Warning: This post contains spoilers for Sunday’s Mr. Robot season 4 premiere.
EW – There were a lot of big moments in the final season premiere of Mr. Robot, including series creator Sam Esmail’s appearance as Price’s (Michael Cristofer) henchman who kills Elliot (Rami Malek) and subsequently brings him back to life and a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it cameo from Shameless star Emmy Rossum (who’s also Esmail’s wife). But the most shocking moment started the episode off with a bang.
Picking up in the exact scene where we left Price and Angela (Portia Doubleday) at the end of season 3, Angela told the powerful man, whom she now knew to be her biological father, that she wanted retribution against White Rose (BD Wong). When she refused to back down, we heard the doors open and Price said, “I wish you hadn’t said that.” Just by the look on Angela’s face, we all knew what was coming. “I’m not going to run, so you should probably leave,” she declared, returning to sit down as Price walked away, taking off the wire he was wearing under his shirt. Two Dark Army men in masks then walked by him, stopping behind Angela and shooting her in the head.
Still reeling from Angela’s death, EW chatted with Doubleday about collaborating with Esmail on her exit, filming one scene over two years, and being glad Angela is dead.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: What was your initial reaction to finding out Angela’s fate? What was that conversation like with Sam?
PORTIA DOUBLEDAY: Actually we decided to do that together, which was really cool. Obviously it’s a testament to Sam and his collaboration. Since day one, the takeaway I have from this experience, which is unlike any experience that I’ve had so far, is Sam’s flexibility in terms of your creative process and input. With auditioning and getting roles in the past, so often I feel like you’re fitting into someone else’s image of what they want you want to be. And this show, what made it so special was Sam allowing the people around him to be inspired. It was fun, because there were a couple things that I suggested and he was flat-out “Absolutely not, that’s insane.” [Laughs] I think there was this one… Oh, god, I shouldn’t say this, it’s too embarrassing. Well, whatever. I sent him this song, saying, “You have it be a montage to this song,” and he was like, “What? What network and show are you talking about? I don’t know what show you’re on in your brain when you’re giving me these suggestions.” I saw a little bit of Angela getting killed when they were editing, but it was just so awful. [Laughs] And I think that’s perfect, and what I would have expected, something unsettling. Sam has a way of not inviting too much sentiment into his scenes. It was really cool to literally go out with a bang.
Last season’s big scene between Angela and Price led right into this season and ended up being your final scene. Did you film all that together back in season 3, or did you come back to finish that scene?
I came back. I remember I was walking across the lawn with Sam and I was like, “Wow, dude, I’m nervous.” Depending on the scene, when you work on a well-oiled machine for a long time, you kind of lose those jitters, and it was interesting because they were full-on back. He was like, “Why?” I was like, “Because I haven’t been in this moment in two years.” Just to recreate a world based on where I was two years ago, using parts of my own life, and walking on set, it was so weird because it was different.
I haven’t seen some parts of it that I was actually afraid of watching, because I could feel it. We had to find it, it wasn’t immediate. And that was a really big surprise to me. I’m plopped back into it and I thought, “Oh, it’s okay, here’s the situation, I’ve talked about it endlessly with Sam.” Like, before that day I was on the phone with him for a long time just working out what that moment was like, just to not make it feel so out of nowhere. It was tough. He kept saying, “Remember where you were at!” And I was like, “What aren’t you seeing? Because I feel like I’m doing that!” But I feel like I finally got there. It was interesting to be two people, like I’m not the same person I was two years ago, and yet still be Angela and somewhat an enhanced version of her.
You mentioned the emotions leading up and during the filming, but once you finished and realized you were done with this show that has been such a big part of your life, what was that feeling like?
Horrible. [Laughs] It’s just awful. I was so sad. I walked away, and it felt good that I was dead. I don’t know why, but I wonder what the feeling would have been like leaving Angela alive and walking away from the show. I think I would feel oddly like there was unfinished business. But we walked over and Sam got me a wrap gift, which was the Prada shoes. It was very fitting, and smart on his part. I had no words. It was really embarrassing actually; I tried to speak and I literally couldn’t. I fell apart, and I wish we had done that prior to the scene because it probably would have made my scene better. [Laughs] After being pretty hysterical the whole day and then having to say bye to everyone was a lot. It’s just a surreal and bizarre experience to have spent five years of your life with these people… I’m going to cry. This is what happens, it just hits you out of nowhere. I have so much admiration and respect for the people that I work with, and I’m lucky to have that. This show is so special, it’s been one of the greatest journeys of my life, by far.
We don’t immediately see them, but you can tell the moment that Angela sees the men that will kill her. But she doesn’t back down. How did you interpret that?
I don’t know. If you look at her journey, this is what we kind of talked about, her necessity for justice, and Price even says, “You have to stop this ridiculous obsession.” I don’t think Angela would have survived; she was constantly putting herself in situations where her life is threatened, and that’s really interesting to me. I think she was addicted to it — she was addicted to justice, and justice and vengeance are very similar. Over time, that was the only identity that she started to have throughout the series, this constant internal struggle of being seduced by the power that actually killed her mother, seduced by the power of society that makes those decisions, because she could have easily become a Price or a Terry Colby, while simultaneously being influenced by her morality and integrity that would pull her in the opposite direction. That is the question she’s had: How do people like Terry Colby, who have a lot of power, sit there and make these decisions that ruin people’s lives? That is what her quest was, answering that question: Was she capable of being that person?
I think she chooses to stay and sit there to confront the hypocrisy of what people like Price represent, which I think is unbelievably powerful. It’s not so much that she’s passive about this experience, it’s that she’s making a huge point to the Colbys and Prices of the world. He has a weakness, which was her, and so I think the hypocrisy of the moment is what she’s saying to him, “Wow, even you are fallible.” And he’s responsible; he recruited her, he treated her mother that way, and now they’re here. He has a heavy hand in that. So I look at it like more a moment of strength. She’s also leaving Price with that too, so in her dying, who knows how that will have influenced what he will then do.
Now able to reflect on the show, what stands out as your favorite or most challenging moment? In season 3 alone you got play a lot of shades between that big on- shot episode and Angela’s breakdown.
The oners were always tricky, because you don’t want to let down anyone, and there’s so many people operating to try and get those right, and if you make one subtle mistake you have to start over again. The crane shot that we did in one of the oners was so cool with what Sam did, but I feel like we did that over 20 times, and that is a lot to do for one little segment of a scene. There were a lot of difficult moments, just because of the constant emotional stakes in the show. The scene with White Rose was really tricky, that took a long time. And I think my first day last season was when I walked up to Elliot’s apartment and I’m super-paranoid, and the first days are always tricky, because we don’t shoot in sequence and you’re establishing your character for the entire season, so those were the days I was the most nervous. And this scene with Price, that was hard. Sam really, really helped me, because at one point I literally went up to him and said, “Welp, it’s not there, man. I don’t know what to say, I can’t do it.” [Laughs] He was like, “All right, just chill out for a second.” And he just walked me through it, and he once again saved my ass.
It sounds like this experience was terrible, but those are just the tough days! But even on the toughest days, those are the best days. The days that you are the most challenged, that’s when you go home and you’ve learned something and you love the people around you. That’s the biggest takeaway of all this, just how much I’ve learned. Now please cut that together and make it feel like I was way more eloquent — will you do me that favor?
Absolutely, that will be my wrap gift to you.
Thank you. To be honest, I think it’s better than the Pradas.
Mr. Robot airs Sundays at 10 p.m. ET on USA.