Christian Slater is returning to TV yet again—with perhaps his most up-to-the-minute role to date.
The onetime teen idol has spent plenty of time on series television in recent years, with stints on broadcast series including Mind Games, Breaking In and My Own Worst Enemy. Now, he’s entering the edgier world of cable with USA’s Mr. Robot, in which he plays a master hacker who attempts to draw a young programmer (Rami Malek) into a plot to take down major institutions. Mr. Robot which debuts on USA June 24; its pilot episode is available online now.
Slater is hardly a computer expert: He refers to himself as an “entitled baby” who has people help him organize his life online. But he’s also not the same guy who won viewers’ hearts in movies like Heathers and Pump Up the Volume. Asked about his status as a teen idol, Slater say that fans who say they loved him as a teen cause him some angst. “I’m honored,” he says, “and I feel a pang in my side.”
TIME: Had you been particularly tech-savvy before you took this role?
Christian Slater: I have to give my wife more credit for being a little more savvy with that stuff and paying closer attention, particularly with the finances. An actor equals, sometimes, an entitled baby. People take care of things for me, and they pay greater attention to things than I was ever capable of doing. But in the last few years I have learned a great deal more about taking care of things. I pay my own bills now.
Has the show, and its subject matter, made you more nervous about your own personal security? I’m sure a lot of people would like to read your emails.
Whatever emails they could find on me wouldn’t be that interesting at this point. But I’m more cautious nowadays as far as updating passwords, and not using my animals’ names as the option. Updating passwords and changing them all the time is something I’m involved in.
Do you use social networks?
I do have a Twitter account and there’s a woman at my agency who got that all set up for me. I don’t know how many followers I have. It’s not one of those things I check on a regular basis.
You play the titular Mr. Robot. Who’s your favorite robot?
If I’m backed into a corner, the first thing that comes to mind is the robot from Forbidden Planet. But that could be me trying to be kitschy, cool, and cultural, because the real answer is R2D2.
Mindy Kaling recently confessed a childhood crush on you.
She’s mentioned me in a couple episodes of The Mindy Project, and my wife and I are huge, huge fans. I was charmed by it. I thanked her for the shoutout. It may have been a tweet.
Some 26 years after Heathers, how does life as a former teen idol treat you?
I’m an actor; I have an ego that is sometimes disproportionate to the reality of the situation. Sometimes people come up to me and say, “You were my teen crush.” I’m honored and I’m touched, but I also ask: What happened? Why’d you take the poster down? I get a little heartbroken in that situation. It’s hilarious that a human can be that insane. I’m grateful for everything I have going on in my life, but sometimes people will come up and you think: The passage of time, what happened? I’m 45 now, and that’s the reality. I’m honored, and I feel a pang in my side.
You’ve played “Christian Slater” in episodes of The Office and Curb Your Enthusiasm. What’s the secret to playing oneself onscreen?
You can’t try to be yourself; you sort of have to be yourself. The less that I did, the better it all felt. Relax, go with the flow, and just try to stay the hell out of your own way.