‘Mr. Robot’ Star Rami Malek Hails Progress for Actors of Color Backstage at Emmys

Cynthia Littleton

Rami Malek has spent the past year collecting accolades and kudos for his work on USA Networks “Mr. Robot.” But the 35-year-old actor still looked stunned when he arrived backstage at the Microsoft Theater with an Emmy in hand.

Malek was eloquent about the significance of his win, not just for himself but for actors of color who don’t fit the stereotype of a Hollywood star.

“For me to stand here as not the typical leading man and to have come home with this (Emmy) speaks a lot about where we’re headed” as a country, he said. “I think we can keep going a lot further in that direction, not just in entertainment, but socially and politically, and strive to be as progressive as possible.”

Malek echoed the comments of Aziz Ansari and Alan Yang, co-creators of Netflix’s “Master of None,” in marveling at how much has changed for him in contrast to his parents, who immigrated to the U.S. from Egypt before he was born.

“My dad worked door-to-door to sell insurance, my mom was pregnant with my brother and I. She would take three buses to go to work to give her children an opportunity to be special,” he said. “I want everyone, no matter how you grew up, or your socio-economic standard, to have an opportunity to not be stifled at this time in the world and to be given a chance like I’ve been given a chance.”

On “Mr. Robot,” Malek plays a genius computer hacker dealing with the ravages of mental illness and child abuse. He felt a deep responsibility to deliver an authentic performance.

“When I first started I just thought ‘How do I do this that reflects truly what people are suffering through and not just an actor’s depiction of it for the sake of being entertaining or dramatic,’” he said. He read books and consulted a therapist who warned him that TV and film rarely gets it right when it comes to mental illness. “I didn’t want my performance to suffer but more importantly I didn’t want to feel like I was doing anyone a disservice.”

Before leaving the press room, Malek had one more heartfelt message he wanted to express, to the Fourth Estate.

“I don’t think we’d be standing here if you guys didn’t take the time and patience to write so thoughtfully about something we all think is very progressive,” Malek said.

Related stories

Variety's TV Critics Dish on 2016's Emmy Winners: Did the TV Academy Get It Right?

Emmy Awards: HBO Battles FX, Surprises Abound, and Plenty of Trump Jokes

Seen and Heard Backstage at the Primetime Emmys Awards

Get more from Variety and Variety411: Follow us on Twitter, Facebook, Newsletter