After changing the way we viewed the cyber world in 2015, Mr. Robot returns to our screens this week with its Season 2 premiere on USA and Showcase. The first season blew audiences’ collective minds and received numerous accolades, with much of that critical acclaim going to the show’s star Rami Malek.
Malek’s breakout role as Elliot Alderson, a troubled yet brilliant cyber security engineer with an affinity for morphine and hacking into the private lives of his nearest and dearest, was one of the most unforgettable performances of the year, and one of TV’s most anticipated returns. Thanks to his terrific onscreen chemistry with Christian Slater (Mr. Robot), the series has catapulted to near-Breaking Bad legend status in one short season. Needless to say, Season 2 has a lot to live up to.
Before we’re pulled back into the intense world of Mr. Robot and fsociety, we’re listing just a few reasons why the show’s star is an actor you should be watching.
His award-winning role on Mr. Robot
The summer of 2015 became one of the most surprising TV seasons in a long while thanks to the unexpected rise of hit shows UnREAL and Mr. Robot. In both cases, that success was largely won through the brilliant marriage of smart writing and terrific casting. To say that Malek’s turn as Elliot was one of the best performances of 2015 is a severe understatement. His performance offered a rare window into the reality of what it’s like to not be able trust your own reality, in a show where we felt complicit in egging on Elliot’s delusions every time he broke the fourth wall. We can only hope the well-deserved accolades will continue to roll in from here.
He’s no one-trick pony
It’s no question that Malek has garnered most of his attention through the very dramatic role of Elliot, but did you know that the actor started out in comedy? In fact, if his face seemed familiar to Mr. Robot viewers it’s likely because his first film role was in the Night at the Museum film series as the Pharaoh Ahkmenrah. On television, his first major recurring role was as Kenny on The War at Home, a closeted gay teen, which garnered critical acclaim and a GLAAD nomination.
He’s also not afraid to step away from the camera for voice acting work in cartoons and video games. He was the voice of the hilariously awful Tahno in Legend of Korra and performed both the voice acting and motion capture for the character Josh in the horror game Until Dawn.
His capacity to draw empathy
Elliot may have been Malek’s true breakout role, but for me it was his turn as Josh in Until Dawn that first grabbed my attention. While on the surface Until Dawn is very much a jump-scare loving, gratuitous love letter to 80s slash films, the character of Josh brings a level of depth to the game that doesn’t quite sink in until a few replays later. I won’t go into spoiler territory for those who haven’t played yet, but Malek’s performance as Josh brought out sympathy for a character that you never thought was possible from the game’s beginning chapters.
That same quality of acting carries over into Mr. Robot‘s Elliot. We’re not quite sure where Elliot falls between the role of hero and anti-hero, but regardless of what path he takes we’ll always find ourselves playing the role of the empathetic audience. He brings a very human quality to his characters that easily draws us in, no matter what the circumstance.
He’s got the attention of Hollywood elite
While filming the TV mini-series The Pacific, Malek got the attention of a little known actor by the name of Tom Hanks. In fact, it was through Hanks that he got his follow-up film role in Larry Crowne. Malek has said that he considers Hanks a role model for the way he nurtures actors and makes strides to be a family man, something Malek says he’d like to emulate.
How he pulled off that major Mr. Robot twist
Spoiler warning ahead for those who haven’t finished Season 1 of Mr. Robot. With the exception of eagle-eyed viewers, the realization that Mr. Robot was never real to begin with was a Fight Club-style plot twist that few saw coming. That curveball was largely possible by the way Malek was able to keep us lost in the illusion just as much as Elliot was, to the point that we willfully ignored the clues as the story went on.
He’s just getting started
Over the last decade or so Malek has been paying his dues in the industry and his spotlight will only get bigger from here. He has already nabbed his first leading role in a feature film titled Buster’s Mal Heart and is near-guaranteed an Emmy nomination later this week. There’s no doubt that his star has only started to rise.
Will you be watching Mr. Robot‘s Season 2 premiere? Sound off in the comments below.
Mr. Robot airs Wednesdays at 10 p.m. ET on Showcase and USA.
Associate Editor Kelly Townsend always had strong opinions on TV growing up, so it was only natural to evolve from couch musings to online journalism. She can't ever choose a favorite series, so please don't ask. Her writing has also appeared on IndieWire and Tribute.ca. You can find her on Twitter at @kellybtownsend.