Welcome to “Remote Controlled,” a podcast from Variety featuring the best and brightest in television, both in front of and behind the camera.
In this week’s episode, Variety‘s executive editor of TV Debra Birnbaum chats with “Mr. Robot” creator Sam Esmail about the show’s recently wrapped Season 3 and upcoming Season 4.
Esmail said he wanted to center Season 3 on the disintegration between Rami Malek’s Elliot and Christian Slater’s Mr. Robot.
“It took us into really interesting areas because it was honestly just exploring the two psyches of a person who are literally at odds with themselves,” he says.
While past seasons have depicted a tense relationship between Elliot and Mr. Robot (“We’ve seen them not get along, to put it nicely,” Esmail jokes), the upcoming season will answer questions like, “What if they do get along? What if they do find common ground?”
The freshly renewed fourth season will continue to expand the show’s original story, Esmail hints.
“We’ve explored these different stages of Elliot and Robot and his internal struggle,” he says. “Now we’re getting into that stage that this season’s about: disintegration. Next season, we’ll then start to explore what happens when they do start to integrate.”
Esmail said over the years, talks in the writers room led to passionate discussions about the fate of characters, including fsociety members Trenton (Sunita Mani ) and Mobley (Azhar Khan), Joanna (Stephanie Corneliussen), and Tyrell (Martin Wallström).
“You always have to balance out the mystery with potentially alienating viewers and not giving them anything and everything being shrouded in mystery,” he says. “At the end of the day, you want to satisfy, but at the same time intrigue. That’s always a delicate balance.”
While Esmail said the current political climate doesn’t influence the plot itself, he noticed it affects the energy writers bring into the room. Esmail called the election “catastrophic not just for the country, but for the world.” Still, he says he is open-minded about politics.
“I never try and tune anything out. I think that’s a mistake,” he says. “You want to bring all the honest stuff that’s going on inside you into your work. Otherwise you’re keeping a lot of authenticity out.”
Following President Donald Trump’s election, Esmail said the writers felt the same apprehension that many others experienced.
“When you’re talking about a man that’s incoherent and inarticulate and unintelligent, egomaniacal, it’s a dangerous thing for the world,” Esmail said of Trump getting elected. “We also felt a little responsibility to it. That we underestimated him, that we underestimated that this can possibly happen,” he explains.
That sense of accountability then loosely paralleled Elliot’s journey this season, he said.
“That indirect responsibility led to a lot of Elliot’s feeling at the beginning of the season of his responsibility in the 9/5 hack, which was a lot more direct, but that energy that we were all feeling and sensing in the room,” Esmail says. “This dread that we have committed this crime by not doing something enough definitely fueled a lot of Elliot’s motivations.”
Events for Season 4 will pick up where the third season finale left off, delving into the pros and cons of Elliot hitting send on that email. Esmail adds, “We’re definitely going to see the effects of that. He’s going to essentially give the data back to E Corp.”
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