Sam Esmail

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Sam Esmail
Sam Esmail at SXSW 2016.jpg
Sam Esmail at SXSW 2016
Born (1977-09-17) September 17, 1977 (age 44)
Alma mater (MFA)
  • Director
  • producer
  • writer
Years active2004–present
Notable work
Mr. Robot
(m. 2017)

Sam Esmail (born September 17,[1] 1977)[2] is an American film and television producer, director, and screenwriter who runs the production company Esmail Corp.[3] He is best known as the creator, writer and director of the television series Mr. Robot (2015–2019), starring Rami Malek. He directed and produced the acclaimed Amazon Prime Video psychological thriller Homecoming (2018–2020), starring Julia Roberts and Janelle Monáe,[4] and USA's Briarpatch (2020). As of 2021, Esmail is attached to produce a number of upcoming television series and films including Gaslit.

Esmail's work often centers on the themes of alienation, technology, and American society, and he is known to work with cinematographer Tod Campbell and producer Chad Hamilton of Anonymous Content.[5]

Early life[edit]

Esmail was born to Egyptian immigrant parents in Hoboken, New Jersey.[3][6][7] He has an older sister and two younger brothers, including Samer Esmail who was a post-production coordinator for Mr. Robot and Homecoming.[8][9][7][10] His family is Muslim.[2]

When he was five years old,[11] his family moved to South Carolina and then to Charlotte, North Carolina.[12][13] As a kid, Esmail was very interested in technology. He acquired his first computer when he was nine and began computer programming a few years later.[11] He attended high school in Summerville, South Carolina where, he said, "I used to hold Stanley Kubrick film festivals at my house in high school. These are not cool things. Back in my day, those are things that you would get beaten up for," adding, "When you're a funny-looking Egyptian growing up in Jersey and South Carolina, it kind of gets rough."[11][14] The family eventually moved back to Sewell, New Jersey, where Esmail graduated from Washington Township High School in 1995.[13][15]

Esmail attended New York University where he studied film and computer science.[16] He graduated in 1998 from the university's Tisch School of the Arts.[17][18] While attending the school, Esmail worked in its computer lab before being put on academic probation for hacking emails there.[19][12]

After graduating he briefly worked for an internet start-up, before founding his own ISP software company called Portal Vision.[7] At age 20, he raised US$6 million in venture capital funding during the dot-com boom but the software quickly became outdated when broadband internet began replacing dial-up.[16] He left his position as president and chief technology officer to briefly attend Dartmouth College's creative writing program.[7]

Esmail moved to Los Angeles in 2001 where he attended the AFI Conservatory.[6][20] He graduated with a Master of Fine Arts in directing in 2004.[6][21]


2004–2014: Early career and Comet[edit]

After graduating the AFI Conservatory in 2004, Esmail struggled to find work and held odd jobs. He worked as an assistant editor for a few years and was eventually able to establish a career as a post-production supervisor of behind-the-scenes features and television specials;[22][23][24] his work included helping to edit episodes of reality television shows for Lifetime and A&E and stand-up specials for Comedy Central, HBO's documentary series Tourgasm and HBO First Look,[25] and "the making of" features for The Fast and the Furious franchise, as well as supervise the 2010 A&E documentary The Battle for Late Night.[26]

When not working as a full-time editor, Esmail worked on writing screenplays.[7] Frustrated with his career, Hollywood, and its films, Esmail began writing his own feature films.[6] His screenplay, Sequels, Remakes & Adaptations landed on 2008's Black List, a yearly survey of over six hundred production companies and film executives of the "most liked" motion picture screenplays not yet produced.[20] After this, he was able to find representation in Hollywood and began working more as a screenwriter;[27] he wrote another screenplay that also landed on the Black List the following year and co-wrote the horror film Mockingbird with writer Bryan Bertino, which was released in 2014.[16]

He wrote seriously for years before stopping to focus on his passion, directing. He began writing his own feature-length directorial debut, Comet, which was released by IFC Films in 2014.[28] Comet premiered at the Los Angeles Film Festival and had a limited box office release.[7]

2014–present: Mr. Robot and prestige television[edit]

Mr. Robot[edit]

Originally intending it as a follow-up feature film to Comet, Esmail began working on the technological thriller Mr. Robot in the late 2000s, inspired in part by the 2008 financial crisis and the Arab Spring.[19][29] He has said that the main character, Elliot, is a "thinly-veiled version" of himself;[30] like Elliot, Esmail also suffers from social anxiety and is from Washington Township in New Jersey.[8][13] He was later inspired to take what he had written and create a pilot for what he imagined would be a four-or-five season show.[31] He shopped his projects around to many different television networks and began developing the show with USA Network in 2014.[32]

Mr. Robot premiered on the USA Network on June 24, 2015. Esmail is the creator, executive producer and head writer of the series.[33] Beginning with season two, Esmail also directed all episodes of the show; in total he directed thirty-eight of its forty-five episodes.[2] The first season of the show was critically acclaimed and Esmail himself was nominated for two Emmys, among other awards. The following three seasons of the show premiered in July 2016, October 2017, and October 2019, respectively.

In a 2015 interview, Esmail explained the influence of his experiences as a first-generation American on his work, saying, "I tend to write about alienated figures who can't connect with others and who are kind of distant from American culture. It's not something I am consciously doing but it's something that happens to be infused inside me because of my experience growing up in America."[34]

Producing television and Esmail Corp[edit]

Following the wide recognition of Mr. Robot, Esmail formed his own production company, Esmail Corp. In early 2017, Esmail was called on by Universal Pictures to produce a film centered around the Bermuda Triangle, but production has since not been carried through.[35] In February 2019, it was announced that Esmail had signed his company to a four-year exclusive deal with Universal Content Productions with whom he had already produced Mr. Robot, Homecoming, and Briarpatch.[36]

Esmail was one of the executive producers and director of the Amazon Video series Homecoming, starring Julia Roberts and Bobby Cannavale. He received strong reviews for his direction of the show, which premiered in November 2018.[37] In 2018, Esmail worked on creating the television show Briarpatch with journalist and producer Andy Greenwald, who previously hosted the Mr. Robot aftershow Hacking Robot on USA. The show, which Esmail executive produced, was picked up by USA Network in 2019. The show was released in 2020 as well as the second season of Homecoming.

