EXCLUSIVE: In his first foray into television, writer Sam Esmail wrote a spec for a brooding hacker drama, which was picked up by USA Network. It went to pilot and series, which was just renewed for a second season ahead of its series premiere tonight. In a rare feat, Esmail, a complete novice in TV, was entrusted with running his show by himself. And now, he has accomplished another first in his career, signaling a seven-figure overall deal with the studio behind Mr. Robot, Universal Cable Prods.
Under the pact, Esmail will continue as executive producer/showrunner on Mr. Robot while also developing and producing scripted programming through UCP, with Anonymous Content executive producing, for NBCUniversal’s portfolio of networks as well as for external and over-the-top channels.
“Sam is a visionary and, although he might not use the term himself, a real mensch,” said UCP president Jeff Wachtel. “Everything about the process on Mr. Robot has been a dream. We look forward to creating other wonderful shows with him.”
Before venturing into TV, Esmail wrote multiple feature scripts that landed on the Black List, including Comet, which was made last year with Esmail directing. Like his Black List scripts, Esmail wrote Mr. Robot on spec. He was a very fast study in TV. In addition to serving as first-time showrunner, Esmail also made his TV directing debut on Mr. Robot, helming three episodes from the show’s first season.
Mr. Robot, whose Niels Arden Oplev-directed pilot won an audience award at the South By Southwest Festival, follows Elliot (Malek), a young programmer who works as a cyber-security engineer by day and as a vigilante hacker by night. Elliot finds himself at a crossroads when the mysterious leader (Slater) of an underground hacker group recruits him to destroy the firm he is paid to protect. Compelled by his personal beliefs, Elliot struggles to resist the chance to take down the multinational CEOs he believes are running (and ruining) the world. Ahead of its TV premiere, the pilot episode already has garnered almost 3 million viewers since being released on various digital platforms on May 27.
Esmail executive produces with Anonymous Content’s Steve Golin and Chad Hamilton. He is repped by ICM Partners, Anonymous and attorney Jeff Frankel.