Mr. Robot is everywhere at Comic-Con, with huge ads for the show plastered on buses outside the convention centre. But I still overheard someone asking, “So ... is that a show about a robot?” Given the number of fans who packed into the panel yesterday, though, it seems the uninformed are in the minority at this point. Here’s what we learned from the show’s second season from its stars.
A big difference between Mr. Robot’s first and now-in-progress second season is that creator Sam Esmail is writing and directing every episode. Esmail didn’t attend Comic-Con, presumably because he’s enmeshed in getting season two’s remaining episodes ready for broadcast. While it would have been great to hear from him, the cast members who did turn out (Rami Malek, Christian Slater, Carly Chaikin, Portia Doubleday, and season two newcomer Grace Gummer) did their best to discuss the notoriously twist-filled show in detail without revealing too much.
A recurring theme was that nobody on the cast could really comment on the show’s timeline, because they filmed the whole thing in blocks, like a movie. But there is “some cool hacking coming up,” according to Malek (not really a shocker, there), and a particularly significant episode slated toward the end of the season.
“We finally finished episode 10, and I’m so proud of it. It’s kind of Sam’s baby—I can tell when he’s really excited about an episode, because I usually get more takes. I think we put more money into it, as well. Ten will be a longer episode, and it feels like it can exist in a cinema as a film,” Malek said.
Malek praised Esmail’s commitment to writing and directing each episode. “It makes everything more cohesive. Every episode kind of blends into the other as one larger story—whereas, in the first season, you could be like, ‘Oh, that’s the withdrawal episode.’ ‘That’s Steel Mountain.’ He’s just a brilliant filmmaker. The one thing everything talks about how great of a writer he is, but he’s an artist. He has a great eye for things, and he’s a phenomenal director.”
One sign of this is that Esmail lets Malek and Slater dive into their often-fraught scenes without much rehearsal. “Usually some of our best takes are the first ones,” Malek says.
Slater’s titular character, of course, is in the unique position of not actually existing outside of the mind of Malek’s character, Elliot. “He’s in the process of developing a personality of his own, and the scary thing is that he’s getting stronger and stronger,” Slater said. “Elliot is doing everything that he possibly can to try and repress this other side of him, and that’s not something that Mr. Robot will ever be happy about. There’s a path that we’re on, and [my character] isn’t interested in anything getting in my way... this next season is a real power struggle between these two guys.”
Mr. Robot’s newest character is the FBI agent tasked with investigating last season’s big hack of Evil Corp: Dominique DiPierro, played by Grace Gummer (“I binge-watched all of season one after my audition”). Audiences got to know her a little bit more in depth in this week’s episode, but Gummer says there’s still a lot left to be revealed.
“You’ll see a lot of Dom at home, and who she is at home versus at work. Sort of like every other character on the show, you think you know who this person is, but you really don’t. She’s sort of a bright light in a dark world,” Gummer says. “[Sam] didn’t really tell me a lot [about Dom] before I signed a contract. But we were all at the first table read that we did, for about 10 hours, reading every single script. And we were all like, ‘Oh my god,’ so we all sort of found out at the same time [what happens].”
Could any of that oh-my-god-ness pertain to Portia Doubleday’s character, Angela, who has already changed the most of any character returning from season one? “There’s something dangerous to be said about her obsession with affirmations,” Doubleday hinted, noting that something “explosive” is coming for her “malleable” character. “I asked Sam so many questions, but what ends up happening, no one will be able to predict.”