Joey Bada$$ Talks ‘Mr. Robot’ Role, Missing Out on Obama Biopic
When we left Sam Esmail’s Golden Globe-winning dystopian thriller Mr. Robot last August, brilliant-yet-schizophrenic computer programmer Elliot Alderson and the hacktivist group fsociety had engineered a meltdown of the global financial system. At the beginning of Season Two, which debuts tonight, Elliot has retreated to a computer-free exile in Brooklyn, a shift that sets the stage for a compelling addition to the cast.
During his recovery, Elliot befriends a character named Leon, who gabs to the mostly catatonic protagonist about Seinfeld during prison-like meals at a local diner. Hip-hop-savvy viewers will note that Leon is played by none other than Joey Bada$$, a 21-year-old Brooklyn native better known as one of the brightest stars in New York’s recent rap renaissance.
The MC’s 2015 album, B4.Da.$$, peaked at Number Two on the Billboard 200 album chart, capping a startling rise that found him leading a wave of rappers dubbed “Beast Coast” and recording acclaimed mixtapes such as 2012’s 1999. We talked with the artist about landing a plum role in one of the hottest TV shows of the summer, how a high school play about John Cusack prepped him for the experience and why you won’t see him in the forthcoming Barack Obama biopic.
How did you get involved with Mr. Robot?
There was a casting call. I auditioned for the role of Leon. I got three callbacks, and I was finally casted. That’s pretty much how it happened. My character is basically speaking to the main character in this diner, so it wasn’t hard at all. It’s simple, actually. I just went in the audition and I had my lines memorized, like, literally, five minutes before I walked into the room, because I had no time to rehearse because of my business schedule. And yeah, I just went in there and Sam [Esmail] was right there when I auditioned. I had him laughing from the very moment that I started doing my lines. I was pretty confident after that.
When did you meet Rami Malek?
First time I met him was on the first day that we shot. That was in March. The first day I shot, I had scenes with him and Christian Slater. For me, it was like, they set the bar high. It was a little bit of pressure on me because I’m like, “Wow, I’m right in between these two amazing actors. I’ve got to be great in their presence.” But they gave me a lot of confidence and pointers. They made me feel comfortable so I could do what I had to do.
Have you done any acting prior to Mr. Robot?
Yeah, briefly in high school. I got accepted into my high school theater, so I was in a couple of plays and productions. And that’s pretty much it for my acting history. I went to Edward R. Murrow. Basquiat also went there, and Adam Yauch, and then also Joey Bada$$ attended that school. [Laughs]