TV's 'Mr. Robot' will take on encryption as Apple's battle with the FBI rages on

At SXSW, creator Sam Esmail said the show's second season will explore themes in the ongoing Apple-FBI fight.

mr robot usa network
Credit: USA Networks

For its second season, Mr. Robot will weigh in on the current spat between Apple and the FBI with a fictional storyline involving encryption and law enforcement.

“What’s weird is we were already going [into the new season] talking thematically about privacy, and then this whole thing with Apple and Tim Cook happened,” Sam Esmail said during the Mr. Robot panel at South By Southwest on Sunday. The creator of the hacker drama was joined on stage by Mr. Robot cast members Rami Malek and Christian Slater, who talked about wanting to depict hacking and cyber crime on TV in an authentic way. 

Esmail said that he addressed the encryption issue with the show’s FBI consultants, who had an unsurprising opinion on the public debate over citizens’ right to privacy. But that doesn’t mean that the creator necessarily agreed with them.

“We talked to our FBI consultants about [depicting the Apple-FBI issue], and their view is that encryption should allow for this sort of third-party side-door thing,” Esmail added. “But I’m on Tim Cook’s side.”

This response drew a cheer from the crowd, but Esmail clarified that the second season of Mr. Robot will depict both sides so that the audience can better understand the debate. It will be a conversation-starter, not a critique, according to Esmail.

“I think it’s a really important issue, and I’m not sure people really understand the nuances,” he said. “It’s going to be a public discourse for ten years.”

The USA Networks show premiered at SXSW last year, where it received the Audience Award. Most recently, the show scored the Golden Globe for Best Drama in January. In addition to the Sunday panel, USA built a ferris wheel and arcade experience at SXSW to promote the second season, which is expected to premiere in July.

In a very similar fashion, Mr. Robot’s first season also featured storylines seemingly ripped from the headlines, including the Enron corruption scandal, the Snowden leaks, and Anonymous hacktivism. Esmail, however, made sure to point out that he was no fortune teller.

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