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Cyber Guru Helps USA’s ‘Mr. Robot’ Stay Authentic

Writer-producer Sam Esmail was fed up with the Hollywood clichés of hackers. He wanted his debut TV show — USA Network’s “Mr. Robot” — to represent that community as authentically as possible. After all, he reasoned, practically everyone today has a smartphone or laptop and knows how to use technology; audiences will notice inaccuracies. That’s why a key position on “Mr. Robot” is the technical advisor.

“If I make a mistake, I know it’s going to end up on Reddit or Twitter,” says that advisor, Kor Adana. “And then Sam is going to email me about it. Our fans are awesome and super smart, and I have a lot of anxiety when we’re airing episodes.”

Adana began on season one as an assistant but quickly made his way into the writer’s room. (Esmail is known for sailing a nontraditional ship.) As season two gears up to air on July 13, Adana explains how his job takes him all the way from pre-production to post.

“In production, my job evolves into that of a full-time tech consultant,” he says. “I research hacks and figure out exactly what Elliott [the hacker played by Rami Malek] would be doing at his computer and what would be seen onscreen, what kind of software he would have, and what commands he would use.”

For Elliot’s screenshots, Adana — formerly a “white hat hacker” for a cyber security firm — researches software and comes up with detailed breakdowns, complete with photo and video samples. These are handed off to an animator, who in turn goes through many revisions to perfect the shots.

For the top-of-the-line hacker tools Elliot uses with his pals at fsociety (the group led by the mysterious Mr. Robot), Adana interfaces with props and set-decoration departments, advising them on purchases.

“I spend as much time on these screens and on the technical aspects as I do on the writing of the scripts,” he says.

Adana sits with the editors to “go through all the technical sequences,” he explains. “If we’re looking at code, they don’t know how the timing is supposed to work, and since I’m there for all the filming of the inserts and I design the animations, I know exactly [how to put it all together.]”

“Mr. Robot” viewers have been known to screen-grab a half-second shot and pick it apart — which makes Adana fretful.

“I don’t think this position has really existed before in television,” he says, “so it’s an interesting place to be. It’s very cool that [our diligence] paid off. People are noticing what we’re putting into
the show.”

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