9:30am PT by Josh Wigler
'Mr. Robot': Rami Malek Previews a "Fractured" Elliot and "Darker" Second Season
Teenagers run through the streets, masks on their faces, manic laughter howling from their lips. A trembling man appears on television, attempting to calm the chaos, but ultimately succumbing to it, putting a firearm in his own mouth and squeezing the trigger. The financial sky is falling, both at home and abroad — and it's all thanks to the plan of one man with a computer, a sweatshirt and a second personality.
The season-one finale of USA Network's Mr. Robot came drenched in apocalyptic dread, following hacker group fsociety's successful attack against E Corp, the massive conglomerate all but officially ruling the world with its great power and influence. That new world order remains in place as the drama embarks upon its second season and if this is the apocalypse, "then maybe a post-apocalyptic world is closer than we think it is," star Rami Malek tells The Hollywood Reporter.
"Usually when we think about an apocalypse, it's something in the form of some major bomb, or something hitting us from space or something nuclear occurring," he continues. "This is just one guy at a keyboard who could create an apocalypse. If that's where we're at, it's a very scary place for humanity."
Indeed, the world is a very scary place when Mr. Robot resumes its story. While fsociety successfully wounded E Corp, it failed to completely decimate the organization, underestimating its enemy's ability to manipulate government funds, withhold money from the people and exploit other means of stopping the bleeding. Paranoia and unrest bubble barely beneath the surface, causing stress on both sides, whether it's fsociety figurehead Darlene (Carly Chaikin) or E Corp's CEO Phillip Price (Michael Cristofer).
For his part, the man who started it all, Elliot Alderson, stands far away from it all, if only for now. When season two begins, the hacker at the heart of the drama has exiled himself from the digital realm, operating within an all-analog, all-the-time set of rules, in an attempt to keep his darker nature at bay: Mr. Robot (Christian Slater), the anarchic side of Elliot manifested in the form of his dead father.
"In true Elliot form, he's trying to cope with all of the consequences and repercussions of what happened," Malek says about his character's journey. "He feels there's a lot of blood on his hands, and what he thought was going to be a really transformative event ended up almost backfiring. He's in a very guilty place. On top of that, he's dealing with this revelation that he and Mr. Robot exist together as one person. I think he's pretty fractured at the time you meet him. He's just trying to pick up the pieces of who he is. He's trying to glue it all together, and hope it doesn't fall apart."
Even without knowing the future of the series, it's safe to assume that things will fall apart, hopes notwithstanding. Between the fractured state of both Elliot and the world at large, the cracks in the systems of this individual and this global structure are too big to ignore — at least too big to ignore for Sam Esmail, the creator of Mr. Robot, and the man who is directing every episode of season two.
"It's darker," Malek says of the coming season's tone. "In a lot of respects, just dealing with that fallout is very dark. When you see what happens to people, how they react in those circumstances, and when they're fighting to exist and fighting to march on with their plan to change things the way they envision them and hope they would be, people can get very dark."
But on the other side of darkness, there's light, according to Malek: "The great thing Sam does with this series is he injects a lot of humor and levity into each story. Whenever you think you're in a really dire place with these characters, you almost find yourself laughing out loud in the very next scene in some way. You get hit with quite a lot emotionally, but you always find a way to enjoy and laugh at the situation that these characters put themselves in and who they surround themselves with."
Malek extends this idea to virtually every character and story weaving in and out of Mr. Robot, a roster that includes Portia Doubleday as Angela Moss, who spent season one trying to bring E Corp down through legal means, and now works as a rising star in the company's PR department; newcomers like Joey Badass and Craig Robinson as Leon and Ray, notable members of Elliot's new little life; and, of course, Malek and Slater as Elliot and Mr. Robot, two sides of the same coin.
"The ensemble is really special this year," Malek says. "Everybody has their own dark progression through the story, but you're surrounded by…it's almost that the misery of everybody else brings out a weird kind of dark, black humor that arises. Humor that's even just very funny on the surface."
"Sam knew what he was doing with this season," he adds, "and knew he had all of these dire and dark moments. I think this season, people will be surprised at how funny and fun this show is. The music that Sam has pulled into this show, the montages that I've shot…. I know from being there first-hand, they're some of the coolest and most cinematic things you've seen on television in a while."
Elliot's dark journey resumes July 13, when Mr. Robot debuts its second season with a two-hour premiere at 10 p.m. on USA Network. Follow THR's Mr. Robot coverage for more news, analysis and interviews.