AMC’s newest series, “Halt and Catch Fire,” is not just a show about technology in the ‘80s, but one about the human desire to accomplish something monumental.
Lee Pace, who you may recognize as Thranduil from “The Hobbit” films or Tarsem Singh’s “The Fall,” and who you’ll see as Ronan the Accuser in the upcoming “Guardians of the Galaxy,” stars as Joe MacMillan. A visionary and salesman with an ambitious dream, Joe enlists software prodigy and eventual love-interest Cameron (Mackenzie Davis) and engineer Gordon (Scoot McNairy) to revolutionize the personal computer. HuffPost TV caught up with Pace to talk about what we’ve learned so far about the very private Joe -- his past, his eyebrow-raising sex scene and what Joe would say about the ubiquity of technology today.
Check out our conversation with him below as well as an exclusive clip from the upcoming Episode 6, “Landfall,” above.
Joe reminds me a lot of Patrick Bateman from “American Psycho” and Don Draper. How do you see him?
I was very interested in Patrick Bateman, kind of those corporate raiders of the early ‘80s. The super rich guys today who made their money in the early ‘80s. I’m kind of in a way reverse engineering the ethics that led to the big pockets full of money they’ve got now. Joe reminds me of that psychotic Patrick Bateman, and very less of Don Draper. It’s a generation before. Joe’s father is of Don Draper’s generation. Joe can watch the mask that worked for his father and watch the way his father navigated through life and business, and in a way, try to replicate it. But it’s really just a mask.
Can you talk more about Joe’s mask? It seems like he really has a lot buried beneath the surface, especially after Episode 5.
I find Joe’s mask one of the most fascinating aspects of the character because it is so complete. He’s someone who doesn’t talk about himself. He’s this private person who employs all of his powers of magical, suspended belief in the truth to keep his privacy. He doesn’t allow anyone to see who he really is. He prefers people to see who he wants to be. I think he wants to be feared rather than liked. He doesn’t care about being liked, he cares about being effective, about making this computer the way he wants to make it.
It’s complicated to know what exactly drives him though, since he’s incredibly manipulative. What is it that he wants exactly?
I think Joe is someone who is desperate for an identity. I don’t think he knows who he is at this point. He wants this computer because he wants to be a successful person, he wants to be a winner. The only mission in his mind is to make the computer awesome, to make the computer that’s going to beat Steve Jobs’ computer.
It begins in Episode 5 when he’s confronted with the reality of his father. He never knew to ask the question, “What does Joe want?” In a way, Joe is very much the machine. What a machine does is the things you ask it to do. That’s the way Joe’s operating. It’s hard to marry a human component into that. One of the questions we were interested in was do the creators of the machine impart some of their own DNA on to it?
He has a really interesting moment in Episode 3 when he seduces and has sex with Travis, the financial investor’s boyfriend.
When I read that on the page I was like, “Wow, wow! What is this about, guys?” [Laughs]. He opens himself up in a very vulnerable way to accomplish what he wants, like a Venus fly trap or something. It’s similar to the erratic decision of choosing Cameron to come on this project. Joe is not a premeditated person, I don’t think that he’s got a master plan in mind. I think that he’s just showed up to the fight and ready, whatever it takes. One way one of the writer's described him that I really clung to was that he’s a two-strike hitter. He will be effective when his back is against the wall. That’s what that moment is with Travis. He’s watching this stupid woman about to take his entire business -- forget about it, it’s done. That moment, I don’t think it’s intended as a shock value moment, I think it’s intended as a riddle. So much about Joe, I always took [things] as riddles when I read them in the script.
By the end of the season will we understand him better?
Looking at the opening episodes, I almost don’t even recognize Joe. After finishing the series a while ago, it’s like I almost don’t recognize who that guy is at the beginning. We kind of see this soft part inside of him.
What do you think Joe would say about technology today and how we’re surrounded by devices like iPhones and tablets?
I think he would be thrilled and curious and wished he would’ve made it. If he didn’t make them, I think he’d be trying to figure out, “What do they want next?” He’d be fascinated and want to be in on it. Joe just wants to be in on everything, and he’s late the to party. That’s I think a big part of his rage and anger, he missed it. He missed the first wave, but he’s not going to miss the second. He’s going to be a part of this thing, this technological evolution, if it kills him.
"Halt and Catch Fire" airs on Sundays at 10 p.m. EDT on AMC.