In 2019, it was announced that Esmail was developing a limited series with Emmy Rossum for the NBCUniversal streaming service Peacock based on the Los Angeles pseudo-celebrity Angelyne.[38] Produced during the first half of 2020, its release was pushed back to an undisclosed date.

Future projects[edit]

With screenwriter Andy Siara, Esmail is developing the television series The Resort, a darkly comedic anthology which features true crime stories that took place at resorts.[39] In June 2021, it was announced that Peacock had picked the series up for eight episodes with Esmail executive producing.[40] In February 2020, it was also announced that Esmail would be producing a new television series with Homecoming collaborator Julia Roberts based on the Slow Burn podcast's coverage of the Watergate scandal.[41] Titled Gaslit, production was expected to begin Spring 2021.[42] He will also direct a film adaptation of the novel Leave the World Behind for Netflix with Roberts.[43]

In September 2020, Esmail sold two dramas to ABC;[44] a pilot was ordered for the first of those shows, Acts of Crime, in January 2021 but was not picked up by the network.[45][46]

Since 2018, Esmail has been developing a film with Universal Pictures and Mr. Robot star Rami Malek based on the memoir American Radical: Inside the World of an Undercover Muslim FBI Agent by Tamer Elnoury and Kevin Maurer; the story centers on a Muslim FBI agent working for the agency post-9/11.[47] Two years following the initial announcement, in September 2020, it was announced that screenwriter Nazrin Choudhury is attached to pen the film.[48] As of 2019, Esmail and Malek were also working together on another undisclosed project.[31]

In February 2020, it was announced that Esmail would develop one of the initial projects for Condé Nast's new Wired Studio; called Tell Tale Heart, his film is based on the 2019 Wired article of the same name.[49] He began developing television series The American Throne with director Julius Onah in 2021.[50] Other projects in various stages of pre-production include a miniseries based on the 1927 sci-fi classic Metropolis, an ensemble comedy False Alarm produced with Paul Feig, and a Coast Guard-centered procedural.[51][52][53] Esmail is also developing a series for the Battlestar Galactica franchise for NBCU with Michael Lesslie as showrunner.[54][55] As of 2019, he is also producing a scripted podcast series for the UCP Audio network called This End Up.[56]

Personal life[edit]

Esmail and his wife Emmy Rossum in 2018

In August 2015, Esmail became engaged to actress Emmy Rossum after dating for two years.[57] He had directed her in his directorial debut, Comet.[58] She is Jewish and they were married on May 28, 2017, at a Reform synagogue in New York City.[59] On May 24, 2021, Rossum gave birth to their daughter.[60]

Esmail suffers from social anxiety disorder and credits his wife Rossum in helping him with it.[12]

Esmail splits his time between New York City and Los Angeles.[61]



Year Title Credited as Notes
Director Writer Producer
2002 The Lobo Paramilitary Christmas Special No No Yes Short film
2004 Deep Down in Florida Yes No No Short film
2014 Comet Yes Yes No
Mockingbird No Story No
2016 Risk No No Executive Documentary


Year Title Credited as Notes
Director Writer Executive
2008–2009 HBO First Look No No No Post-production coordinator (3 episodes)
2010 The Battle for Late Night No No No Post-production supervisor (documentary)
2015–2019 Mr. Robot Yes Yes Yes Creator; director (38 episodes), writer (24 episodes), actor (6 episodes)
2018–2020 Homecoming Yes No Yes Director (10 episodes)
2020 Briarpatch No No Yes
2021 Acts of Crime Yes Yes Yes Pilot; not picked up to series
TBA Angelyne No Yes Yes Miniseries
TBA Gaslit No No Yes In production


Year Ceremony Category Nominated Work Result
2014 Los Angeles Film Festival Best Narrative Feature Comet Nominated
2015 2015 SXSW Film Audience Award[62] Audience Award for Best Episodic Mr. Robot Won
25th Gotham Independent Film Awards[63] Breakthrough Series – Long Form Won
2015 American Film Institute Awards[64] Television Programs of the Year Won
2016 20th Satellite Awards[65] Best Drama Series Nominated
2016 Writers Guild Awards[66] Best Drama Series Nominated
Best New Series Won
73rd Golden Globe Awards[67] Best Television Series – Drama Won
6th Critics' Choice Television Awards[68] Best Drama Series Won
68th Primetime Emmy Awards[69] Outstanding Drama Series Nominated
Outstanding Writing for a Drama Series Nominated
2019 Golden Globe Awards[70] Best Television Series – Drama Homecoming Nominated
Dorian Awards[71] TV Drama of the Year Nominated
Critics' Choice Television Awards[72] Best Drama Series Nominated
Satellite Awards[73][74] Best Television Series – Drama Won
TCA Awards[75] Outstanding Achievement in Drama Nominated
Gold Derby Awards[76] Best Drama Series Nominated
2020 72nd Writers Guild of America Awards[77] Best Episodic Drama Mr. Robot Nominated


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  3. ^ a b Stanhope, Kate (June 24, 2015), "'Mr. Robot' Creator on the Sony Hack, Antiheroes and the Dangers of Facebook", The Hollywood Reporter, archived from the original on March 31, 2019
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