Rami Malek is on cloud nine.
He’s in Los Angeles and, prior to our interview, he’s just been speaking to Robert Downey Jr. for the August issue of Interview Magazine. It’s a special moment for him. It also caps off a year where he’s received awards attention for his star-making role in USA Network’s breakout hit, Mr. Robot. Critics and guild members alike have praised his performance, nominating Malek for the Golden Globe, Screen Actors Guild, and Critics’ Choice Television Award as Best Actor, winning for the latter.
But, rest assured, Rami Malek is far from his TV persona, Elliot, the cyber security worker and vigilante. On a break from a shoot, Malek is in town for press, and we sat down to talk about Elliot, paranoia, and how best to watch Mr. Robot.
AwardsDaily TV: Rami Malek, what’s it like for you? Your star has ascended rather rapidly.
Rami Malek: It comes down to three words, “Don’t blow it.” It’s an experience that you just can’t prepare for. People always prepare you for the worst, “This is not going to work out.” Or “This is going to be a very difficult road.” Or “Acting is a one in a million career.”
To have not only the success of working as an actor but receiving some type of acclaim for your work is a very rare and humbling place to be. It humbles you as a human being to think that not only do I have the opportunity to do what I love, but receiving praise for it is something I never would have expected. Hoped for, but never expected.
ADTV: The show is a visual show, there’s a lot going on. How should viewers watch the show? Binge it or watch it on a weekly basis?
RM: I watched this documentary in New York about Marlon Brandon. I remember one thing he said. “What I aspire to do when I’m working is to stop the movement from popcorn to the mouth.” So, with this show, it strikes me as one that I wouldn’t want to be opening candy, or chewing on anything, or having to take my eyes off the screen as every visual is so poignant and so pertinent that you don’t want to miss anything.
I’m not telling anyone not to snack while watching, just have it all prepared before you sit down. Bingeing is not the appropriate viewing experience because it requires some absorption when you’re done watching it. For me even reading the script, things hit me days later. I’m not telling everyone to wait a week, but just take some time. I wouldn’t just let episodes bleed into the next credit sequence as we tend to do while bingeing.
However, if I was telling people how to watch TV, I think it would be very un-Mr Robot of me. Having said that, watch it how you please.
ADTV: How close is this show to reality because, certainly while watching it, it made me think…
RM: Me too. I mean I’m borderline paranoid regarding the way I treat technology. There are phone calls I won’t even make on cellular phones anymore. I don’t have anything to hide, but if there are discussions about the script or the show, I like to make those from devices that are not my own. That might be a little too much, but who knows. There are some very smart people out there who can do some very damaging things just from sitting right behind a monitor.
ADTV: It’s rather terrifying when you think of what society is capable of.
RM: Does it scare me? We’re in a world where every day it feels like the earth beneath us is shifting because of the climate we’re in, this over load of social media and hyper-consumerism that we live in, that everything is changing. I think no one really knows where it’s going. As frightening as it is, it’s also this new normal of we really can’t predict anymore and things seem off kilter and it is and it can be at any moment. We’re more aware of just how devastating technology can be. I don’t know if that makes it more or less frightening because we actually acknowledge that it exists.
For me as an actor, I’ve always felt like I’ve gotten some great advice from women, and I feel soothed and comforted by the sound of a woman’s voice. I always thought of speaking to a woman when I was working on it, so why not have that voice when I’m shooting. – Rami Malek
ADTV: In terms of the tech jargon that we see on the show, are you a techie?
RM: I’m an actor, that’s what I do. I’m not big on social media. I don’t spend too much time in front of a computer. I don’t share similarities in that realm. It’s a role, and one that I enjoy playing. At the end of the day, I’m acting.
ADTV: How much of your story do you know ahead of time?
RM: I know physically where we might be shooting in season three. I don’t know any more than what happens in the final scene of season two, episode ten and it is a very magical experience.
ADTV: I’ve heard that you have a female voice feed in when you’re working on Elliot’s inner voice. Is his inner voice a woman?
RM: Elliot’s voice is ultimately anyone who watches the show. When he breaks the fourth wall, he’s talking to anyone who will listen. The advice he might be getting or sharing, could be any one of us who’s watching. For me as an actor, I’ve always felt like I’ve gotten some great advice from women, and I feel soothed and comforted by the sound of a woman’s voice. I always thought of speaking to a woman when I was working on it, so why not have that voice when I’m shooting.
ADTV: What were some season two highlights?
RM: I enjoyed anything that we shot in New York in the street because it’s palpable, you’re out there among the people. Shooting in New York is like no other experience. It’s something Hollywood has attempted to build on back lots trying to replicate that city. When you have it at your disposal like that, there’s something really magnetic and energizing about that. When you put actors in like Christian and put up a camera, those situations are beyond special. Shooting in Times Square with Christian and him throwing me up against the massive American flag is an experience that I will never forget.
ADTV: What time of day did you shoot that scene?
RM: We started around 9 or 10 and went all the way to 4am. We did the majority of the shooting between 2 and 4 because on a week night that’s when we knew we’d have the least amount of pedestrians and cars going through and we want that area to look as vacant as it could. There’s something really unique about being able to shoot like that. No one knew who we were so we didn’t draw as much attention. A guy in a black hoodie? No one recognized him. Christian Slater had the homeless man disguise so everyone was befuddled as to why someone who looked like the Unabomber got to take over Times Square.
ADTV: How many black hoodies do you have?
RM: The one in the show is my personal hoodie. One day I’m going to ask for it back.
ADTV: You did theatre in college? do you want to explore it again?
RM: I’d love to. I’ve done it in a lot of places. It’s something that was my entrée into acting. I’m eager to get back, but it’s difficult as my career is busy. If there’s time, I’d like to give it what I’ve got.
Mr. Robot season two premieres on July 13 at 10pm ET.