Class disparity was a central theme in Sam Esmail's acclaimed series Mr. Robot, as it was in the 1927 sci-fi film Metropolis. So it makes sense that Esmail is remaking the Fritz Lang classic as a series for Apple TV+. The theme resonates with his producing partner, Chad Hamilton, who grew up in St. Louis and never imagined hitting it big in Hollywood.
"My father was a machinist, and my mother was a waitress," Hamilton says. "It was not something that ever occurred to anyone in my family."
After studying TV production at the University of Missouri, he worked as a camera operator at a local station. The 1997 film Good Will Hunting, about a genius janitor, inspired him to head west to pursue film. Hamilton landed as an assistant at Anonymous Content and was so passionate that when the company let him go, he said, "You guys are making a mistake — I think I'm the future of this company."
Before he'd found another job, Anonymous hired him back as a story editor. He eventually became an executive at Paramount, where he crossed paths with Esmail. When that job fizzled in 2008, Hamilton was so burned out he left the business and worked for two years as an interior designer. "I thought I was done," he says.
Hamilton tapped his Hollywood connections to design midcentury homes, but with too much time for surfing, he "missed the hustle of Hollywood." He returned to Anonymous and reconnected with Esmail, then a screenwriter eager to direct his film script Comet. "I knew he was going to be a brilliant director," Hamilton says.
While making Comet, Esmail handed him the Mr. Robot script, which Hamilton championed, packaged and sold. An instant success, the USA Network show helped turn their focus to TV.
Through Esmail Corp's overall deal at Universal Content Productions, Hamilton expanded the company's slate with projects from other creators: The Resort for Peacock; Starz's Gaslit, with Julia Roberts and Sean Penn; and Peacock's Angelyne, starring Esmail's wife, Emmy Rossum, as the iconic starlet.
"Sam has a very original voice," Hamilton says, adding that his work is "about finding new Sams of the world and championing those voices."
While unswerving from the Hollywood hunt, Hamilton hasn't forgotten his roots. The Golden Globe he won for Mr. Robot lives in St. Louis with his brother, who runs a flooring company, and his sister-in-law, who's obsessed with Hollywood awards.
"What am I going to do, sit it on a mantel and stare at it? She loves it — shows it to all her friends."
This article originally appeared in emmy magazine issue #12, 2022, under the title, "Showing the Way"