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 42)
Alma mater
Occupation
  • Director
  • producer
  • writer
Years active2004–present
Notable work
Mr. Robot
Spouse(s)
Emmy Rossum (m. 2017)

Sam Esmail (Egyptian Arabic: سام إسماعيل‎, 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 writer and director of the television series Mr. Robot (2015–2019), starring Rami Malek. He directed the psychological thriller Homecoming, starring Julia Roberts, which premiered on Amazon Video in November 2018.[4]

Esmail's work often centers on the themes of isolation, 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.[6][7][8] He has an older sister and two younger brothers, including Samer who was an editor for Mr. Robot and Homecoming.[9][10][8][11] His family is Muslim.[2]

When he was five years old,[12] his family moved to South Carolina then to Charlotte, North Carolina.[13][14] 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."[12][15] The family eventually moved back to Sewell, New Jersey, where Esmail graduated from Washington Township High School in 1995.[14] As a kid, Esmail was very interested in technology. Esmail acquired his first computer when he was nine and began computer programming a few years later.[12]

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][13]

After graduating he briefly worked for an internet start-up, before founding his own ISP software company called Portal Vision.[8] 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.[8]

Esmail moved to Los Angeles in 2001 where he attended the AFI Conservatory.[7][20] He graduated with a Master of Fine Arts in directing in 2004.[7][21]

Career[edit]

2004 – 2014: Early career[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.[8] Frustrated with his career, Hollywood, and its films, Esmail began writing his own feature films.[7] 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.[8]

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.[9][14] 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 February 2019, it was announced that Esmail had signed his company to a four-year exclusive deal with Universal Content Production with whom he had already produced Mr. Robot, Homecoming, and Briarpatch.[35]

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.[36] 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 produces, was picked up by USA Network in 2019.

Future projects[edit]

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 Angelene.[37] Esmail is also developing a series for the Battlestar Galactica franchise for NBCU.[38] Other projects in various stages of production include a mini-series based on the 1927 sci-fi classic Metropolis, a movie centered on the Bermuda Triangle, and the ensemble comedy False Alarm written by Black Monday producers Rob Turbovsky and Matteo Borghese.[39][40][41] He is also producing a scripted podcast series for the UCP Audio network called This End Up.[42]

Since 2018, Esmail has been developing a film for Universal Pictures with 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.[43] Esmail and Malek are also working together on another undisclosed project.[31]

Personal life[edit]

In August 2015, Esmail became engaged to actress Emmy Rossum after dating for two years.[44] He had directed her in his directorial debut, Comet.[45] She is Jewish and they were married on May 28, 2017, at a Reform synagogue in New York City.[46] Esmail suffers from social anxiety disorder and credits Rossum in helping him with it.[13]

Esmail splits his time between New York City and Los Angeles.[47]

Filmography[edit]

Film[edit]

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

Television[edit]

Year Title Credited as Notes
Writer Director Executive producer
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; writer (24 episodes), director (38 episodes), actor (6 episodes)
2018–present Homecoming No Yes Yes Director (10 episodes), executive producer
2020 Briarpatch No No Yes Executive producer

Accolades[edit]

Year Ceremony Category Nominated Work Result
2014 Los Angeles Film Festival Best Narrative Feature Comet Nominated
2015 2015 SXSW Film Audience Award[48] Audience Award for Best Episodic Mr. Robot Won
25th Gotham Independent Film Awards[49] Breakthrough Series – Long Form Won
2015 American Film Institute Awards[50] Television Programs of the Year Won
2016 20th Satellite Awards[51] Best Drama Series Nominated
2016 Writers Guild Awards[52] Best Drama Series Nominated
Best New Series Won
73rd Golden Globe Awards[53] Best Television Series – Drama Won
6th Critics' Choice Television Awards[54] Best Drama Series Won
68th Primetime Emmy Awards[55] Outstanding Drama Series Nominated
Outstanding Writing for a Drama Series Nominated
2019 Golden Globe Awards[56] Best Television Series – Drama Homecoming Nominated
Dorian Awards[57] TV Drama of the Year Nominated
Critics' Choice Television Awards[58] Best Drama Series Nominated
Satellite Awards[59][60] Best Television Series – Drama Won
TCA Awards[61] Outstanding Achievement in Drama Nominated
Gold Derby Awards[62] Best Drama Series Nominated
2020 72th Writers Guild of America Awards[63] Best Episodic Drama Mr. Robot Pending

