What did they know and when did they know it? Those were key questions for the “Mr. Robot” troupe last year during the production of season one when key plot twists were revealed to the actors by series creator/exec producer Sam Esmail on a need-to-know basis.
“Robot” stars Rami Malek, Christian Slater, Carly Chaikin and Portia Doubleday gathered at the Metrograph Monday night on the Lower East Side to yak about the first season and show their discipline in not giving away any concrete information about plot points for season two, which bows July 13 on USA Network.
Esmail wasn’t part of the panel but he might has well have been. His vision and command of the show was referenced in virtually every answer to every question. Here are highlights from the conversation. (Spoiler alert for those who have not yet seen season one.)
Slater, Chaikin and others talked about when they were informed about key elements of their characters. Slater had to know that his Mr. Robot character was the dead father of Rami Malek’s Elliot Alderson in order to make the role work. Chaikin had to know that she would be revealed as Elliot’s sister later in the first season.
“I was excited that Sam was so prepared and that he was willing to be open about it with me,” he said.
Here are other tidbits about season 1 and season 2 that emerged from the conversation:
- The cast is feeling the pressure of living up to the high expectations of season one. But once they reunited with Esmail and the production team they felt like they were back with a “well-oiled machine,” Malek said.
- Because Esmail is directing all 10 episodes of season two, the series is block-shooting episodes out of sequence. That’s a challenge but also exciting for actors. “We were presented, when we came back, with a phone-book sized script and we all got the opportunity to sit around a table for two days and read through the whole season, and that just doesn’t happen,” Slater said. “It was very unusual, so everything about this whole experience has been unique and very exciting.”
- Doubleday confessed to having to consult Wikipedia to bring herself up to speed on plot points from last season. She also let it slip that she has never seen “Star Wars,” to the surprise of her co-workers.
- Chaikin joked about feeling about the audience’s reaction to her character Darlene before it was revealed that Darlene and Elliot are siblings. “I didn’t expect everyone to hate me so much,” she said. After the big reveal in episode 8, “all was forgiven,” she said.
- It took time for Malek to adjust to filming the scenes that have voice-over narration articulating his thoughts. At first Esmail read the narration out loud, but that was too “jarring,” Malek said. Eventually, he settled on production assistant (turned writer for season two) Sarah Block to read them into his earpiece. “She just lights up a set,” Malek said. “I told her ‘You have something I want and I’m going to put it in my ear.’ “
- Doubleday said one of her favorite aspects of production is the table reads when cast members learn the details of upcoming episodes. “It’s so great watching Christian’s reactions,” she said.
- The Ferris wheel scene with Elliot and Mr. Robot in the pilot was the very first material shot for the show. It was a good bonding experience for Malek and Slater who spent hours up in the air together. “We’d just gotten to know each other and there we were, up in the air,” Malek said.
- The actors were very disciplined about not revealing details of season two. “If we say anything we’re in trouble,” Malek said. Slater advised the crowd to “buckle in.”
(Pictured: Rami Malek, Carly Chaikin, Portia Doubleday and Christian Slater)