CLOSE-UP: Focus on One or Two Celebrated Performers

Split Screens CLOSE-UP section shines a spotlight on the contributions one or two celebrated performers whose role takes their show to new heights.

SATURDAY, JUNE 3   4:30 PM – CLOSE-UP: Rami Malek in “Mr. Robot” (USA)

In person: Actor Rami Malek

It’s tricky enough to be the lead actor on a TV drama, more so when you’re in almost every scene, and trickier still when your character narrates the show. USA Network’s cyber-thriller Mr. Robot tasks its star, Rami Malek, with all these responsibilities, then adds more: It’s one of the most relentlessly interior shows, inviting you into the headspace of its lead character — computer expert and secret vigilante hacker Elliot Alderson — and showing you the world as he sees it.

Through clips and discussion, the event takes a deep dive with Malek into his performance as the show’s title character. Playing an introvert turned underground revolutionary, Malek shapes his role through research and prep work, posture and gestures, and even the way he modulates his voice between Elliot’s dialogue with different characters and his voiceover narration directly to the audience.


SUNDAY, JUNE 4   7:00 PM – CLOSE-UP- Michael McKean as Chuck McGill on Better Call Saul (AMC)

In person: Michael McKean and series co-creator and co-executive producer Peter Gould

Better Call Saul, Vince Gilligan and Peter Gould’s improbably just-as-good prequel to Breaking Bad, is a showcase for ace character actors, none as sneakily great as Michael McKean, who costars as the slippery hero’s straight-arrow older brother, Chuck McGill. Chuck is a feared trial lawyer at a top Albuquerque, New Mexico law firm who claims to be hypersensitive to electricity, and is equally allergic to laziness and ethical short cuts. In lesser hands, he could have been an amusing if one-note foil. But McKean, a wizardly comic actor with the soul of a Method chameleon, imbues him with so many layers of personality, all operating simultaneously, that you can’t help feeling for him and understanding Chuck even when the character grates on you. This close-up panel will explore McKean’s collaboration with the character’s creator, writer-producer Peter Gould, and delve into McKean’s long and varied history as a dramatic and comedic actor and improvisational comic.


TUESDAY, JUNE 6  8:45 PM – CLOSE-UP – Asia Kate Dillon as Taylor Mason on “Billions” (Showtime)

In person: Actor Asia Kate Dillon and creators David Levien and Brian Koppelman

In its second season, Showtime’s financial drama Billions broke new dramatic ground by introducing TV’s first non-binary major character, Taylor Mason, an intern at Axe Capital (played by Asia Kate Dillon) who unexpectedly becomes a favorite of macho hedge funder Bobby Axelrod (Damian Lewis). Dillon, who uses the pronoun “they,” auditioned for the role shortly after playing the racist skinhead Brandy on Netflix’s Orange is the New Black. Sharing the stage with series creators Brian Koppelman and David Levien, Dillon will discuss the fine points of playing a trailblazing character in a medium where starkly defined gender roles still rule the perceptions of casting directors and viewers alike.


WEDNESDAY, JUNE 7   7:00 PM – CLOSE-UP – Hank Azaria as Jim Brockmire and Amanda Peet as Jules James in Brockmire (IFC)

In person: Series co-creator and star Hank Azaria and co-star Amanda Peet

Although he’s best known as one of the versatile character actors on Fox’s The Simpsons, voicing such edgy eccentrics as Mo the Bartender, Professor Frink and Krusty the Klown, Hank Azaria is also a formidable live-action performer who can adjust his body to suit the needs of a role as deftly as he can his voice.

Brockmire, a minor-league sportscaster struggling with alcoholism and his own monstrous ego, gives the actor a rare opportunity to hold the spotlight for the entire running time of a series, and the results are dazzling. This detailed one-on-one discussion will delve into Azaria’s varied career in front of both the camera and the microphone, with special emphasis on Brockmire, a character he developed himself.