Rami Malek and Christian Slater's interview with Hollywood Outbreak at the NBC Universal Press Day on August 12th 2015, discussing how Mr Robot could go on for several more seasons.
Rami Malek was on 89.3 KPCC radio today (August 26th) with Alex Cohen, discussing Mr Robot, his character Elliot, what to expect from the finale episode and much more. Listen to the interview below:
The Mr Robot finale episode has been postponed until September 2nd 2015 due to the recent tragedy's in Virgina today.
Rami Malek used to skip out of his computer class in high school.
Which isn't noteworthy, except for the fact he's been playing hacker Elliot Alderson in the hit USA Network show "Mr. Robot" for a full season now. He recently had a chance to speak with Take Two's Alex Cohen about the show, which has been a runaway success.
"I didn't want to play the typical computer hacker. I wanted it to come off as very authentic, but at the same time, play against type," says Malek. "I looked at [Elliot] and I love the idea that there he was with his drug dealer and sleeping with her, and surrounded by a couple really attractive women in his life, though he was not able to have the human contact relationship he hoped to. But he wasn't someone who sat behind the monitor. He actually pushed himself beyond that."
"Mr. Robot" shirks the now-tired TV hacker trope of a Mountain Dew-drinking hermit for something different, and fans and critics seem to appreciate that.
As the season has moved along, Elliot, while compelling, has become less and less of a reliable narrator, forcing the audience to question what they think they know. The suspicion and paranoia are helped along by everything from Malek's voiceover (which we'll get to in a minute), to his outfit (something he's described as an urban combat uniform: black hoodie, jeans and boots), to his eyes.
"There are times when I look around and I'm, like, why can't my eyes just be a little bit smaller?" says Malek. The show relies on nuanced closeup shots of his face about as often as it does musical crescendo or plot twist.
Malek says given the tight framing of these shots, he's gotten a lot of feedback on how to act with his eyes:
"One director on the show 'The Pacific' I did, he kind of came up to me and took me away from the rest of the cast. I think he felt like he might be insulting me. And I don't know if it was an insult, but he said, 'Your eyes can get a bit big every once in a while. And I don't know if you see how close I am with the frame.' So, I think I started squinting after that in some scenes. And then the next director came on and he's like, 'We want to see your eyes! Why are you squinting?' And I'm like, 'I don't know how to control these quite yet!' But I'm getting the hang of it on this show."
"The fact that I have to contain it hones the performance even more, if that makes sense," Malek says.
Another staple of the show? The voice inside Elliot's head.
The voice serves as the main character's direct line of communication with the audience. And on the show it's Malek's voice that we hear, but on set it's a different story.
When he's acting, Malek has the voice of Production Assistant Sarah Block piped into his ear. She reads the narrated lines to him while they're filming so that he can react to them in real time.
Malek explains that they tried playing several voices over the ear piece, including his, but none of them made him feel what he needed to feel at the right time. So he took it upon himself to have impromptu auditions for the voice inside his head.
"There was one PA that came on that was a young guy... I never felt that a male voice was what I was looking for and what Elliot needed," Malek says. "I feel like for Elliot, to be his honest self, he needed someone he could confide in. This young lady and I got close working together. It was like someone I trusted having around."
To hear the entirety of the interview with Rami Malek and for more behind the scenes information, click on the audio link embedded at the top of the post.
Rami Malek's interview with Emma Brown of Interview Magazine on the many mysteries of Mr Robot and what is next for Elliot in season 2
I read that you play music in your ear while you're acting on the show.
Sometimes. I do it when I'm a preparing for a role quite a bit—I sit with music. It helps influence the discovery of something. Then sometimes during filming I like to listen to the same things. It brings me back to a place where I just feel more creative and focused.
Is it music that Elliot would listen to? Or music that evokes a specific emotion in you, Rami?
It's a combination of both. I think one time Sam Esmail saw me dressed up—we were at South by Southwest—and he goes, "Huh. This is how you dress? Like a rocker? I always pictured Elliot as more of a hip-hop guy." "I'm Rami, you know that, right?" But I find certain songs that have lyrics that inhabit what Elliot is and what his struggles are, and then there are things that get me personally going—just good tunes. Then there are sometimes where I'm like, "Let's think about what Elliot might rock out to."