References[edit]

  1. ^ Rossum, Emmy (September 17, 2017). "Happy birthday, @samesmail". Emmy Rossum verified Instagram account. Retrieved September 18, 2017.
  2. ^ a b c Eells, Josh (July 7, 2016). "'Mr. Robot': Inside TV's Hacktivist Breakout Hit". Rolling Stone. Archived from the original on April 23, 2019. Retrieved September 6, 2019. Esmail, 38 [as of July 7, 2016]...
  3. ^ 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
  4. ^ Stone, Rolling (November 2, 2018). "Sam Esmail on Creating 'Homecoming,' Working With Julia Roberts". Rolling Stone. Retrieved November 16, 2018.
  5. ^ Littleton, Cynthia; Littleton, Cynthia (December 16, 2015). "Anonymous Content Thrives on TV Boom, 'Spotlight' and 'The Revenant' Awards Heat". Variety. Retrieved November 5, 2019.
  6. ^ Stanhope, Kate (March 3, 2016). "'Mr. Robot' Creator on the Sony Hack, Antiheroes and the Dangers of Facebook". The Hollywood Reporter. Archived from the original on March 4, 2016.
  7. ^ a b c d "The AFI Interview: 'Mr. Robot' Creator Sam Esmail". American Film Institute. December 1, 2015. Archived from the original on August 7, 2019. Retrieved September 6, 2019. I was born to Egyptian parents in...Hoboken, New Jersey.
  8. ^ a b c d e f "The Secret Early Lives of Sam Esmail | Without Fail". Gimlet. Retrieved November 4, 2019.
  9. ^ a b Terry Gross (interviewer); Sam Esmail (interviewee) (October 30, 2019). 'Mr. Robot' Creator Says His Own Anxiety And Hacking Helped Inspire The Show (audio). NPR. Event occurs at 31:00–33:00. Retrieved November 5, 2019 – via NPR.com.
  10. ^ "Samer Esmail on Instagram: "My 2 favorite people #bigbrothers @samesmail @kenosplit"". Instagram. Retrieved November 5, 2019.
  11. ^ "Samer Esmail". IMDb. Retrieved November 5, 2019.
  12. ^ a b c Eells, Josh (July 7, 2016). "'Mr. Robot': Inside TV's Hacktivist Breakout Hit". Rolling Stone. Archived from the original on February 24, 2017. Retrieved May 30, 2017. I'm Egyptian, and my parents stupidly decided to move us down to South Carolina when I was five, which was pretty brutal. I got called 'sand nigger' all the time — to the point I didn't even know it was a slur. I just thought, 'That's who I am.'
  13. ^ a b c Terry Gross (interviewer); Sam Esmail (interviewee) (October 30, 2019). 'Mr. Robot' Creator Says His Own Anxiety And Hacking Helped Inspire The Show (audio). NPR. Event occurs at 05:00–16:40. Retrieved November 5, 2019 – via NPR.com.
  14. ^ a b c "Sam Esmail, Class of 1995". Classmates. Retrieved November 5, 2019.
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  16. ^ a b c Staff, Recode (November 19, 2016). "Full transcript: 'Mr. Robot' creator Sam Esmail on Recode Decode". Vox. Retrieved November 4, 2019.
  17. ^ New York University [@nyuniversity] (January 10, 2016). "WOOHOO!" (Tweet). Retrieved November 4, 2019 – via Twitter. "Director/exec producer Sam Esmail (Tisch ’98) & exec. producer Steve Golin (Tisch ’76) win Best Drama Golden Globe for Mr. Robot!"|
  18. ^ "Alumni". tisch.nyu.edu. Retrieved November 4, 2019.
  19. ^ a b Boboltz, Sara (August 1, 2015). "'Mr. Robot' Creator Also Thinks It's Weird That Things In The Show Keep Coming True". The Huffington Post. Archived from the original on November 29, 2016. Retrieved August 3, 2015.
  20. ^ a b "Sam Esmail: Executive Producer". Mr. Robot official site (USA Network). Archived from the original on June 29, 2015. Retrieved July 18, 2015.
  21. ^ "ABOUT AFI". Unnatural. January 23, 2017. Retrieved November 4, 2019.
  22. ^ "Sam Sam Esmell [sic] Offline Coordinator Credits". Staff Me Up. Archived from the original on January 11, 2020. Retrieved November 18, 2019.
  23. ^ "Sam Esmail Assistant Editor Credits". Staff Me Up. Archived from the original on January 11, 2020. Retrieved November 18, 2019.
  24. ^ "Sam Esmail Executive Producer credits". Staff Me Up. Archived from the original on January 11, 2020. Retrieved November 18, 2019.
