Writer/co-executive producer Kyle Bradstreet talks to Awards Daily TV about what it took to produce Season 2 of Mr. Robot on USA Network
This is the latest in a weekly series of interviews with the cast and creative behind USA / NBC Universal’s Mr. Robot.
As anyone part of a hit TV show knows, there’s a lot of pressure with Season 2. But Kyle Bradstreet, co-executive producer on Season 2 of Mr. Robot, tried not to get caught up in the threat of a Sophomore Slump.
“Ultimately, we’re just trying to tell the best possible story we can tell and serve our characters to the best of our ability,” said Bradstreet. “We do our absolute best and what happens after that is out of our control.”
As co-executive producer in Season 2, Bradstreet dealt with both producing and writing aspects, overseeing the story in the writing room and making sure that the season was following creator/director Sam Esmail’s vision.
“Sam comes in with the master plan, and then my job is to flesh that out and make it the best version it can possibly be. We always run everything by him for approval and make sure he’s on board. It’s just making the best version of the show that Sam wants to make.”
Where Season 1 of Mr. Robot mostly took place in and around New York, Season 2 offers more interesting locations (China) and set design (Angela, played by Portia Doubleday, meets Whiterose, played by B.D. Wong, in a room with nothing but a fish tank, a rotary phone, and other archaic pieces of technology and pop culture).
“It’s a lot of prep work, location scouting, looking at and approving props, set design, and wardrobe. On set, a good portion of the time we work with Sam to see if he has any questions. He’s very collaborative and likes to bounce questions off writers and producers, so we’re there to talk with him if he needs to talk through anything and offer notes.”
In addition to serving as co-executive producer (he’ll move up to executive producer for Season 3), Bradstreet also wrote the episode “eps2.3_logic-b0mb.hc” in Season 2.
“Sam has this fun approach to the writing room of seeing who’s most passionate about which stories they want to tell and then trying to pair them. He and I discussed who might be a good fit for each episode, and he tells me what his preference is and then asks me for my opinion to weigh in. I said I wanted to take on ‘Logic Bomb.’ ”
“Logic Bomb” is Episode 5 where Dom (Grace Gummer) travels to China to meet Minister Zhang (aka Whiterose). Of the many memorable moments in the episode, there’s a thought-provoking chat in a room full of clocks, and Dom gets caught in an intense Dark Army shootout.
“The theme is what first drew me to the episode, the idea that you’re sending something out there and you basically don’t know when or how it’s going to blow up, only that it’s going to blow up eventually. That’s thematically what we wanted to stick to. It’s what Elliot’s storyline was with Ray and how the episode ended there. And it was the beginning of the Dom/Mr. Zhang/Whiterose relationship and seeing where that was going to go, planting that seed and seeing when that was going to come into fruition.”
Being a writer as well as co-executive producer has its benefits and challenges when it comes to the overall production and story.
“We try on our first draft to let creativity be in control 100 percent and then always in the back of your mind from a producing aspect, you’re asking ‘Is this possible? Can we get this set? How much will this cost? Is this realistic?’ For the first draft of the script, we throw everything at the wall and make the best possible story we can. Later on, once we get into several drafts of the script and start working with the studio and prepping for production, we take creative decisions we’ve made and try to keep them alive while fitting them into the time and budget allotted to us.”
Bradstreet not only revisits scripts with an editor’s eye, but also with an executive producer’s mindset.
“We love this scene, but will it make the final cut? Is it worth the shooting? Is it worth the time on set? Sometimes you have to kill your darlings, let a couple of your favorites go to revisit in another episode or season.”
With Bradstreet writing more episodes for Season 3, some of those darlings may get resurrected. Only time will tell—like being stuck in a room full of clocks.