'Mr. Robot' Stars on Elliot's "Demons," the "Destructive" Mr. Robot and What's Ahead

"Mr. Robot is an unpredictable and questionable character, without a doubt," star Christian Slater tells THR of his mysterious character.
Virginia Sherwood/USA Network

Christian Slater's first Comic-Con did not disappoint. After all, not everyone gets to meet Captain Kirk himself, William Shatner.

"That has been the crowning achievement so far," Slater told The Hollywood Reporter on Saturday in the midst of the four-day convention.

Despite his extensive list of credits, it's oddly fitting that Slater's most unexpected role to date is the one that finally got him to San Diego. "I wouldn't have wanted to come to Comic-Con for any other reason than to have someone like Mr. Robot to share," he said.

Days after wrapping the first season of the hacker drama – which was renewed in June hours ahead of it's official series premiere – Slater and co-star Rami Malek sat down with THR to discuss whether Elliot's big plan, Mr. Robot's "destructive" tendencies and life imitating art.

It's such a unique project so what kind of reaction have you received?

Rami Malek: I think people have generally been taken aback. … How unique and how timely it is. Everything seems to be coalescing at the perfect time for this show. It's a lot of terrible things that are happening the world…

Christian Slater: But definitely it must be a subject that needs to be clearly addressed; a level of awareness needs to be brought to the dangers of this hacking issue. Look, you turn on the news and its everywhere. When we made the pilot, the Sony hack happened a couple weeks later. Just everyday you watch a story about it and it gets scarier and scarier.

Sam has a long-term plan for the show because he originally wanted it to be a movie. How much do you know of what's going to happen?

Malek: Starting out, I wanted to know everything. Then, as soon as we hit about episode three or four, I started to distance myself from all the information of the future. I just wanted to live in the moment as him and take things as they came; be as surprised as the character of Elliot or any human would be going through that same experience. What is surprising how something that was written a while ago or is an idea that he keeps expanding upon is mimicking reality so much. It's one of those shows where instead of ripping from the headlines, it seems like the things that are happening in a show end up being coming up in daily life.

Slater: We would do an episode and they'd be dealing with the Dark Army in China and then two weeks later, China hacks 4 million federal employees. I was like, "Oh my God."

We still don't know a lot about Mr. Robot. How much do you know about his backstory? How much will the audience learn about him over the course of the first season?

Slater: What's been fun for me is to play a mysterious character. [Creator] Sam Esmail has been leaving little trails and bread crumbs along the way. I can say that I love the arc of the character and I love what Sam has done with the character. You do learn about the character eventually. Because, of course, there are a lot of questions and in this first season, it's not like things are completely left hanging open.

What stood out to you specifically about the character when you were reading the script?

Slater: I thought as technical as this show is, it really is about characters and emotions and I got very curious about what this whole journey was going to look like and be like. I sat down with Sam in our first meeting and I asked him a few questions, and I was just thrilled. He gave me answers that I didn't expect and answers I hoped for.

Episode two ends with Mr. Robot pushing Elliot off the railing, which was such a jarring moment. But in episode three, you see them working together. How will Elliot change his approach to Mr. Robot now that he put him in the hospital?

Malek: There's a part of him that's thinking about the grander scheme. If there's a way to accomplish what he would like to see happen with society with him having real human connections, then he's going to have to fight through some demons and fight through guys like Mr. Robot to have an influence on the world he lives in. He's willing to make sacrifices.

Should Mr. Robot be feared?

Slater: There are elements of testing Elliot's willingness to come along and be apart of this organization. Certainly, Mr. Robot is an unpredictable and questionable character, without a doubt. You don't know exactly which direction he is particularly going to go in. Is he good? Is he bad? Mr. Robot's ideas would lead to a higher body count, certainly, and fortunately, Elliot is recruited into the organization to hopefully provide a bit of a counterbalance.

A big part of episode three was Elliot learning that Evil Corp was involved in his father's death. How does that impact him going forward?

Malek: It's something that Elliot always feared and knew in the back of his head might exist. He's been trying to deny it for so long, but there it is. It's not something he found on his own. The whole world found out at once which is definitely makes him incredibly vulnerable in that moment and he literally runs away from that moment. But something about Elliot that I'm so drawn to is he preservers; in the face of something so devastating, he finds some steel inside of him and says, "I'm going to go through with this plan on my terms." Instead of going home and cowering under the covers, it actually makes him attempt to see the plan go in the direction that he wanted it to.

We've seen him use a lot of drugs. Will we see that change at all now that he's in this group and he's so focused on something?

Malek: Yeah, the next episode will show a very different side of Elliot and it is a struggle and one that we all seem to be dealing with. This drug question comes up quite a bit and I keep thinking, he's self-prescribing himself medication. He's not different from anybody else. We're all on something these days. We're hard pressed to find somebody that doesn't collect something from the pharmacy. He's going to deal with it one way or another.

Slater: Some of us live in that area of denial where we think we can manage it and control it and it's a very sneaky, tricky, slippery slope.

Going forward, how do you see each of your characters impacting the other?

Slater: There is an element of, 'Thank God he's there to find another way around my destructive ideas.' So it's him just providing that wonderful balance to make sure innocent victims don’t fall prey to Mr. Robot's plan. Even though his main agenda is to do what he deems to be the right thing, sometimes his ways of wanting to go about it are definitely a lot more dangerous. Fortunately, Elliot is smart enough to come along and have a more technical approach that will be a lot safer for everybody.

What else can you say about season one and how this plan will unfold?

Malek: What's special about this show in particular is as timely and relevant as it all is, the character developments are just as integral to the story and everybody has a through line. It's not like there are the b and c plots. Everything is there for a particular reason. You're not switching it just to have another plot. It matters what happens to everyone in this show because these characters do all intersect. And there's a method behind all of Sam's madness, beautiful magic madness.

Mr. Robot airs Wednesdays at 10 p.m. on USA.

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