Rami Malek might be the hero of USA's "Mr. Robot," starring as a vigilante computer hacker, but many fans of the show would say the female costars of the breakout drama command as much attention as his character's gripping inner monologue.
And those women - Carly Chaikin, Portia Doubleday, Stephanie Corneliussen and Grace Gummer - were on hand last week for "The Women of 'Mr. Robot' " panel at the Television Critics Association press tour in Beverly Hills. They were joined by Universal development executive Dawn Olmstead.
The current second season of the drama has explored each of the female characters more deeply, from Angela's (Doubleday) push-pull of working for corporate America to Darlene's (Chaikin) real connection to Malek's Elliot.
"I don't think there was any mandate" from the network to creator Sam Esmail about expanding the female roles, Olmstead said. "I think Sam just fell in love with all these characters. The women that Sam gave us on this show - they could each be a show within themselves because they're so strong, they have so much ambition, they're so clear-eyed in what their agenda is, and it's not based on being a woman or being someone's spouse or girlfriend. It's about whatever they believe in."
"I think (Sam) has such strong characters," she continued, "that when Elliot did need to get himself together, (the women) had all these great story lines that really hold up, not just this show, but their own world."
And at a time when there is under-representation of women in tech careers, "Mr. Robot" demonstrates a world in which females don't have to be unicorns - something Chaikin is pleased to play a part of.
"I never thought about my role and my character - 'Oh, I get to play a woman in tech and represent that,' " Chaikin said. "It was brought to my attention and really made me that much more excited about my role. There are such amazing female hackers. It's really exciting for me to represent that."
Gummer, who joined the cast this season as an FBI agent trying to track down fsociety, praised the female characters' ability to unapologetically push the story forward as much as Elliot (Malek) or Mr. Robot (Christian Slater).
"I don't think we're all driven by some female motor or some female agenda," she said. "I think we all have our own purpose and our own drive, and we are not secondary characters."
Corneliussen, who plays Joanna, added: "We're not being unrealistically empowered or set up by anything more than what we are. We are women, we are equals, and I think that makes (us) something new in television."