The first reported use of the word “cunty” at this year’s TCAs came during the most estrogen-powered panel of the tour so far.
To celebrate the Emmy-nominated drama “Mr. Robot,” USA chose not to bring creator Sam Esmail or male leads Rami Malek and Christian Slater to the Beverly Hilton. Instead, the “Decoding Season_2.0 with the Women of ‘Mr. Robot'” panel featured stars Grace Gummer, Carly Chaikin, Portia Doubleday and Stephanie Corneliussen — whose richly developed characters have been the foundation of the show’s expanding scope, leading to a Season 2 that’s become so much more than one hacker’s complicated dance with reality.
Chaikin revealed that initially, the “Mr. Robot” producers refused to consider her for the role of Darlene, because of her previous work on “Suburgatory,” where she played the platonic ideal of an airhead. She got the role after the casting director convinced Esmail that she had more depth, and was more than enthusiastic about getting to play someone highly intelligent. Darlene, she said, “is representative of the work I want to do.”
She also values the opportunity to represent women in tech, an issue she wasn’t initially aware of, but now feels passionately about: “It’s exciting to play characters who stand for something — that can have an effect on the outside world.”
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With Doubleday, her character has changed dramatically with the onset of Season 2, and there’s more change to come. “There was such a change in the second season, and I talked to Sam a lot about that. He’s sort of hinted as to where this character will end up and we’re trying to slowly get there,” she said.
While Doubleday said that many people have accused Angela of “drinking the Kool-aid” by taking a job at EvilCorp, she asks that people consider whether or not they would have done the same. It was one of the many times that the word “multilayered” was used during the panel with regard to these women and the choices they make on the show.
As Joanna, the S&M-loving wife of Tyrell Wellick, Corneliussen is often shocked by what she’s asked to do on the show. “You can’t put that on TV,” she said she told Esmail when it came to a memorable Season 1 encounter with a lobster fork. But she also said that “it’s a lot of fun” to push those boundaries, especially when it comes to her sexuality.
“A lot of male actors and male characters get to do some outrageous stuff. But [Joanna] gets to walk on the edge and it’s accepted,” she added.
Gummer joined the cast for Season 2, and had not watched the show prior to her audition. However, once she got the role she binged her way through Season 1 and fell in love with it.
“It’s rare as an actor and as a woman that you work on a show that you would want to watch and you would want to love. I just felt so honored to join the ‘Robot’ family,” she said.
With regard to her character, FBI agent Dom DiPierro, Gummer noted that “she uses her badge and her gun and her job as her mask. I think that she focuses on her work as her life to distract herself from her life.”
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“I feel like I surprise myself every day with this character, and I think that’s how the audience will feel,” she added.
It’s not just the women on their own who viewers are engaging with — as Chaikin and Doubleday discussed, the friendship between Darlene and Angela has become a favorite of fans, and it’s one that the two actors have been allowed to build together. “I look forward to our scenes,” Doubleday told Chaikin, which they’ll discuss for hours while not filming. “What it means to do that with someone so talented… I get to create when I’m not working.”
The entire panel highlighted just how special a show “Mr. Robot” is turning out to be, thanks to how each character is more than just her gender. “We’re not driven by some female motor, some female agenda,” Gummer said. “We all have our own purpose and our own drive. We drive the story just as much as Rami.”
“Mr. Robot” Season 2 airs Wednesdays at 10pm on USA.