We’re pretty thrilled about that. I know how unprecedented that is, and it’s something that gave us a little bit more wind in our sails as we were shooting.
How did this come about for you? Did you just get the script and read it and really respond to it, and did you have to audition for this role?
I remember when I got it and it said Mr. Robot, and I was like, “What kind of kooky shit is this?” And then, I read that first monologue about society and heard Elliot create his imaginary friend for the first time, with everyone in the audience being that. It was a page-turner for me. It read like a really great short story, and I just wanted to make sure that everything that was on the page would become something that wouldn’t be compromised. at all, when the time came to put it on screen.
Clearly, this show is different and unconventional in its storytelling. Did it read that way? Is this how you thought it would be presented?
I didn’t know how it was going to be presented. I met with Sam [Esmail], and he had a really clear, concise vision for what he wanted. I was just struck by how clear he was about everything. He was pretty resonant in the way he wanted it shot, the way he wanted it cast, and all aspects of it. He pursued that with a passion and integrity that he brings to work, every day.
Do you ever look at the finished product of this show and wonder how it was ever able to actually get on the air?
Every day. I still think they’re going to pull us off the air because it’s too racy. We’re definitely pushing the envelope as far as we can. I feel like every time I find myself at 30 Rock, at the USA office, I hear how much they believe in the show and how they’re partnered with us in letting us take things as far as they need to go, in the realm of what is believable and honest. I think that’s a rare place to be, when someone says to you, “If I can believe your character is doing it, than I’m okay with you writing it and filming it.” But there are definitely moments where I’m like, “Did we just do that? Is that actually going to make it to air?”
Sometimes you really don’t know who to be rooting for on this show.
Yeah, sometimes I wonder. We have moments where I’m like, “Are we going to lose people, depending on the choices that Elliot makes.” It’s hard because of course you want him to be likeable, but at the same time, he has to be real. A guy like Elliot is very complicated and he makes mistakes, as we all do. I think that’s why people will be drawn to him. He’s not infallible.
Is it fun to be a part of a show that is sparking so much conversation, and do you ever check in on social media to see what those conversations are?
I feel like, if it’s part of the zeitgeist in the way that it is, we’re having an impact. Having an impact on the platform of a television show is something that I’m very proud of. It can be as informative as it is entertaining, and it can empower people in the way that it has. It feels like pleasurable learning.
Do you feel like you have a full understanding of this world and Elliot’s place in it, or do you feel like you have to do a lot of work and research to feel like you understand this world that he’s in?
I always like being prepared and doing my due diligence, in terms of preparing for a role, and Elliot is as complicated as they come. Investing in him and knowing him, inside and out, as well as one can know Elliot, is something that only helps in telling his story. Knowing that the audience is seeing things through his lens, I have to get that as close to perfect as I think it can be, for Sam’s vision to be relatable.
Do you feel like you have a much better understanding of Elliot, now that you’ve finished the season, or does he still feel like a bit of a mystery?
He’ll always feel like a bit of a mystery because he surprises me, on a daily basis. Every time I think I have a handle on him, I get a curve ball. He acts in a way that is unconventional, and not traditional. That keeps me on my toes, as an actor. That makes it really fun to play him.
How do you view the relationship between Elliot and Mr. Robot (Christian Slater)? Do you feel like you have a clear definition of their relationship, or does it feel like this oddly evolving thing?
I think there are some grand trust issues involved in that relationship. In order to pursue what’s left of Elliot’s idealism, in terms of trying to impact society the way he wants to, I think he knows he’ll have to deal with people like Mr. Robot. So, it’s about trying to use him as an asset rather than befriending him. He knows that he can help him, in a way, so Elliot is willing to suffer through the obstacles that that relationship entails, in order to get what he wants.
This show has such a great cast, within both of Elliot’s worlds. What’s it been like to work with these actors and have such interesting dynamics to play with each character?
I’m always mesmerized by the work that’s on display, on set, between the cast and the crew. It’s not just the actors. Our D.P., Tod Campbell, is on a different level. The way that the shots are composed have a lot to do with how artistic and imaginative he is. And I think everyone on the show could have their own show, they’re delivering such strong performances. I’d like to see more from all of them, and that’s something that will happen, as this show progresses.
Elliot has very unusual relationships with the different women in his life, from Angela (Portia Doubleday) to Darlene (Carly Chaikin) to Shayla (Frankie Shaw) to Krista (Gloria Reuben). Do you enjoy getting to play with those relationships and explore the different sides to him when he’s with each of those women?
I’m constantly laughing at the idea that, for a guy with social anxiety, he has this crazy love triangle or rectangle or square. I think there’s a definite female maternal quality that he might be missing in his life. He probably yearns for the love of a woman, so he’s attracted to it, and yet he keeps it at bay.
Do you think Elliot can have a relationship with anyone that’s not either just a surface relationship or that he’s not manipulating because he knows so much more about the other person than they know about him?
That’s a great question. I think he has hopes for that, as he evolves as a human being, but there’s a huge feeling that he’ll always be alone. It’s my inclination that he feels that, if he opens up to them, he’s putting them in some type of danger. Anytime he gets close to someone, it ends up being detrimental.
What sort of relationship do you have with Elliot’s favorite hoodie? Is that something that’s comfortable to put on, or were you happy to get away from it, once the season was done?
You know, that was my own personal hoodie during the pilot. I always wanted him to have something that looked really worn, and we just landed on it because it was old, it fit me well, and I felt comfortable in it, so it leant itself well to the production and to the story. It has since been replicated by our costume department, so there are a number of them that I get to wear, but I can always tell which one is mine. It’s the OG hoodie, as it’s called on set. It’s a shield for Elliot, in a way, and it’s also his cape. As he goes out and plays hero in the night, he dons the hoodie and it’s a place where he can feel disguised and that he’s flying under the radar, undetected.
What can you say about what we can expect from the remainder of the season? Will we get to know who these people really are and what their motivations are, or will this remain a show that always has as many questions as it does answers?
As the season progresses, a lot of your questions will be answered, but it will also pose newer, more interesting questions in doing so.
Did the end of this season leave you in a place where you immediately had questions about Season 2, or have you already had some of those conversations about where things will go next?
We’ve had those conversations, to a small degree. But for the most part, I was just so happy about answering a few of the major questions in the first season that I didn’t even want to begin thinking about Season 2.
Were those questions answered in any way that you expected them to be, or did it totally surprise you?
If I’ve learned anything on this show, it’s to not trust my instincts about where I think this show is headed. It’s not done in an abstract way, or a way of surprising the audience member. It’s done to tell the story as Sam sees fit. It’s not convoluted. It’s not meant to keep you guessing, as an audience member. It’s just the way the story unfolds. It’s unusual, it’s unique and it’s smart, and when things are done in that fashion, they become unpredictable.