Born and raised in Los Angeles to Egyptian immigrant parents, Rami Malek became known for the lead role of Elliot Alderson in the critically acclaimed television series Mr. Robot for which he won an Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series. Malek broke through to big screen stardom with his portrayal of Freddie Mercury in the Queen biopic Bohemian Rhapsody (2018). The film was a massive box office success around the world and Malek won a Golden Globe and an Oscar for his performance.

Congratulations on the amazing year you’ve had. You got a Golden Globe and an Oscar. If you go back to those moments and winning, what do you remember?

They were life-changing moments, both of them. I think after the Globes, sitting next to the band, it was such a special feeling, having them around. I just emailed Brian May and Roger Taylor last night, just to check in on them as well, so that relationship has continued. I think they were incredibly thrilled for me and all of us for the film. And to have us win in those categories was an astonishing achievement and one that we celebrated throughout the night. 

I’ve always wondered what it’s like to be a frontrunner at every show, to be there and to know again, they may call my name. Do you get tired of it, do you still get nervous? Very nervous to answer that. You still have butterflies running all over you in those moments. Of course, you see every actor when their names, are possibly called, they put on that face and you go into actor mode where you are trying to hide everything, but, of course, you are tied up in knots. And everyone is going to say that it’s great just to be there and it truly is, but a part of you wants to hear your name being called. And so it was extraordinary. I kept telling myself in all of those moments, I would just repeat everybody else’s name in my head in case one of them got called, I was prepared for it. And I thought all of those performances were terrific. So, it was just, as much as every one of those moments took me by surprise, it was still extremely special in every case and truly unforgettable. I never thought I would be in this position, I always dreamed of just getting a job and when I first got Mr. Robot that was a crowning achievement for me. And being able to portray that human being and tell that story.

I was blown away by your performance in Mr. Robot back when the series began, not knowing what was to come. When you heard this was the final season, what was your reaction? What do you love most about Elliot, that role and that character? It’s an excellent question. When I first heard, I was disappointed. In fact, I called our creator, director, and writer Sam Esmail and I said is there any way we can extend this? I’m not joking, I got on the phone and he said you really love this, I go I love this, I love this character, I love working with you. And as much as I enjoy making films as well, this is an extraordinary thing that we got to do and the way that this television show was received, it really changed how we look at television these days and how we look at heroes in the world. And what I love about him, Elliot, is he is this young man who for all intents and purposes, he should not be surviving in the world, let alone trying to save it and trying to save himself. He’s socially anxious in a debilitating way, he’s grieving, yet he is going to have discoveries in his life still in this last season that will be shocking to him. 

As a child of an Egyptian immigrant family, you got a significant success in the USA and cinema world. Can you talk about how your story effected other immigrants.

Well, I have a friend who came up to me the other day and he is married, he is a Caucasian-American who has married a Lebanese woman. And he saw his wife, her name is Mona, get very emotional during, I think it was during the Oscar speech, and he started to think she is now pregnant and they are going to have a child who is going to identify growing up with you and your story. And now I have to look at the world in a different way, a way that I hadn’t planned to. I think that it just put everything into perspective for me, when that affects the people coming into this country or who have been in this country, and the future. And it just shows you the impact that a story like this can have and I don’t ever want to abuse it, but I am not afraid to share it. 

You get to be the villain in Bond. Are villains really great to play? I have had the luxury and privilege of going to work on Bond, the next James Bond film. But it is taxing, I will not lie, it’s very, very taxing. Because our schedule has been so busy.

When you read the script, what went through your mind?  I mean it’s another extremely clever script from the people who have figured out exactly what people want in those movies. And it’s a great character, I am very excited. And we shot in Norway for a week so far with a great team -so far so good, so far so great. 

It might also be difficult to come down from the adrenaline. How do you do that? I found better ways of doing that. I remember in the first few years it was almost impossible to come down from it. But essentially, I still have to, I go home and try to unwind, but I know the next day is going to be so full of telling this story for the last time that it’s still difficult to unwind, because of the scenes to learn, of course, and wanting to make sure that we end on the highest possible level we can, so there really isn’t much of an unwinding in this circumstance. I am incapable of it. 

Are you optimistic or pessimistic? Do you think things can get better? I would like to think of myself as an optimist. I mean getting involved in certain types of activism in the last few years I think put me in that category of being an optimist. After playing the role of Freddie Mercury, of course, his disease and how swiftly he was robbed of his life and how we were robbed of his life, that was something that pained me for quite a while and I thought what could I do there? And I started with Bono’s group Red and ended up, found myself going to Africa and visiting clinics and schools and talking to children and that is still a pandemic that we take for granted. I mean we do have a cure for that, but if you don’t take that pill in that part of the world, the resurgence of that disease can happen like that. And I think if we all collectively try to do something as we all want to and hope to, why not? Why can’t we have a future that is better, not immediately, hopefully immediately, but at some point, those steps that we take are going to eventually lead to a march of some sort that moves us forward. 

When all this huge success happens, success goes to your head, we are all humans. But you seem to be very down-to-earth and very honest. What keeps you honest? I have always been close to my family and they never let me forget where I came from and who I am. And I have a twin brother too, so yeah, if I ever tried to be anything that I am not, he is the first who would look at me and say what’s going on, who do you think you are, and get back to being real. I can almost sometimes look at him and see myself with such immediacy. So that’s a barometer that I kind of measure myself with all the time. Some people may look at me and say wow, what a rapid rise, but it hasn’t been. I have been doing this for quite a long time and heard the word no thousands of times. So, for me, I just know that you can easily revert back to that place, this is a very fickle business and I don’t ever want to get so caught up in it that if something bad should happen although I wish it wouldn’t, that I wouldn’t lose myself because I have invested so much in the celebrity or fame aspect of this. That’s never what I set out to do. All I ever wanted was a job, and I got so much more.  

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