Where on the spectrum is Laura Marling?
Oh, that's way more Rami than it is Elliot. She can just weave a story. It's poetic; it's smart. It's heartfelt and, for me, affecting. I like that. I like it when it infiltrates my whole being.
Do you make a playlist when you're preparing for a role?
I'll sift through a bunch of songs and if one really touches me in a certain way, I'll keep playing it over and over—almost to the point where if someone else was listening they would find it nauseating and borderline torturous. I kid you not; I can listen to the same song back-to-back for two to three hours straight. I'm not psycho; I swear. There are some songs I won't listen to any more because they are songs that helped me get to emotional places. Even if I hear it—someone's playing a song that had that affect on me in the past—I'll have to walk out of the room or turn it down. It sounds so strange but those things affect you in a certain way.
I also read that you have a woman read you Elliot's internal monologue. Elliot's internal voice is female?
For me, yeah. It's funny, because now that I watch the show I see how people are engrossed and get that feeling that they are right there in his head advising him in a certain way and speaking to him. It began as that female voice, but now it's this universal viewer.
There are so many theories about the show—that Mr. Robot is a facet of Elliot, which I understand, but then that Tyrell is a facet of Elliot as well.
That's a theory as well? What I love is that people are that engrossed in the show that they are reading that far into it. These theories are far beyond what I've allowed myself to think. It's a show that you really have to pay attention to and everyone can formulate their own opinion, which is really cool. It's not often that people walk away and can have a discussion like the one that's being had.
I love that scene where Elliot imagines his life as a normal person to the song "Steal My Sunshine."
Yeah, people get a kick out of that scene for some reason. When I first read it I was like, "Oh no. What are we doing here?" I was worried that it would be a bit too campy so I just tried to keep it really grounded. But it's a very funny moment. It's nice to see Elliot have those lighter moments and actually ask a girl permission to kiss her, I thought was pretty adorable. You never get to see that side where he is enjoying himself, and he does strive to be normal, so for him to explore that for a part of an episode was fun for everyone. Especially on set—there's a definite dramatic tone on set, so to have those lighter moments are always fun.
I read that Sam envisioned Mr. Robot first as a film, and that Season One is just the first 30 minutes of the film and the real drama happens in Season Two.
I didn't know that is was just the first 30 minutes, but that doesn't surprise me because he can be very long-winded. [laughs]
When you sat down to discuss the role with Sam, did he tell you Elliot's entire arc? Or was is it confined to what happens in Season One?
He told me quite a bit and I think he regretted telling me as much as he did. I think he's very happy keeping a secret, and that's become something that I think everyone is enjoying. No one can predict really what's next. Maybe that gives him some type of power.
BROWN: I know you have a twin brother. Do you have other siblings?
I have an older sister. She's an ER doctor. I always think they are probably most happy with her. [laughs] She's really special. She does what I consider the job of healing people and sometimes I have to think about what I'm really doing and how it pales in comparison to her job, which comes down to a lot of moments of life or death. I look at her as a lifesaver. I'm very proud of her and constantly astonished by the enormous weight she has to deal with day in and day out.
Do you call her with all of your minor medical woes?
All the time. I try not to but it's hard when there's a doctor on your favorites call list.
When you were little, was your sister nice to you? Or did she play tricks on you and your brother?
Oh, she's going to kill me. I grew up with a twin, so I think there might have been moments of jealousy and there were moments where she took it out on us in a mean way, but she has gone out of her way now to make up for all of that and could not be sweeter. But yes, we had our painful moments. There were moments when she would pit us against one another: "Who's going to be my best friend for the week? Is it you, or is it your brother?" All of a sudden, your soulmate, who's your twin, the allegiance is lost. It's probably a good lesson in life for how quickly people can turn on you.
When did acting come into your life? You studied theater in college, right?
Yeah. I was doing this dramatic interpretation for a debate class. I had a 10-page one-man show called Zooman and the Sign, and I remember doing that in front of an audience. My parents came and I remember having a moment where I locked eyes with my mom and dad and I saw them see me have a transformative moment and it affected me in a way that was definitely cause for reflection. [It was] a moment where I felt like that there was something really special going on—the communication that I had with them that I'd never had just opened my eyes to the possibilities of what could happen in this art form.
