For Sam Esmail, Mr. Robot Was Just the Start of Exploring the Perils of Technology

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The critically adored drama Mr. Robot wasn’t a science-fiction show—despite its title—yet it was one of the best series ever to tackle technology and its terrifying central role in our lives. And now that the USA Network series wrapped its four-season run last December, creator Sam Esmail is ready to tackle the topic again.

Esmail’s next big project is a reimagining (he hates to call it a “reboot”) of Battlestar Galactica—which was first a ’70s series and then, ahem, rebooted as a much-loved Syfy series in 2004—for Peacock, NBCUniversal’s upcoming streaming service. (He’s also working on several nontech-themed projects, including the USA anthology series Briarpatch and Season 2 of Amazon’s Homecoming.)

Christie Hemm Klok for Adweek

Esmail spoke with Adweek about ending Mr. Robot (and whether it’s truly over), that time he tried to take on AOL with his own internet startup, his plans for Battlestar Galactica and why he finds technology simultaneously fascinating and “horrifying.”

Adweek: Are you going through withdrawal now that Mr. Robot is over?
Sam Esmail: I’m going through extreme relaxation.

Now that you’ve had a little bit of distance from it, what are your thoughts on wrapping it up?
Making the show was near and dear to my heart, but it was quite exhausting. It was like running a marathon, but sprinting the entire time. I was surrounded by talented writers and crew members, and the cast was unbelievable, but I’m glad we were able to finish the story the way we intended it. I’m glad for my sanity that I could take a breather and relax for a couple of months.

You had said you’d known almost from the beginning how the show was going to end. Did those final episodes match up with what you had planned all along?
Lucky enough, we were able to build toward that original ending I had in mind. I give a lot of that credit to the writers room that we had over those four seasons. They helped me ground the world and explore the characters in interesting ways without losing sight of the endgame to the story. We were pretty disciplined about not straying too far off the path.

Even when we went into this fourth season, there was that temptation to just keep going and invent tangential storylines to add another season’s worth of episodes, because we really did love the world and we loved working with each other. But we knew that we had our endgame in mind from the beginning, and we thought the respect that we had for the story was much greater than any temptation to hang out in this world any more than the story allowed for us. So we stuck to what we originally planned.

 

So it was completely a story decision to end the show, and not a case of Rami Malek’s career taking off or you wanting to focus on your other projects?
In fact, it was quite the opposite. I think everybody, including Rami, would have wanted to keep going. It was ultimately my call where, for all the reasons I just gave, it was time to close the curtain on the Mr. Robot chapter. I’ve loved a lot of television shows in my life where I’ve seen them go on for longer than they should, and that’s something we never wanted for this show. It was a hard decision, but we felt it was the right one.

In this new TV world, nothing is really ever done, and shows are constantly getting rebooted or revived. Could you see yourself revisiting the Mr. Robot characters again at some point down the road?
No, the story of Elliot and Mr. Robot is completed. That’s one of the reasons why we ended it when we ended it, because we did not want to come up with excuses to keep the story going. I can definitively tell you that the Elliot Alderson/Mr. Robot journey is over.

This story first appeared in the March 16, 2020, issue of Adweek magazine. Click here to subscribe.



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