After the jaw-dropping twists and rousing success of "Mr. Robot's" first season finale, the bar was set incredibly high for Season Two. During Comic-Con International in San Diego, CBR sat down with some of the cast of USA's much-discussed drama series to talk about new characters, secrets and fan theories.
First up to our roundtable was new cast member Grace Gummer, who plays the sly-smiled FBI Agent Dominique DiPierro. "She's clever. She's tough. She's quick-witted," Gummer explained of her character. "She instinctually has this feeling about this [5/9 hack] case, and who did it and why. And she'll stop at nothing to find that, and get what she wants. So I represent the role of law enforcement in the show. Everyone is dealing with the consequences of what happened in Season One. And that's where I come into play. I'm basically the antagonist of fsociety."
But on a show as morally complex as "Mr. Robot," being the antagonist doesn't make DiPerro the de facto villain. "I can't really judge my character and what she is doing, and how she wants to go about her job," Gummer said. "I feel like my part is necessary in terms of the arc of the story and where it can lead. I think [fsociety] did this thing, and they have to obviously--in some way--pay for what they did, or the consequences of their actions have to come to light in some way. So, that's where I come in. But I think it's up to the audience to decide if whether Dom is a good guy or a bad guy."
Another eye-catching addition to Season Two is hip hop star Joey Bada$$, who plays Elliot's "Seinfeld"-obsessed meal-buddy Leon. "Mr. Robot" frontman Rami Malek declared of his new co-star, "Joey shocked me with how much of a natural he was right away. He's one of those actors who, you just stick the camera on and you can do no wrong. Sam kind of loved his music, and thought from his lyricism he would be very artistic and an interesting actor, compelling. And he's proven so. He's really owned it from day one. He's a very different actor than he was at the start. Once he figures something out, he's one of those guys who's like, 'I'm a rock star now.' At first he was like, 'This is my first day acting. Can you help me with this and that?' And now, he's like, 'You should probably try it like this.' [Laughs]"
While much of the cast was tight-lipped about where Season Two might take their characters, Portia Doubleday was eager to detail how Angela has grown, offering, "Angela's quite different this season than she was in the first season...A lot of people are saying, 'Oh, she drank the Kool-Aid. And now she's evil.' And I think what's interesting about her -- and all the characters on the show -- is they are so layered and realistic. Because yes, she was told by Terry Colby, 'If you want to make a change -- this lawsuit means nothing -- you have to work from within. You have to work your way up, and you have to actually get to a place where you can make those changes.' And I would do the same thing if I were in her position. So there's that that I can identify with and then there's also the aspect of what happens when you get seduced by the idea of finally having power and control? And having someone who believes in you -- especially when those things are stripped away from you in your childhood. Like having to find her sense of self after the loss of her mother, and not having any power or any control. And now she finally gets that, and I think there's something very lucrative about it. So it's that fine line that I think is really relatable."
Redditors might be thrilled to learn that "Mr. Robot's" stars are looking to fan theories for how the series might shake out. During the first season, they were receiving scripts week-to-week, so many of the cast didn't know where Elliot and the fsociety might end up. Doubleday and Malek confessed they've turned to Reddit threads for clues, and then gone to the show's creator Sam Esmail for confirmation. Malek told us, "I learn a lot about the show from Redditors. There are times when I've gone up to Sam [with fan theories], and said, 'Do you think this is possible?' And he's told me, 'You're reading too much Reddit.' He thinks I'm very paranoid."
When trying to tap into her Angela's motivations, Doubleday admitted she looked to Reddit for answers. "I asked Sam a bunch of times what would happen to her and he wouldn't tell me anything," she said. "I even went on Reddit and did research, and was like, 'What is it? What is it?' And he was like, 'You're never going to be able to guess it.' And that's what is so great about the show, because even we don't know what is happening. So I would say tune in, because everybody on the show goes through massive changes this season."
But Mr. Robot himself, Christian Slater, doesn't bother with Reddit or fan theories. He goes straight to the source. "I feel like I have a fairly decent handle on what the relationship is between me and Elliot," he said, adding that because of the pivotal role his character plays, Esmail has been less guarded with him.
"I think I function better with information of course," Slater mused, "I've been very fortunate with Sam Esmail, he's been very open and sharing things with me. I feel very in the loop in what's going on and what's happening, and I have from day one. If I have a question, he says, 'Do you really want to know?' He always gives me that out, and I say, 'Yes.' And he's always told me. I always say yes. I need to know. Because particularly with the first season, if I didn’t know what the final scenario was and what the relationship was between these two guys, it would have certainly lost a layer of depth that otherwise wouldn't have been there. Because just knowing that ending -- not that I want to spoiler anything -- it just made me more want to take Elliot under my wing and be a little bit more protective."
He went on, "When we finished Season One, I had questions about how he was going to handle everything in Season Two, and what we were going to do. But he calls us after he's sort of broken what Season Two is going to be, and talked to me for about an hour and a half about the whole journey, and what the arc was going to be, and laid it all out for me. I had many, many visceral reactions, and was just thrilled. I just couldn't wait to get back in there, and have some good convos with my son."
Asked if Mr. Robot knows what went down on that missing night between Tyrell and Elliot, Slater laughed, "Of course, I do! I did it. I took over, and [Elliot]'ll know when I want him to know. If ever. That's how it goes."
CBR pressed the cast about the popular Season Two theory that suggest Elliot's new routine is actually hinting that he's in prison or a mental hospital. "That's good," Malek admitted of the theory. "I saw that on Reddit and then talked to Sam about it. Look, fans come up with some very interesting theories about the show, and I love it. I love that there's a discussion about it. Maybe Sam hasn't told me everything. So, I'd like to figure things out as well. It's a routine for trying to capture his sanity and trying to have some semblance of normalcy. We'll see where it takes us."
Doubleday agreed, saying, "That's really interesting. I guess what's so crazy about this show: I'm trying to put it together like how people put the clues together in this show." She recounted how the cast behaved during the table read of Season Two's final four episodes, sharing, "We read them together for the first time in this warehouse. And we were writing notes to each other on the table, and passing them, like, 'Is this why? What just happened with Tyrell and Elliot?' Like that, and like looking at Sam. The whole time we'd take breaks, go outside and try to guess. And none of us guessed. So what I will say is none of us guessed correctly."
Doubleday ultimately issued a warning to fans, "There's some people that I think might be onto things. And then as soon as they think they're onto things, they're completely wrong." But she promised, "The ending is absolutely insane."
"Mr. Robot" airs Wednesdays at 10 PM on USA.