Rami Malek's photoshoot with photographer Hans Neumann for Rami Malek's interview with Emma Brown for Interview Magazine
Rami Malek's photoshoot with photographer Cait Oppermann for Rami Malek's interview with Alison Wilmore for Buzzfeed News
Alison Wilmore of Buzzfeed News got to talk to Rami Malek about his role in Mr Robot, the complexity of Elliot and what is next for the rising actor
It turns out the man behind the most socially anxious, self-medicating loner on television is kind of a people person.
Wandering through Chinatown — the neighborhood in which Mr. Robot’s Elliot Alderson lives — the actor who plays him, Rami Malek, has taken it upon himself to defy the unspoken no-eye-contact rule of the New York City sidewalk on this sweltering August afternoon. Mid-photoshoot, he’s decided to approach various passersby and extend his hand.
Some people recognize him and light up — teenagers who stop for a photo, a man who yells his love for USA’s surprise summer hit across the park — while others are bemusedly charmed by this lanky, enthusiastic man with a camera in tow who just wants to say hi.
It’s a nod, Malek says, to his nickname on set, “The Mayor” — which, if you’ve surrendered to the addictively bleak Mr. Robot, is an indicator of all sorts of extroversion that takes a beat to reconcile with the isolated character he plays on the show. Malek may be everyone’s new favorite introvert on TV, but in person, he’s a lot more at home in his own skin.
Mr. Robot is, like fellow summer standout Unreal on Lifetime, a dark blossom of a show on a cable network known for lighter fare. While it’s a drama set in the present day, it has a sci-fi spirit. Its creator, Sam Esmail, is a newcomer with only an indie romance, 2014’sComet, under his belt. Its most famous cast member is Christian Slater, who plays the title character, but most of the story is carried by less familiar but no less interesting talents, including Portia Doubleday, Suburgatory’s Carly Chaikin, Swedish actor Martin Wallström, and, of course, Malek. It’s been a critical hit and a change of pace for USA, a channel known for successful comfort food dramedies like Suits and Royal Pains and for the perky slogan “Characters Welcome.”
But there’s nothing cutesy or quirky about Elliot, a cybersecurity technician who has a taste for morphine and hacking everyone in his life, from his childhood friend to his court-mandated therapist, peeking into their private accounts for all the secrets they don’t care to share. He likes to play vigilante in his spare time, a tendency that’s escalated as he’s gotten drawn into fsociety, an Anonymous-style hacktivist group that aims to erase the credit record and isn’t afraid of getting rough. He’s intensely lonely. He’s not affecting awkwardness, he says the wrong thing often, and more often than that, he doesn’t say anything at all.
Except to us. Elliot unleashes his alienation on the audience in a fourth-wall-breaking voiceover that turns the viewer into his imaginary friend and closest confidant. And while the iron grip he’s had on the story has started to loosen, he’s been an all-consuming but unreliable narrator, the full extent of which we’re only starting to understand as Mr. Robot’s first season comes to a close. Things are largely funneled through his point of view, i.e. every time someone mentions the conglomerate Elliot blames for his father’s death, we hear his nickname for it instead — Evil Corp.
The instability of Mr. Robot’s subjective universe has only increased (spoilers ahead, for anyone not caught up) as the season has gone on, until, in the penultimate episode, it was revealed what many of us suspected all along: That mysterious, erratic head of fsociety, played by Slater? He doesn’t exist. He’s never existed, not in the form in which we’ve known him. He’s a delusion who looks like Elliot’s dad and who dwells only in Elliot’s head.
Elliot has been Mr. Robot all along.
Malek isn’t in on every detail of the show’s plan — USA renewed Mr. Robot for a second season before the series premiered — but this is an unveiling he’s known would be coming from the start. He’s aware that it’s the sort of development that requires a leap of faith, even in a series that, from the beginning, established Elliot as paranoid, unstable, and uncertain about the truth. He’s maybe even been a little nervous about it.
“I have to remind myself always that it’s a tightrope with him. One episode, you probably want to kill him. And the next episode, I’m sure you feel for this guy,” Malek says later, sitting in the gratifyingly air-conditioned Silk Road Cafe on Mott Street. Elliot may sometimes traipse into the morally questionable territory of a Walter White or Don Draper, but he’s considerably less sure of himself and of his world, to the point of being someone who seems in need of help rather than some grand act of white-hat corporate terrorism.
