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Buffalo State writer-producer shares few secrets of "Mr. Robot" return

It might be easier for “Mr. Robot” to hack into the ballots of Emmy voters than get something important about the coming second season from writer-producer Kyle Bradstreet.

That is understandable.

After all, plot developments in last summer’s best-reviewed program have to be as well protected now as they were when a big twist was revealed in the first season finale about Mr. Robot’s ancestry.

I won’t say more about the final twist in case you want to spend the weekend binge-watching the first season, which won a Golden Globe as best drama, was recently nominated for four Television Critics Association awards and is expected to get some Emmy nominations on Thursday.

The series centers around a brilliant and brooding cybersecurity firm expert, Elliot  Alderson (Rami Malek), who also hacks bad guys on side. He has a complicated family life, is battling drug issues, delusions and anxiety and is recruited by the mysterious Mr. Robot to bring down the same evil company he is protecting and other big corporations in order to “save the world.”

The success of the series has made Bradstreet enough of a celebrity to become the commencement speaker in May at his alma mater, Buffalo State College.

The day before his commencement speech, I sat down with Bradstreet to discuss the honor and also the upcoming season of “Mr. Robot,” which premieres on USA Network at 10 p.m. Wednesday.

“I was quite surprised,” Bradstreet said of being asked to be the commencement speaker. “I was very honored and also made a joke to my wife. I wondered how far the list they went and people said no before they got to Bradstreet.”

Bradstreet noted that the big reveal in last season’s finale has changed Elliot.

“Now that Elliot understands what his condition is, he has to find a way to deal with that and in doing so we spend a good portion of our story delving deeper into Elliot’s psyche,” explained Bradstreet.

He added the plan also is to learn “about our characters’ paths and how they came together.”

“We go deeper into the relationship between Elliot and Mr. Robot,” said Bradstreet. “We feel we have a very strong season on our hands. I personally will say we’ve upped our game on the storytelling a little bit. It is one cohesive piece charging forward. We do some pretty crazy things this season. It is a pretty wild ride."

Naturally, some of the news about big hacks in the past year are addressed.

“We do discuss several things that have taken place over the last year,” said Bradstreet. “Our government was hacked in several ways over the course of the last year and those are touched upon. We don’t focus on them. We touch on them in passing.”

He understands if some viewers get lost in the technical aspect of the program created by Sam Esmail.

“Yeah, absolutely,” conceded Bradstreet. “I have definitely had people say to me that they don’t understand the technical part. But they follow it for the characters and that’s fine. As long as they don’t get too lost. Then it makes sense. We haven’t changed the show to cater to that audience. Sam has a very firm vision of what the show is and there is no reason to change that.”

A Rochester native who has Buffalo State graduate and Emmy winner Tom Fontana as a mentor, Bradstreet said Esmail and the staff are hoping for some Emmy love beyond the Golden Globe wins for best drama and for Christian Slater, who plays Mr. Robot.

“Marketing is doing a big push,” said Bradstreet. “Of course, we would love to be nominated and to win. A lot us are cheering for others on the team. We’re hoping that Rami is nominated, Christian is nominated, our composer Mac Quayle is nominated. He has created some of the best music on television these days.”

Slater’s Globe victory was as much a reward for his lengthy career as his performance in “Mr. Robot.” But many critics feel it really is Malek’s brooding, eye-opening performance in scenes and as narrator that sells the show and deserves an award.

“I think Christian had one helluva performance,” said Bradstreet. “Without him, Rami couldn’t have done what he did. And the two of them make an incredible pair acting and complement each other very well. Yes, we were surprised Rami didn’t win. Once Christian won, we thought there was a sweep. But that didn’t happen. We wish it had for Rami and the show.”

The entire second season of 10 episodes is directed by Esmail. Bradstreet wrote episode four and co-wrote episode eight. There are several guest stars and cast additions. Perhaps most notably, rapper Joey Bada$$ joins the program as Elliot’s friend from the neighborhood who, a program release states, offers advice and philosophizes about the meaning of life.

The show’s success has emboldened hackers to do their thing. The “Mr. Robot” website was hacked.

“We were very lucky it was a white hat hacker who once he got in, they notified Sam, reached out and pointed out the flaw,” said Bradstreet.

It isn’t as easy to find the flaws in a show as compelling as “Mr. Robot.”

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