  25. ^ Terry Gross (interviewer); Sam Esmail (interviewee) (October 30, 2019). 'Mr. Robot' Creator Says His Own Anxiety And Hacking Helped Inspire The Show (audio). NPR. Event occurs at 25:25–31:00. Retrieved November 5, 2019 – via NPR.com.
  26. ^ Lowry, Brian; Lowry, Brian (April 26, 2010). "The Battle for Late Night". Variety. Retrieved October 31, 2019.
  27. ^ Hurwitz, Neal. "The AFI Interview: MR. ROBOT Creator Sam Esmail | American Film Institute". Retrieved November 4, 2019.
  28. ^ Tallerico, Brian. "Comet". Roger Ebert Film Reviews. Retrieved July 18, 2015.
  29. ^ Barr, Merrill (June 24, 2015). "'Mr. Robot': Creator Sam Esmail On Transitioning The Show From Feature Film To Pilot And More". Forbes. Archived from the original on January 31, 2016. Retrieved August 3, 2015.
  30. ^ "Showrunner Roundtable: 12 A-List Writers Dish About Lesbian Weddings, Race and Why "Black People Don't Get to Write for White People"". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved November 5, 2019.
  31. ^ a b "Sam Esmail on 'Battlestar Galactica' and Life After 'Mr. Robot'". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved October 31, 2019.
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  33. ^ Thomas, June (June 24, 2015). "Why the Hacker Drama Mr. Robot Needed a Gay Character". Slate. Archived from the original on October 12, 2015. Retrieved July 18, 2015.
  34. ^ Esmail in sam Asi, Husam (October 12, 2015). Sam Esmael [sic] and Rami Malek talk Mr. Robot - Interview. BBC Xtra. Retrieved April 4, 2016.
  35. ^ Andreeva, Nellie; Andreeva, Nellie (February 8, 2019). "Sam Esmail Inks Massive New Overall Deal With Universal Content Productions". Deadline. Retrieved November 5, 2019.
  36. ^ Seitz, Matt Zoller (November 14, 2018). "How Sam Esmail Directed the Hell Out of Homecoming". Vulture. Retrieved November 16, 2018.
  37. ^ "'Angelyne' Drama Based on Hollywood Reporter Article Joins NBCU's Streaming Slate". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved November 5, 2019.
  38. ^ "'Battlestar Galactica' Reboot From Sam Esmail in the Works at NBCU's Streamer". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved November 5, 2019.
  39. ^ "METROPOLIS". www.esmailcorp.com. Retrieved November 5, 2019.
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  41. ^ "FALSE ALARM". www.esmailcorp.com. Retrieved November 5, 2019.
  42. ^ "Universal Content Productions Launches Podcast Network With Sam Esmail Original". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved November 7, 2019.
  43. ^ "AMERICAN RADICAL". www.esmailcorp.com. Retrieved November 5, 2019.
  44. ^ "Emmy Rossum Engaged to Mr. Robot Creator Sam Esmail". People. August 31, 2015. Archived from the original on March 23, 2017. Retrieved August 31, 2015.
  45. ^ Miller, Gerri (February 5, 2015). "Hollywood Now: Mila Talks Parenthood & Breaking Bad's Saul Gets a Spinoff". InterfaithFamily. Archived from the original on February 9, 2015. Retrieved July 1, 2016.
  46. ^ [1]
  47. ^ "Esmail Corp". www.esmailcorp.com. Retrieved November 5, 2019.
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  50. ^ Gray, Tim (December 16, 2015). "'Star Wars,' 'Mr. Robot' Among AFI Awards Honorees". Variety. Retrieved December 17, 2015.
  51. ^ "Satellite Awards (2015)". International Press Academy. December 1, 2015. Retrieved December 2, 2015.
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  54. ^ Hipes, Patrick (December 14, 2015). "Critics' Choice Awards Nominations: 'Mad Max' Leads Film; ABC, HBO, FX Networks & 'Fargo' Top TV". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved December 14, 2015.
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  58. ^ Crist, Allison (January 13, 2019). "Critics' Choice Awards: 'Roma,' 'Americans,' 'Mrs. Maisel' Top Winners". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved January 13, 2019.
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