BySean Gallen, writer at
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Sean Gallen

This year's star-studded Emmy awards show had a lot of surprises up its sleeve. Game of Thrones smashed the Emmy record for total wins with 38 awards and Julia Louis-Dreyfus finally won big for Veep, but the real surprise was Rami Malek snagging the statue for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama series for his work in the stunning USA series Mr. Robot.

For those of you who've slept on Mr. Robot, check out the trailer for the first season below (and start watching!):

Hearing Rami Malek's name announced in the Hollywood auditorium had a lot of people at home scratching their heads and asking "Who is this guy and how is he better than Kevin Spacey?" We're going to take a look at why Malek deserves the award and why his character is so complex he's actually three characters.

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1. Elliott Alderson The Loner

Image: USA
Image: USA

Mr. Robot began turning a lot of heads when it first came out on USA last year. The show focuses on Elliot Alderson (Malek), a cyber-security specialist who suffers from social anxiety disorder and clinical depression. Elliot is yanked out of his self-imposed isolation by "Mr. Robot" (Christian Slater) who summons him to take part in a mass hacktivist movement, targeting the mega-corporation E-corp.

The story follows Elliot as he crawls deeper down the rabbit hole of hacktivism but the further he dives into this new world the more volatile his anxieties become and the more they consume him. Malek has created a character that appears numb on the surface but underneath is constantly teetering on the edge of a nervous breakdown. The character is brought to life with nervous tics and uncomfortable winces that convey his malaise with the world. However, he has found some solace in the virtual world because he finds it impossible to connect with people.

2. Elliott Alderson The Hacker

Image: USA
Image: USA

Another central theme to the show is how technology isolates people and encourages anti-social behavior. Hacktivism is a means of escape for Elliott and allows him to create a new, more powerful version of himself. He can only communicate and connect with people through his screen because he is more confident and in control as an internet entity.

Malek was trained in coding and the basic elements of hacking to make his character's confidence in front of the computer screen believable. Speaking to Qualys CTO Wolfgang Kandek at the RSA Conference in San Fran, Malek discussed his training:

"All the coding was accurate and there was no CGI used on the screen, it was me typing."

Check out Rami explaining his character's dependence on technology below:

The more Elliot ventures into the virtual world, the less grip he has on reality. He realizes that by splitting his personality between reality and the internet landscape, he has lost his anonymity and becomes more and more paranoid about both worlds he occupies. Malek develops the character masterfully with mood swings that become more and more violent as he becomes unhinged by paranoia and drugs.

3. Elliot Alderson The Drug Addict

The writers of Mr. Robot understand that in the today's society people abuse drugs to escape their problems. Instead of demonizing drug users like an old '70s PSA about marijuana, Mr. Robot candidly displays the real effects on users, both positive and negative. Elliot struggles to convey his emotions and therefore abuses morphine and adderall in order to feel a connection to those around him.

Check out one of Elliot's mind-bending trips below:

He uses morphine as a downer, a means to sedate his brain from over-heating when his anxiety becomes too much. The adderall pushes him in the opposite direction and acts as a means of speeding up his brain and amplifying his emotions. As we can see in the video above, Malek depicts these polar opposite emotional states with disturbing false smiles and frantic energy that quickly melt into deflated postures and exhausted gazes.

Hear what Rami had to say about his drug-snorting technique below:

The protagonist of Mr. Robot is a complicated and contradictory mess, but that's what makes him human. Audiences everywhere can identify with one of the many versions of him if not all of them because he seems to articulate the anxieties a lot of us have about technology and the future. Malek created a character that is human and alien at the same time and touches the outsider in all of us.

Do you think Rami deserved the award?

(Source: Info-security Magazine)


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