OUT­SIDERS BREAK IN

Amer­i­can Chris­tian Slater has played an­ar­chist-type roles be­fore but the lat­est it­er­a­tion in Mr Ro­bot, which he stars in along­side Rami Malek, ups the ante as he tries to take on the busi­ness world and win

The Gold Coast Bulletin - Play Magazine - - PLAY - AN­DREW FEN­TON

Chris­tian Slater has al­ways felt an affin­ity with rebels, an­ti­heroes and out­siders. “I’ve al­ways been a lit­tle bit of a revo­lu­tion­ary, a lit­tle bit of an an­ar­chist,” the 45-year-old ac­tor says down the line in his in­stantly recog­nis­able drawl.

And that’s what makes him per­fect for the hit cy­berthriller, Mr Ro­bot. His role as a hack­tivist try­ing to over­thrown the global fi­nan­cial sys­tem is his best for years – per­haps decades – since he rose to fame play­ing re­bel­lious teenagers in Heathers (1989) and Pump up the Vol­ume (1990).

The former teen idol con­cedes there’s more than a few sim­i­lar­i­ties be­tween his lat­est work and those films.

“It is true that I’ve played an an­ar­chist be­fore,” he says. “This is sort of like Pump up the Vol­ume squared – we’re not just tak­ing on a school board, we’re tak­ing on the world and try­ing to erase debt from so­ci­ety so the is­sues have grown and got­ten larger and much more con­tro­ver­sial.”

Pos­si­bly the most uni­ver­sally ac­claimed new drama of 2015 – Mr Ro­bot fol­lows anti-so­cial young hacker Elliot (a mes­meris­ing per­for­mance by The Pa­cific’s Rami Malek) with a ten­u­ous grip on re­al­ity and a ma­jor drug habit – as he’s drawn into an Anony­mous-meet­sOc­cupy-Wall-Street group called fso­ci­ety run by Slater’s un­pre­dictable an­ar­chist. Nu­mer­ous crit­ics called it the best new show of the year, hack­ers love its com­mit­ment to tech­ni­cal plau­si­bil­ity and it counts high-pro­file fans in­clud­ing (nat­u­rally) NSA whistle­blower Ed­ward Snow­den, Mad Men creator Matthew Weiner and Break­ing Bad star Aaron Paul.

With its plots ripped from to­mor­row’s head­lines it’s only fit­ting the Zeit­geist-cap­tur­ing show’s re­lease was suit­ably mod­ern, with the pi­lot made avail­able for free ev­ery­where from iTunes to YouTube rack­ing up three mil­lion views be­fore it pre­miered on TV. The re­sult­ing buzz – Forbes hailed it a ‘‘mod­ern clas­sic’’ based on the de­but episode – built to the point where a sec­ond sea­son was green­lit be­fore the first sea­son had be­gun air­ing. Among the high­est rat­ing new US se­ries of the year, it was still pick­ing up 700,000 streams a week months af­ter the fi­nale was broad­cast in the US. In Aus­tralia it streams on Presto and kicks off on Show­case tonight.

Mr Ro­bot has been a much needed ca­reer boost for Slater. He be­gan his ca­reer as a child on TV be­fore grad­u­at­ing to a se­ries of cult movies in the late ’80s and early ’90s: Heathers, Gleam­ing the Cube and True Ro­mance. Block­busters fol­lowed in the mid ’90s – In­ter­view with the Vam­pire and Bro­ken Ar­row most no­tably – but although he’s rarely been out of work, he hasn’t found the best out­lets for his tal­ents of late.

Slater cred­its di­rec­tor Lars von Trier’s “out of the box think­ing” – in­clud­ing cast­ing him as the fa­ther and a doc­tor in Nym­pho­ma­niac in 2013 – as the be­gin­ning of his cre­ative re­nais­sance.

Slater says he was im­pressed by Mr Ro­bot’s creator Sam Es­mail – whose sole prior credit was 2014 Justin Long film Comet. “As far as hav­ing a proven track record, it wasn’t an ex­ten­sive re­sume. But I asked Sam th­ese ques­tions that I had and he gave me an­swers bet­ter than I had an­tic­i­pated or ex­pected.”

A few days later he and costar Rami Malek were film­ing a piv­otal scene in a Coney Is­land fer­ris wheel – the equiv­a­lent to Mor­pheus’ ‘‘you can take the red pill/blue pill” speech from The Ma­trix.

The show builds up to some mas­sive and quite shock­ing rev­e­la­tions, which are only hinted at in the pi­lot. Slater says he asked his agent if he re­ally be­lieved the se­ries was headed to­wards the dark twist he thought it was and his agent told him there was no chance.

“And then when I sat down with Sam and he told me the di­rec­tion he was ac­tu­ally go­ing to go in, I got very ex­cited and was even more in­trigued. When­ever any­body steps out of the box a lit­tle bit, and makes those choices, peo­ple do seem to re­spond to that.”

De­spite the huge se­cret view­ers learn in the fi­nale, Slater hints there’s still more to un­cover in sea­son two.

Rami Malek as Elliot Alder­son with Chris­tian Slater as Mr Ro­bot.

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