The jury may still be out on whether Angelica Schuyler got Thomas Jefferson to include women in the sequel, but Mr. Robot's second season on USA has pushed the ladies to the forefront of the hacker drama. The first season focused almost entirely on the dudes, Rami Malek's Elliott and Christian Slater's titular Mr. Robot. But with Elliott sidelined at his mother's house/maybe a prison/possibly an insane asylum after perpetrating a devastating hack at the end of Season 1, things have opened up considerably for the rest of the cast.
Most notably the female members of said cast... And that's why it was no surprise that USA would feature the four leading ladies of Mr. Robot on their Television Critics Association panel Wednesday: Grace Gummer, Carly Chaikin, Portia Doubleday and Stephanie Corneliussen.
Though Mr. Robot is notoriously tight lipped on secrets, here's everything we learned as the ladies of Mr. Robot helped decode Season 2:
1. The Women Are Tech Savvy (Sorta): "I can hack. Sam [Esmail] actually asked me tech advice for the show," joked Chaikin, before clarifying that she gets lost calling Apple sometimes. Still, Chaikin is a faster typer than Malek, and often had to show him the ropes. And Corneliussen's father was one of the first computer programmers in Denmark in the 1960s (though she said that she once spent a scene taking too long trying to use a phone).
Chaikin later continued that while she didn't start thinking of her character as a "female hacker," once she saw the impact she was excited to be a banner holder for all the amazing women hackers that are actually out in the world. "She was the one who wrote the actual code to take everything down," Chaikin said, recalling the Season 1 hack that took down most of the U.S. economy.
2. They're Strong By Design: Universal Cable Productions Executive Vice President of Development Dawn Olmstead said part of the reason she was drawn to the show was that the women stand out. "I would watch every one of the shows from these characters," Olmstead said. "They're so strong, they have so much ambition. It's not based on being a woman, or being a girlfriend."
"I don't think we're drawn by some female agenda," Gummer added. "We drive the story as much as Rami,"
The cast also noted that the characters aren't unrealistically strong... They're equals. "We don't know if what they're doing is bad or good," Gummer noted. "All these characters live in gray."
3. They're Big Ol' Failures: Chaikin was surprised to discover — after someone else pointed it out — that the team always fails their hacks the first time through. She credited that to how flawed the characters are, and they always need to grow stronger.
4. Angela's Storyline Will Connect With Elliott's: Doubleday has gotten hints as to where her corporate ladder climber Angela will end up, but found the transition from Season 1 to Season 2 somewhat difficult. "There's something so realistic about Angela," Doubleday said, calling out that after battling omnipresent corporation Evil Corp in Season 1, then joining them in Season 2... Would anyone in the audience have been able to take a different path?
"There is a link... That I can't tell you about," Doubleday said about her connection to Malek's storyline, laughing and teasing that we'll see how they connect down the line.
5. Gummer-ing Up The Works: "She's someone who uses her badge and her gun as a mask," Gummer said on her new to Season 2 FBI character Dominique. But as the season continues, her "strange" side will start to come out.
Gummer got most of her arc when she joined the show, though she came in with a plan of how she wanted to tackle the role. "I was so intrigued," Gummer said. "After I auditioned, I binge watched it. It's so rare as a woman to get to work on a show that you would want to watch, and love."
Though Esmail did have a plan, Gummer said that "it's a full-on collaborative exchange," adding that as Esmail is writing and directing every episode, "he's our bible." At first, Gummer was reticent to bring up concerns, but Chaikin heartily encouraged her to "ask him," and challenge Esmail to add quirky character bits... Though sometimes he would say no, of course.
6. Chaikin Wasn't Initially Allowed To Audition: Because of her work on the sitcom Suburgatory, Esmail and company didn't want to see Chaikin for the role of Darlene; but Olmstead went to bat for the actress, saying "she's not really like that in real life!" And of course, once she auditioned, Chaikin got the part.
7. Angela and Darlene will have scenes together this season. In the show, the two characters grew up together and were good friends — something that was sidelined for most of Season 1, and hasn't popped up yet in Season 2. "It's just amazing how synced up we are," Doubleday said about all the female members of the cast. Chaikin added that because she and Doubleday are friends in real life, and "post so many pictures together," it comes through on screen.
In fact, Doubleday added that the one time she smiled on screen was in a scene with Chaikin. That said, not everything will be hunky dory going forward, as Chaikin noted that in the scene last season when the duo were in a ballet class together, Darlene was in black, and Angela was in white. "We're polar opposites," Chaikin said.
8. Joanna Feels Good Breaking Bad: "That was my last Tuesday night!" Corneliussen said laughing when asked about the horrifying things her character Joanna Wellick does on the show. For the actress, though, it's appreciated, because she can "embrace your sexuality" and do all the terrible things men get to do on TV shows all the time.
9. Joanna Changed In One Big Way From The Script: Joanna was supposed to be Swedish, and Corneliussen is Danish. So Joanna is Danish! That's it. In retrospect, maybe that wasn't such a big change.
10. The Actresses Love To F--king Curse: "That's real!" Chaikin said on the bleeped-out cursing on the show. "We say f--k. When you talk and when you're upset and angry, that's what comes out. It's nice to have that freedom to talk how everyone talks. It helps with saying a line, surprisingly."
Doubleday improvised a line during shooting, and didn't realize until later that she had cursed — and how freeing it was. Gummer's character, on the other hand, doesn't swear, she realized with a laugh.
"I said c--ty last week, and Twitter freaked out," Chaikin said, laughing.
Mr. Robot airs Wednesdays at 10/9c on USA.