Rami Malek on Mr Robot: ‘I didn’t want to let anybody down’

Emmy-winning Mr Robot star Rami Malek discusses the responsibility of playing Elliot

At Monday night’s Emmys Rami Malek scooped Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series for his portrayal of Elliot Anderson in the brilliant ‘hackivist’ series Mr Robot. Accepting his award Malek paid tribute to the troubled character he plays in the series, ‘a young man who is, like so many of us, profoundly alienated’ he said. ‘The unfortunate thing is, I’m not sure how many of us would want to hang out with a guy like Elliot. But I want to honour the Elliots [out there], because there’s a little of Elliot in all of us.’

Earlier this year Mr Robot became the sleeper hit of the Golden Globes, springing seemingly from nowhere to beat titans such as Game of Thrones for the Best Drama award. It also catapulted its relatively unknown star Rami Malek to fame. Here’s what happened when writer Jane Mulkerrins spoke to Malek about the series for Marie Claire earlier this year.

Your character Elliot is a highly skilled hacker. How did you feel about playing a cyber-criminal? 
‘To make a character relatable, you have to try and justify their actions. With Elliot it is hard, yes, as some of his actions seem unjustifiable, but I do believe he has a strong moral compass.’

The hacks in the show don’t just affect people at the top, though…
‘In the first season, there’s a great scene in which some hackers are letting dogs out of their cages, saving them from being put down. But where are they going to go? Who is going to feed them? Are they better off out there? Sam [Esmail] was very influenced by the Arab Spring when writing the show. People wanted this revolution, but the aftermath put a lot of them in danger. The question he’s asking is: when freedom comes with all of that, is it worth it?’

Rami Malek accepting his Emmy award

Rami Malek accepting his Emmy Award for Mr Robot

Has playing a hacker made you more careful about your own data security? 
‘I limit my social media and use complex passwords – the more we offer up, the more people have the opportunity to take advantage of us. I also see ‘white-hat’ hackers [those who hack for, they say, the benefit 
of society] differently. At first, I was under the impression that people like that were doing us all a disservice. But now I know the information they’re aware of, I find it scary we don’t all have that at our disposal as well.’

We hear Edward Snowden is a fan…
‘The fact that he sees our show as having some authenticity to it is like getting an award in its own right.’

Mr Robot, Rami Malek

Rami Malek and Christian Slater in Mr Robot

Elliot has some serious addictions and mental-health issues. Did you do any research to prepare for that?
‘I know people in that situation, and I didn’t want to let anybody down in my portrayal. Fortunately, I love the research aspect of my work, reading up about psychoses and people who have similar frames of mind. I’ve had such a phenomenal response from people who relate to Elliot.’

What is it like working with Christian Slater [who plays Mr Robot]?
‘He is a very kind man, who is also wildly talented. We have some pretty intense scenes, and he can go to some pretty dark, extreme places… but then he bounces back, and I just go: “Oh yeah, that’s Christian Slater.”’

You can watch Rami Malek in action in seasons one and two of Mr Robot, available now on Amazon Prime

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