Tonight’s hotly anticipated season premiere of Mr. Robot heavily features the motif of hallucination. Elliot keeps seeing the titular figment of his imagination, leading him to wonder, as always, what’s real and what isn’t. But the audience, too, has to reckon with a strange bit of questionable reality: the seeming cameo of President Obama. We see him on television, explicitly addressing the events of the 5/9 hack-pocalypse in which E Corp’s data got royally screwed-up, sending the economy into freefall. “The FBI announced today, and we can confirm, that Tyrell Wellick and fsociety engaged in this attack,” the leader of the free world intones while we watch him speak in a news conference. So is Obama secretly a Robot-head, willing to step in for a quick guest spot?
Alas, the answer is “no.” The effect was created with a little bit of video wizardry and auditory sleight of hand. Someone close to the show informed Vulture that the footage and much of the audio was plucked from existing news conferences, but the lines that are specific to the show were done by an (uncannily skilled) Obama sound-alike. Careful editing made it sound relatively seamless and look like his lips were moving in a manner consistent with the new words — though it’s probably one of those things where, now that you’ve found out what happened, you’ll go back and see all the inconsistencies.
And while we’re speaking of the show’s pursuit of political verisimilitude, it’s worth noting that, according to IMDb, this episode was the first time anyone has played Treasury Secretary Jack Lew, Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen, or Securities and Exchange Commission head Mary Jo White in a work of filmed fiction. No small accomplishment!