable of doing in a phenomenal series. It did revolutionize the way we look at television on cable -- and it revolutionized how we look at the characters we want to follow and what they have to say. It gave me a platform to run the gamut of emotions that a character could play.
“Over one season, I thought, ‘What is left for him?’ and now, over four, I think it’s going to come to a phenomenal end… It’s been an extraordinary experience and I would've never had the opportunities that I had without this show. I only got Bohemian Rhapsody because the producers had seen me on Mr. Robot playing Elliot -- and I don’t know how they thought that that guy was going to play Freddie Mercury! Had this show not existed, that would not have happened and everything else since then.”
Esmail has had Mr. Robot’s ending planned since the beginning
Sam Esmail’s creation was originally conceived as a feature-length film (hilariously, the showrunner admitted that, once he realized he was terrible at hacking, he decided to write about hacking instead). So naturally, Mr. Robot has a beginning, a middle, and an end.
“The ending is the ending,” Esmail said. “We were always building up to that from the first season. And so it’s all about finding a way to get to that ending in a way that earns us that place. Our compass has always been Elliot’s journey and everything sort of folds around that. It’s not about trying to find puzzles and tricks and ways to fake people out. It really isn’t. It all just starts with, ‘How does Elliot feel about this?’ and that motivates everything else.
Mr. Robot will return for its fourth and final season later this year. The first three seasons are streaming on Amazon Prime!