“My hope is that the audience comes together with Elliot to try to get him back to reality in some way,” Malek says. “I understand that it is hard to watch someone’s perspective that is, at certain moments, not real. Or a figment of his imagination. But that’s the ride you’re on with him — so I guess you gotta take it or leave it.”
He pauses, then leans forward and asks, “You wanna take it with him?”
Mr. Robot is Malek’s first starring role, but it’s hardly the Los Angeles–born 34-year-old actor’s debut. He’s been working for over a decade, as supporting characters that register more than they normally might because of his charisma and because he’s got the kind of face you notice. He stripped down at the office in Need for Speed, played the new hire at the group home in Short Term 12, and was one of Tom Hanks’s community college classmates in Larry Crowne. He’s been a bit of a “hey, it’s that guy!”
Speaking about himself and Mr. Robot, he has the careful patience of someone who hasn’t yet gotten ground down by doing press, but who likes to play at some fourth-wall-breaking of his own from time to time. “Does that work?” he asks, after struggling to arrive at just the right term, “empirical” for the opposite of “intuitive.” He also turns to his sister, an emergency room physician visiting from D.C., who accompanied him to the interview, for help with Taylor Swift’s nickname. And after an anecdote involving his eyebrows almost getting sacrificed for a part, he jokes to his publicist, “Am I getting too campy?”
If the gap between the real Malek and the fictional Elliot can feel startling at first (though, the actor admits, Elliot’s paranoia has bled into his life a bit: “I microwave all my electronics now,” he deadpans. “I’ve had to buy three new computers since this show started”), that just speaks to how thorough a character Malek has brought to screen. Elliot doesn’t feel like a creation, he feels like someone who exists, which is why, as with any performance this absorbing, there’s this instinct to ascribe the character’s qualities to the person playing him.
But Malek actually got his start on a multicamera sitcom, laugh track and all. His first steady gig was in The War at Home, a half-forgotten Fox show starring Michael Rapaport. Malek played Kenny Al-Bahir, a family friend whose coming-out storyline earned accolades from GLAAD. “I think people have a hard time thinking that I could’ve done a sitcom,” Malek admits of his current fame. But “people used to think of me as a comedy actor.”
Or a character actor. Except that he’s so compulsively watchable in Mr. Robot as an ungainly antihero trying to become a hero (or vice versa) that he’s a reminder that “character actor” is what we tend to label people who are too interesting for the confines of the typical lead role. The pleasure of watching him in the series is not one of discovery but of the knowledge that he should have been given a bigger platform earlier.
Malek seems to have more sclera than the average human — as Elliot, he can seem like he’s all eyes underneath the tech kid hoodie he wears like chain mail. He’s an unconventional heartthrob, a geek pinup, and, as Elliot, a testament to how entrancing a little good ol’ elusive, brooding intellect can be. (“I think they love him because he shuns them,” Malek says with a laugh of the several women — it’s complicated — in Elliot’s orbit.)
Malek is also Egyptian-American (mostly — “An eighth Greek,” he adds, “Mediterranean”). He’s played a pharaoh in the Night at the Museum movies, a suicide bomber on 24, and an Egyptian vampire in The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 2, but has otherwise managed to elude Hollywood’s perniciously narrow ideas about the sort of roles that go to actors of Middle Eastern backgrounds.
“I’m just trying to play against ethnicity,” Malek says. “I got to play a guy from Louisiana in The Pacific named Merriell Shelton, and now I’m playing Elliot Alderman.”
If Elliot’s racial ambiguousness has been, for some, frustrating — a character with no apparent ethnicity isn’t a stand-in for one of color — Malek’s casting has nevertheless made him the most visible actor of Middle Eastern descent on television, and that’s something he’s proud of. “I’m pretty thrilled that I get to say that it’s me,” he says. “I like how receptive people are to that. I don’t know if that would have happened 10 years ago.”
The success of Mr. Robot, which countsMad Men creator Matthew Weiner and directors Paul Greengrass and Rupert Wyatt among its fans, means that more people have been calling — Malek says he’s in talks for a bigger movie and a smaller one that he hopes to squeeze in before the show goes back into production in March.
