‘Mr. Robot’ Star Carly Chaikin on the Downside of Social Media (Exclusive)
By Rande Iaboni
Mike Windle/Getty Images for GQ
Actress Carly Chaikin may play a hacker on TV, but don’t expect to catch the Mr. Robot star dabbling in the dark web anytime soon.
“It’s like having a conversation in German,” Chaikin told ET when asked if the show had taught her anything about the cyber world. “It’s a foreign language that you have to learn about speaking to a computer. But I can totally pretend like I’m doing a hack!”
Chaikin’s edgy portrayal of Darlene on the USA drama has been a standout since the series debuted in the summer of 2015, and in the series’ third season, Chaikin shines more than ever before.
This season has found Darlene stuck in the middle of the main conflict -- simultaneously working as an informant for FBI agent Dom (Grace Gummer) while protecting her brother, Elliot (Rami Malek), as he takes down F. Society’s impending terror attack on E Corp.
“It’s been challenging as an actor,” Chaikin admitted. “This was a totally new chapter that I had to find in [Darlene] and fight a lot against who she was and who she is now, and allowing that vulnerable part of her to come through.”
The two-time Emmy Award-winning series (including a Best Actor trophy for Malek in 2016) had its most innovative moment to date this season on Nov. 8, when episode five was presented as one continuous take, in similar fashion to the Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu film Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) or notable scenes in Atomic Blondeor True Detective, shifting perspective from Elliot to Angela as the camera travels through the E Corp building. The episode, written and directed by series creator Sam Esmail, was truly an unforgettable hour of television.
“Sam is the toughest critic of himself and everything,” Chaikin explained before adding that Esmail told her on set he thought the episode was “pretty cool.” “We were like, ‘Stop everything you’re doing! Sam just said something is good,’” she added with a laugh.
“I just think Sam is so incredible to do something like he did, and USA airing it with no commercials -- it took a lot to do that and I think it was so worth it and so unbelievable,” Chaikin continued.
If constantly acting with technology -- computers or otherwise -- on Mr. Robot wasn’t enough for her, Chaikin also stars in the new Orchard film People You May Know, which tells the story of an introvert who learns he can be whomever he wants to be on the internet.
The film shows both the ups and downs of society’s obsession with social media, something Chaikin herself struggles with. “I think it is a double-edged-sword. It’s changed our world so much in the way we communicate. It’s everything,” she admitted. The actress currently has active accounts on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.
“[Social media] has become this platform that allows everyone to stay in each other’s lives and stay connected, but at the same time, in my opinion, it also fully disconnects us and gives us a false sense of intimacy and relationships,” Chaikin said. “It’s a subject matter that really draws me in because I think it is so relevant to our world.”
Despite the internal conflict of social media, Chaikin reveled in playing a new character in the film -- her first since joining Mr. Robot in 2015. “I always like playing things that are different; it was a refreshing character,” she said, before admitting she’d originally auditioned for a different role. The director, however, felt she wasn’t the right fit and rewrote Oakley, the head of a social media influencer firm, for her instead. “[She] was originally 45 years old,” Chaikin quipped.
At their core, the basis of both social media and acting is oftentimes portraying somebody you are not. It can be easy for someone to lose themselves in their roles --something Chaikin is all too familiar with.
“It becomes something I actually have to be conscious of,” she admitted. “At the same time, it’s OK to lose yourself in a role, as long as you make sure to get yourself out of it once it’s done.”
Thankfully, Chaikin has discovered the key to finding herself: “It’s really about the people that you surround yourself with to keep you grounded through that and reflect back to who you actually are.”
People You May Know is available on digital and on demand Nov. 28, and Mr. Robot airs Wednesdays at 10 p.m. on USA.