After nine episodes and a head-turning plot twist, USA’s Mr. Robot has become the surprise hit of the summer. One of its defining features has become Elliot Alderson’s (Rami Malek) rambling and anguished voice-overs to the audience. What’s going on in the actor’s head as he’s filming these sequences? “I just zone out,” Rami Malek joked at the Screen Actors Guild Foundation's “Conversations” series.
“I have an earwig,” Malek continued, "but for the pilot, I memorized all of the voice-over. I’d never been in this situation before so I thought I better know it backward and forward.”
Malek wouldn't end up recording the voice-overs until later, but while shooting scenes, he was prompted his voice-over lines by someone speaking to him through the earwig ("which feels like a spying device," he said).
“We tried [creator] Sam [Esmail] delivering the VO in my ear, and I remember looking dumbfounded, because this voice that was already omnipresent was now in my ear. I thought, This could be perfect but right now, it sucks. I look at the camera and he’s watching the monitor at the same time and I was like, This isn’t gonna work. That was the first Elliot moment where he addresses the audience and it came out of sheer duress.”
Malek held an impromptu audition on set for a new voice in his head, and found a PA, Sarah Block, who was “magnetic.” “I always envisioned the voice in my head to be a female voice. I don’t know what it was, but I gravitated to that as something I could be my honest self with,” Malek said. “She’s been terrific.”
For one particularly heightened scene, Malek told Block to yell into his ear, only to discover later that his earpiece was covered in blood. “Okay maybe I’m taking this too far,” he said. Mr. Robot: As intense on set as it is onscreen.