He already has a decent record of attracting the attention of high-profile directors, even if his parts have a tendency to end up on the cutting room floor. That’s what happened with Paul Thomas Anderson’s The Master, in which he played Clark, the sycophantic son-in-law of Cause leader Lancaster Dodd (Philip Seymour Hoffman). “It’s so funny to see how everybody works, and they’re different,” Malek says of the film, adding, “The experience was everything to me.”
He also bonded with Spike Lee while filming the remake of Oldboy. “He let me run amok,” Malek said. “I brought him ideas of what I wanted to wear, which kind of had a dominatrix look to it.” When the part ended up getting snipped down to a death scene, the director, in typical Spike Lee fashion, shrugged to Malek, “Tough business” — but ended up casting him in his next film, Da Sweet Blood of Jesus.
It’s a tough business indeed, though one that’s granted Malek the opportunity to have a hit like Mr. Robot in his mid-thirties. And it’s the scene-stealers who sidled onto the scene from the sidelines that he looks up to — actors like Michael Shannon, John Hawkes, and Chris Cooper. “I admire people who have gone a long period of time and are having their moment in the sun as they get older,” he says. “People who have just persevered through it. It can be tough to battle when you know you have something to share and people don’t recognize it.”
Mr. Robot is making up for any lost screen time — Elliot’s not in every scene, but he’s in most of them, his interior monologue a steady presence. Malek performs with an earwig microphone in his ear so that a production assistant can read the scene’s voiceover, which he records later. “She’s really soothing when I listen to her,” he says. “It feels like we have this little secret we get to tell each other every day.”
Elliot’s sardonic narration (“Am I crazy not to like this guy? Among some of his Facebook likes are George W. Bush’s Decision Points, Transformers 2: Revenge of the Fallen, and the music of Josh Groban. Must I really justify myself any further?”), like the revelation about Mr. Robot’s identity and fsociety’s plan, is a hat tip to Fight Club. It’s a relationship the show finally made explicit by using a cover of the song that played at the end of the 1996 David Fincher film, the Pixies’ “Where Is My Mind?”
“Look, we all love Fincher, especially Sam,” Malek says of the homage. “But it works for Elliot — that’s his story as well. So he can’t shy away from it.” WhileFight Club was centered on a Gen X crisis of masculinity, Malek sees Mr. Robot as more idealistic in its personal catastrophes — more a story about a new generation’s sometimes floundering but sincere aspiration to do good even when effecting change seems impossible.
“For all of Elliot’s foolishness and mistakes, he does have this desire to have an effect on society and to help others,” Malek says. “He may go about it in the worst ways at times, but at least he’s giving it a shot — and I think that’s something people can respect.”
Themes like that, for him, are what the show is about as much as the technology in which it’s centered. “It is about how people deal with intimacy,” Malek says, pointing out the amount of time we spend with screens these days. “That’s the world we live in. And I’m not chastising it in any way. That’s what society has become, and it’s cool that our show gets to talk about that.”
Mr. Robot already has an endgame in mind — Esmail first conceived of it as a movie and has said he sees the story as lasting four or five seasons. At one point, the showrunner talked Malek through where things were headed, but he claims that, like Elliot, he’s managed to block out a lot of essential details.
“He asked me, ‘Are you the type of actor that wants to know everything or would you want to be surprised?’ And I thought I wanted to know, but now I’ve really enjoyed being surprised by certain things,” Malek says, calling out what happened to Frankie Shaw’s character Shayla as a shock that “made [his] heart skip a beat for a second.”
That said, Malek has also clearly enjoyed keeping mum about what he does know, especially with his family, who’ve been watching along with him. His sister flees the café the moment it looks like we’re getting into spoiler territory. And he watched the episode with the Mr. Robot twist with his identical twin brother Sami, a teacher. “He looked at me like, You’re such an asshole. He was like, ‘I didn’t know you could keep a secret that well,’” Malek recalls with a laugh.
If being able to talk about the show without letting any of its secrets slip is becoming just as momentous a task as being its lead, Malek’s wearing his new stardom lightly and well. He offers the most unhelpful of teasers for the season finale, which airs Aug. 26, regarding Elliot’s relationship with Tyrell Wellick (Wallström): “You learn even more after the next episode!” If you’ve come this far with Mr. Robot, nothing needs to be said to get you to show up for the big finish.
