Carly Chaikin, Mr. Robot’s Darlene, talks to Awards Daily about Season 2’s women, Darlene’s big moment, and what she was really looking at in THAT scene.
By Megan McLachlan
This is the first in a weekly series of interviews with the cast and creative behind USA / NBC Universal’s Mr. Robot.
In many ways, Season 2 of USA’s Mr. Robot is the Season of the Woman. In addition to introducing viewers to a tough female FBI agent (played by Grace Gummer), one of the season’s boldest moments is its Elliot-less episode that centers on who some argue is the more interesting Alderson: Darlene, played by Carly Chaikin.
“It’s been really cool to have the show run by women this year because unfortunately it’s a rare thing,” says Chaikin. “Especially to have all of these women that are so different. It was fun to play such an empowered army sergeant type.”
The Elliot-less episode, titled “eps2.6_succ3ss0r.p12,” culminates in one powerful turning point for Darlene, when she kills Susan Jacobs, general counsel at E-Corp. For nearly two decades, Darlene has held resentment toward Jacobs. As a four-year-old, Darlene recalls Jacobs letting out a laugh in the courtroom when E-Corp was absolved of guilt in the Washington Township scandal that ultimately led to Edward Alderson’s death.
“When Sam [creator/director Sam Esmail] first told me and said, ‘And then you kill her,’ I said, ‘Wait, am I a killer now?’ And he was like, no. I really thought a lot about it. I don’t think it was premeditated murder. Darlene put Susan’s face on the entire problem. She’s been using her face as a label. I think in that moment, there was no other option but to do that. She really has nothing to lose but everything to lose at the same time. If she didn’t do that, they were going to win.”
Darlene’s big episode comes just one episode after the big twist: that Elliot has been in prison for most of the second season, a discovery that Chaikin claims is in plain sight for audiences if they look for the signs.
“We actually don’t try to keep anything away from people. If you rewatch, you see me look around and feel like I’m in a prison visiting room. We never try to hide anything. Our environment might be misleading, but everything we do is true to where we are. Same thing with Season 1: Every interaction I have with Elliot, he’s my brother. But you don’t see or realize that.”
The Darlene/Elliot sister/brother relationship is something that became especially interesting in Season 2, with Darlene revealing that she feels like she’s living in her brother’s shadow.
“It’s a really tricky dynamic. There’s that resentment about it, but I feel like she’s never really resented him personally. She knows and understands how special he is. She agrees with that. It’s more knowing that she’s not that. It’s more sad. But there is a lot of tension building between their relationship, and she’s starting to resent him for abandoning her in this whole situation that he started. But I think she loves and respects him so much that she just wants to be close to him.”
Someone else Darlene gets close to in Season 2 is her on-again, off-again Dark Army boyfriend, Cisco, who meets an untimely demise in the final episode of the season, right when things seem to get back on track for the couple. Cisco’s death is something that will not only stick with Darlene as a character, but Chaikin as an actress.
“I think that was probably the most devastating thing that could happen to her. He’s the one person who was beside her with everything and believed in her. She lost everything and on top of it, lost him. Whether or not we end up touching upon it, that happened and will remain in her. I think on some TV shows actors can forget about what happened before, but for me, I know going forward with everything that I do, that moment will be staying with her.”
There are so many memorable moments from Season 2, but the final episode has arguably one of the most gripping scenes of the entire series, when Dom (Grace Gummer) reveals to Darlene that she’s been on to fsociety the whole season. It’s a long, graceful scene, with pitch-perfect music, shots, and reactions.
“I accidentally opened the door to that room before we filmed and immediately shut it because I didn’t want to see any of that until I walked into that room. For me, it was just taking those moments of processing ‘What the fuck is going on?’ and being in that moment. The thing she’s been trying to avoid this entire time—it was the biggest blow.”
The look of devastation on Chaikin’s face is something we haven’t ever seen from Darlene, who up until this point has maintained a resting-bitch-in-control demeanor.
“What’s funny with acting, when we were doing the coverage on me, I was just looking at a blank wall and tape marks.”
True to Mr. Robot, the ultimate trick of that scene was the environment.