How 'Mr. Robot' Learned Its Lines

AUSTIN, TEXAS -- “Mr. Robot,” the USA Network hit that kickstarted with a preview at SXSW Interactive last year, is known for doing lines -- both the powdered drug and computer code kind -- but the most important ones, according to the show’s star Rami Malek, were in the script.

Asked during a presentation at this year’s festival if he and fellow star Christian Slater have learned to write -- or at least read -- lines of code form software systems like Python or Java, Rami quipped, "We’re just trying to learn our lines, basically.”

Both he and Slater took down the fourth wall with SXSW’s tech crowd, explaining that as much as they’ve tried to immerse themselves in the hacker culture, they’re just actors reading scripts and performing their roles as best they can.



In an effort to be as authentic as possible, Slater said he spent time boning up on hacker terms and concepts on Wikipedia before the took the part, but said everything he learned was virtually outdated by the time the cameras began rolling.

“We’ll get there by Season Five,” series creator and producer and sole director Sam Esmail quipped about Slater’s and Malek’s technology learning curve.

Esmail, who was a hacker and self-proclaimed nerd before creating the series, attributed the series success to its authenticity. He said the producers and writers consult with technology and cybercrime consultants, including the FBI, to make it as real and as contemporary as possible.

He even alluded that Season Two might draw from the current debate over encryption, security and privacy swelling around the government’s efforts to get Apple to open the iPhone used as part of the San Bernardino terrorist attacks, which as been a source of constant discussion during SXSW this year.

Mostly, he said, the show is just trying to utilize current events and realism to be entertaining.

Esmail said the techniques include having Malek physically type in actual code on screens to create that sense of realism and he said every line is authentic.

Asked whether he could relate to his character Elliott on the show, Malek said the series taps into universal themes of isolation being created by the cyber age of ubiquitous social media.

He recalled a scene in which he was reviewing the Facebook pages of another character and said, “It really got me sad. We can all relate to having that loneliness and sometimes being distanced by technology and these manicured Facebook pages.”
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