And in the meantime, with a second season already set and potential new projects bubbling this fall, the future’s looking pretty good for Malek. But like any good mayor, he’s open for feedback about what he should take on next.
“I’m up for anything,” he says into the recorder as the interview comes to an end. “Let me hear your thoughts.”
Nic Screws for Bloomberg met up with Rami Malek in SoHo, New York on August 21st. The pair of them went shopping and discussed Rami's role in Mr Robot, fashion and what is next for his career.
“There’s something about being in the city that removes the thought of acting. It really makes you feel like a cog in the wheel.”
“Could you imagine Elliot going shopping?”
Rami Malek is talking about the black hoodie, the one his complicated character, cybersecurity whiz Elliot Alderson, wears for almost the entirety of the first season of USA Network’s breakout series Mr Robot.
If you’ve seen the show, then you know it’s essentially Malek’s sixth co-star, getting just as much airtime as anyone else in the startlingly talented ensemble cast (which includes Christian Slater—yes that Christian Slater—as the titular character).
It’s hard to imagine Elliot going shopping because it’s hard to imagine him walking into a store. I wonder aloud if he has a stash of identical black cotton hoodies, or whether he just wears the same one every day.
Malek ponders the question as seriously as if I had just asked him to explain what a honey pot is to a non-hacker. “It’s not that he’s unkempt,” he says. “There’s just a level of callousness to the way he treats things like getting dressed. He likely prefers a uniform because it’s one less thing to think about.”
He wants to be clear about this wardrobe choice, because he had a hand in it. In fact, he was the one to suggest to the show’s creator, Sam Esmail, that his character's look be a little austere.
“They initially came to me with sketches from the designer that included this very loud and colorful backpack,” he says. “And I’m like, ‘I can’t wear this. This guy wouldn’t wear this.’ I kinda had this mild panic attack inside, like ‘This is not the way I see things. Where are we going with this?’ ”
“Once I kinda got my legs under me and felt like I knew this guy [Elliot], I began to ask less questions and I wanted fewer answers.”
I work with a lot of celebrities in my job as a stylist, so it’s rare that I get starstruck. But when I saw Malek for the first time—sitting across the runway from me last month at the John Varvatos show during New York Fashion Week: Men’s—he looked like he belonged in a different movie from the rest of us. He was sandwiched between co-star Slater and iconic fashion photographer Bill Cunningham in a buttery-leather Varvatos jacket and slim-fitting jeans, legs politely crossed. A day earlier and I might not have recognized him (or even thought, Hey, isn’t that the guy from …?). But as timing would have it, I had just begun binge-watching the first three episodes of season one of Mr. Robot the night before.
The show is the sleeper hit of the summer, and Malek has been called masterful in his portrayal of the oft-kilter genius and unreliable narrator, Elliot. (His now-too-familiar raspy voice-overs are themselves worthy of Emmy consideration.) He's so perfect in the part, it's hard to envision the show with anyone else in the complex lead role. As TV critic Alan Sepinwall of Hitfix says, “The show is Rami Malek and Rami Malek is the show.”
Malek kept to himself during the event—barely even chatting with his notable seat mates—and treated the spectacle before him like a performance piece that he was lucky to witness. (He later confirmed it was his first fashion week experience, and Slater had just invited him earlier in the day.) I was charmed. There was a magnetic elusiveness to him.
Naturally, I called my friends at John Varvatos the day after the show and said, “How can I get in touch with Rami Malek? I need to style him.”
“I just find that, beneath it all, Elliot is such a brave dude. And there are times when I feel really inspired that I get to play him.”
“I really wanted Elliot’s clothes to feel like it was a bit of an urban combat uniform,” Malek says. “We needed the wardrobe to reflect his desire to disappear from the world. So I suggested a hoodie. Well, maybe I shouldn’t say ‘suggest.’ ”
What does that mean?
“Well, the show had gone to great lengths and spent beaucoup bucks trying to create the perfect ‘worn-in’ sweatshirt, but nothing was working,” he says. “So I came in one day before we shot the pilot with my personal hoodie from B:Scott that I’d had for years. But I knew that I couldn’t just offer it up like, ‘Hey, look at this!’ I knew that wouldn’t fly, as everyone wants to come up with their own idea. So I just kinda paraded myself around the office until the powers that be said, ‘Hey! Did wardrobe put you in that?’ And I said, ‘Oh, this old thing? I’ve had this for ages,’ and they were like, ‘Why can’t he wear that?’ ”
Just like that, a TV touchstone was made.
