Grace Gummer Talks Masturbating Onscreen in Mr. Robot
On Mr. Robot, Grace Gummer plays a far-from-glamorous FBI agent who’s trying to take down an elite ring of hackers. But in real life, the 31-year-old actress couldn’t be any more different from her character. Whereas Dominique "Dom" DiPierro is perpetually uptight, anti-social, and seems to have zero interest in fashion, Gummer is laid-back, friendly, and seriously stylish (unsurprising—her mom is Meryl Streep, after all).
Last week, Gummer stopped by InStyle’s NYC headquarters to dish on season three of the USA series, which premieres tonight at 10 p.m. ET. Wearing an all-black ensemble that included a Nanushka sweater, Westley Austin pants, and Pierre Hardy shoes, she looked every bit as badass as her character—although Dom would likely never wear such an outfit on Mr. Robot.
“I’m a completely different person when I’m playing Dom, which is fun,” said Gummer. “I get to have red hair and all these tattoos on my arms.” Personality-wise, Gummer—who was blonde prior to Mr. Robot—has a healthier approach to work-life balance than her loner character. “I have much more of a social life than Dom does,” she said. But there is one thing the women do have in common. “Dom is sort of a bright light in a very dark world, and I feel like that sometimes, too.”
For Gummer, getting into Dom’s fearless head space is a treat. “She's constantly surrounded by men who are telling her, ‘No,’ and she has to overcome all of these hurdles and break down walls just to get to answers that she instinctively believes are there,” said Gummer. “The fact that she’s the only one who feels that way is cool—especially since the part of a lone FBI agent on the run, claiming to know the truth, is usually reserved for a guy.”
While Dom may be trying to expose Elliot Alderson (played by Rami Malek) and his sister Darlene (Carly Chaikin) after they tried to take down corporate America with their hacker group, fscociety, last season, her motives aren’t as black-and-white as you might think. “Dom is a contemporary of Elliot and Darlene, and I do think she sees the beauty in what they've done,” revealed Gummer. “She sees a lot of herself in Darlene, specifically, and this season, you'll see her getting deeper into the web of what fsociety and the Dark Army did on Five/Nine. She’s trying to figure out whose side she's on.”
And as she wades through fsociety’s waters, viewers are sure to have more questions than ever. “Elliot and Dom haven’t come face-to-face yet, but she’s zeroing in on him,” said Gummer. “I think you'll see her get closer to finding what she wants and what she needs to solve this case as she grapples with good vs. evil. Everybody on this show exists in this gray area where no one's good or bad. Even though law enforcement is obviously the antagonist to fsociety, I don't see her as a bad guy.”
Scroll down for our full chat with Gummer about all things Mr. Robot, fashion, and growing up in Hollywood.
At the end of season two, Dom showed Darlene a conspiracy chart linking all of fsociety’s key players together. How did it feel to be part of such a big reveal?
It was amazing. I mean, the fact that she's the only one who zeroed in on Elliot and fsociety is pretty cool. I didn’t see any of it coming. None of us did. There are so many unanswered questions, and the fact that Elliott found out he was in jail brought out a collective gasp when we read the script. It was pretty crazy.
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How did you prep to play an FBI agent?
I met with real FBI agents as research. I'm very pro gun control—I think that we have to demand more action against semiautomatic weapons—but these girls carry around a little handgun in their purse all the time, because they could be undercover whenever. To know you have that on you must be psychologically very strange and stressful. It’s just different from what I know as a person.
Do you think you’d be a good FBI agent in real life?
Yeah! I think I would. I'm very thorough and thoughtful, and I'm always intrigued and very observant. I like to look at people and I like to obviously inhabit other people. But I think I’d be good. I think it'd be a really fun job—and a really hard one, especially in the FBI’s cyber crime division.
The only main characters we’ve really seen you interact with on the show are Angela (Portia Doubleday) and Darlene.What’s your relationship like offscreen?
Carly and Portia have become really close friends of mine. I love them both so much, and they really welcomed me with open arms when I first came to the show in the second season. I wish we [had] scenes [all] together, because it would be really fun to have it be more girly. It's cool that the female characters on the show aren’t defined by being the wives or the sisters or the girlfriends or whatever. They have their own stories, and all the narratives intertwine with each other.
Dom is unusually close with her Amazon Echo, Alexa. What did you first think when you found that out?
It was sort of sad to me, but I think it can be true for a lot of people. I think it’s a lonely existence we're living in, especially with social media. I feel like a lot of people aren't seeing themselves through a clear eye. Instead of just being truly themselves, people are seeing what they think the world should see them as and putting out an image of what they think people want to see about them. So the Alexa stuff is a little sad, but she's smart enough to know that Alexa isn’t really her only friend.
Do you own an Alexa?
I do, but I don't use it. I was given it as a present from USA, ironically, but I don’t trust it. I used it before I did my Alexa scenes just to see what it felt like, and I immediately got too freaked out. I had to unplug it and disconnect it from everything. Even when it’s plugged in, I think it’s definitely listening.
You've filmed some graphic solo scenes where Dom frequents cyber-sex chat rooms. What was that like?
I think it's cool that Sam [Esmail, the series creator] is showing a woman pleasuring herself on TV. I think that’s pretty f—ing rad. It's very rare to see that, and it definitely paints a picture of a well-rounded and complicated person. She’s layered, complex, and has her own thing going on that you wouldn’t necessarily know about. It's like with everyone, you think you know who they are, but then you realize you don't.
What do you think of Dom’s style?
It's rough. For my audition, I wore an outfit that was a more fashion-forward version of Dom. I wore Acne bell-bottom pants, a white shirt, a blazer, a s—t ton of eye makeup, and big hair. That ended up being turned into what she wears now, which is very practical and functional. She seems very comfortable in herself as a woman, and she’s not afraid to show her body. I don't wear a lot of tight clothes, but that's not to say I'm not comfortable with my body. I am. But she's on the job and being herself, not really thinking about what looks good. You can’t be recognizable when you're undercover, so she tends to be covered up when she’s working. When I met the girls who work for the F.B.I., you wouldn’t know if they had any tattoos because they're all covered up, too. They have to be changeable and malleable. But underneath, they all have weird, funky, cool personalities.
Off-camera, what’s your go-to power outfit that gives you confidence?
A pantsuit, man. I have a couple that I love from Dries Van Noten and Acne, and then I have a vintage Christian Dior white power-suit that's very cool.
Who are your favorite designers right now?
Right now I'm wearing a lot of Sies Marjan. I love Dries Van Noten, a brand called Dusan, and Maryam Nassir Zadeh, who has a store downtown. I wear a lot of vintage, too. A lot of vintage YSL. Acne is always my go-to, and then Valentino for red carpet vibes.
Who are some of the women in the industry that you've looked up to career-wise?
I admire people who just really focus on their work and have that be the image they put forward to the world. I love Sarah Paulson and Claire Danes and Carey Mulligan, too. They're all good friends of mine. I just admire their work and their work ethic.
Growing up in the industry, what’s one thing you learned that helped you get to this point in your career?
Be yourself. Really, don't worry about all the other bulls—t. Just do what you love, and if it makes you happy, that's the most important thing. It’s just like, who cares? F—k the world. Do what you want.