“At first there were no doubles, so I ended up trying to preserve that one hoodie,” he says, laughing. “I remember a girl actually left my house one night in it, unbeknownst to me—after we had already shot the pilot. So I called her frantically and she must have been like, ‘This guy’s losing it. It’s just a hoodie.’ So she brought it back and then later, after she must have seen the pilot, I hear from her and she says, ‘Oh, now I know why you were so adamant about getting that thing back.’ ”
Before long, the show’s costume designer, Kim Wilcox, reached out to the designer and got 20 or so versions replicated—apparently it was the liner of a jacket B:Scott had made years ago. Still, “nothing ever feels to me like the original,” says Malek. “I call it ‘OG hoodie.’ I can always tell right away if the hoodie I am wearing in a scene is part of the B team.”
“New York is the perfect backdrop to depict loneliness. There’s a certain feel about Elliot in the hoodie walking around this city that you just couldn’t get anywhere else."
Since Malek is a real person and not his character, he is down for shopping. Last Friday, I took him to Carson Street Clothiers in SoHo to try some things on; he is a bona fide celebrity now, after all. He needs new outfits (or, as we call them in the styling world, “looks”). We decide to start with knits. Luxe ones, expensive ones.
Rami arrives wearing a faded pink T-shirt, frayed jeans (that matched my own, actually), and black high-top sneakers. He gives me a double-cheek kiss.
“I’ve never done that before,” he admits immediately afterward. “But I feel good about it.”
Up close, the first thing you notice about him is his mouth. It would be easy to say his eyes, which are wide-set and intense—part of what makes his vigilante hacker so compulsively watchable. But it’s his mouth, with permanently pursed lips and a slanted grin, that gives his face its personality.
And as for those eyes, where Elliot’s show disconnect and paranoia, Rami’s are kind and engaging. He’s also almost hypnotic with his eye contact.
He’s small (5-foot-7), but there’s a wiry manliness about him; he has a large presence, but few pretensions. He's also warm and polite, greeting everyone that comes up to him during the five-hour shoot, always looking them in the eyes. He's game for anything I throw at him style-wise and never once complains. Even when I ask the Los Angeles native to stand in the middle of Crosby Street with “New York City” sprawled across his chest in cashmere. He is, after all, the city's newest antihero. And he's embracing it.
“I had a really strong idea of where the show was going in the beginning, and then part of me started to, I think, purposefully forget because I was enjoying the unraveling and not knowing what was being thrown at me.”
At 34, Malek is perhaps most widely known for his small but memorable film roles as King Ahkmenrah in the Night at the Museum franchise, Benjamin in The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn—Part 2, and Clark in The Master. And rumor has it that Mr. Robot creator Esmail’s girlfriend, the actress Emmy Rossum, recommended Rami to him for the part of Elliot after seeing him in the HBO miniseries The Pacific.
"When I did The Pacific and I played Snafu, I walked away and I said, ‘Ahhh, it’s never gonna get better than that.’ So I thought, ‘Well, that was that’ and moved on,” he recalls. “Then I got to work with Paul Thomas Anderson on a film [The Master] and was like, ‘Wait, maybe it’s not all downhill from here.’ ”
After all, Malek exclaims, "I still feel young! That's something that Christian would say."
“Then I got the gift that is Elliot and Mr. Robot,” he says. “I think he’s going to teach me a lot about myself as we travel down this winding road together. Elliot and Rami … hand in hand, hoodie and hoodie.”
The season finale of Mr. Robot airs Wednesday, Aug. 26, at 10 p.m. ET on USA Network.
Rami Malek's photoshoot with photographer Taylor Jewell for Rami Malek's interview with Nic Screws for Bloomberg
Chris Hardwick of Nerdist interviewed Rami Malek and Christian Slater for his 723th podcast on their show Mr Robot.
Check out the podcast below
TV Guide Magazine interview Rami Malek and Christian Slater at San Diego Comic Con 2015 on July 11th 2015 on their show Mr Robot
The season one finale of Mr Robot airs on Wednesday 26th 2015
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