Lee Pace on ‘Halt and Catch Fire’ season 3: ‘We’re in the big leagues now’

Halt and Catch Fire, AMC”s smart, slick series about the fledgling computer industry of the 1980s, is California dreamin”. 

Joe, Cameron, Gordon, and Donna have all left Texas” Silicon Prairie for Silicon Valley.

“It gets out of the garage very quickly and we”re in the big leagues now,” series star Lee Pace tells HitFix of Halt“s new season debuting later this month.

Halt and Catch Fire (which takes its name from an early computer command) started off with salesman/visionary Joe MacMillan”s race to compete with IBM”s personal computer. Season 2 shifted its focus to online gaming.

Now Halt and Catch Fire is going into its third season, which is longer than either of Pace”s previous television shows lasted. His team-ups with Bryan Fuller, Pushing Daisies and Wonderfalls, were canceled before their time, in the former case cutting short Pace”s endearing, Emmy-nominated role as the pie-maker Ned.

Immediately upon stepping into the entertainment industry, Pace proved himself to be a chameleon – with roles as varied as a transgender showgirl in his first feature to the ex-convict Dick Hickock in Truman Capote biopic Infamous to the balance of his real-world and fantastical characters in The Fall. But Pace seemed to keep running into bad luck with his projects, with TV cancelations and little-seen movies and an ill-advised venture into the talking animal genre. 2012, however, proved to be his breakthrough year, with roles in Steven Spielberg”s Lincoln, The Hobbit, and the final Twilight movie. His turn as a Marvel villain came next, in 2014″s Guardians of the Galaxy.

HitFix TV critic Alan Sepinwall”s primer on Halt and Catch Fire and why it should be on your summer streaming list

On the heels of those successes came Pace”s return to series television with Halt, which the 37-year-old actor says has made him realize “I”m a grown-up now.”

HitFix had a chance to catch up with Pace, who called this week from his home in Upstate New York. Read on for Pace”s dissection of his Halt character Joe, why he wants to return to Shakespeare, the status of his alien invasion movie Revolt and the South Africa community-supporting Indiegogo campaign the film spawned, and why, 10 years later, the stunningly beautiful The Fall is still important to him.

HitFix: In Halt and Catch Fire what kind of technical jargon is the most difficult to say as smoothly as Joe MacMillan“s gotta say it?

Lee Pace: There”s a ton this season that”s really some complicated stuff. Because the technology just moves so quickly. You”re no longer talking about the inner workings of a circuit board or a personal computer. We”re starting to deal with the coming Internet.

It gets out of the garage very quickly and we”re in the big leagues now. We”re in Silicon Valley, and there”s a ton of money. There”s a ton of just new stuff happening all the time. Both Mutiny and MacMillan Utility are on to something cool. They”ve got some skin in the game. They”re on the scent of something pretty big, and they know it. So the stakes are high. It”s different than the first season when we were just opening up a computer in a garage. 

So, season 3, everybody”s moved to California. Did you shoot in California too?

No, we still shot in Atlanta.

Were you shooting something in San Francisco though?

We shot for, like, two days in San Francisco. I did a couple scenes for a couple different episodes. I”d never been to San Francisco before! I absolutely love that city. It”s so beautiful.

Lee Pace as Joe MacMillan in season 3 of Halt and Catch Fire. Photo credit: Michael Moriatis/AMC

What changes most for the vibe of the show and these characters with the move to Silicon Valley?

The characters are so dynamic. They change so much. The Joe that existed in the first season is very, very different than the Joe that we see in this third season. I actually find that to be very true to life. If you connect with someone that you hadn”t seen in six years, I”m always surprised at how much older they look and how much has happened and how much of their life you”ve just missed. 

Every time I approach another season with these characters and with Joe, I think of how much water goes under the bridge. But they”re all drawn together again. So although it”s a different set of circumstances, the heart is still the same. They”re still trying to figure out something awesome. He”s still trying do the right thing when it comes to these two people he cares about very deeply, Gordon and Cameron, who he can”t ever seem to get it right with.

Scoot McNairy as Gordon Clark and Lee Pace as Joe MacMillan in the season 2 finale of Halt and Catch Fire. Photo credit: Richard DuCree/AMC

Season 3 picks up several months after the end of season 2, but I want to see a confrontation between Gordon and Joe after Gordon”s realized he”s stolen his anti-viral program. What fallout of that becomes evident in the new season”s premiere?

Well, [laughs] Gordon is suing Joe.

There you have it.

So it”s not good. And the fallout is pretty bad for Gordon. “Cause Joe has taken the anti-viral software and built a sizable company. And he”s used it to become kind of a leader in the community. People know his reputation. The word about him has gotten around. But he still brings this idea of computers and the online space and connectivity through computers. That”s his thing that he”s bringing to the community of Silicon Valley. And they”re really accepting that idea. What he”s doing with this anti-viral software – he”s basically racketeering. He”s telling people that they should be very afraid. Because of things that he experienced firsthand with Westgroup and the fall of Westgroup. He”s selling them the antidote to that fear, to the fear of going outside of your door.

Joe MacMillan – as viewers we want to see him grow, but we also like watching this unhinged, toxic guy who keeps sabotaging things and kind of don”t want him to grow out of that. How do you and the writers figure out how to let him move forward but not totally grow out of these problematic qualities that make him a compelling character?

I think all the things you just talked about are very conscious in Joe”s mind. Joe wants to move past it. Joe wants to figure out a better way to live and has been trying to since the end of season 1. He”s been trying to figure out why is it, no matter how hard he tries to help people – “cause that's all he”s really trying to do, and connect with people – why does it make them want to run a mile? There”s not a person he”s supported more than Cameron Howe. And she pinned all of the Giant on him, the fact that the Giant didn't have Cameron”s OS. And really the person to blame would have been Donna. It was her kind of sloppiness that got the plans out to Slingshot. But Joe seems to be the one who was held responsible for it. It”s like a curse on him and everyone around him. Joe is trying his best to let things go in this season and forgive and move on. He”s just trying to figure out a better way to be.

I want to talk about the crowdfunding campaign you guys did for the community where you filmed Revolt. Have you gone back to Ward 48 to see how that money”s starting to make an impact?

We went back to do some reshoots. I”ve been in contact with the community leader in Ward 48 who was doing it, and it”s just been fantastic. They”ve got a car wash built. They”ve got a really great community garden that everyone is participating in. The programs are up and running. That money went a really, really long way. I was really proud of getting to be a part of putting that together and really grateful to them to let us film there. So many people contributed, and that was so kind.

Bérénice Marlohe and Lee Pace in upcoming sci-fi film Revolt. Photo credit: 42

What”s the status of Revolt?

I have no word on when that movie”s coming out. We did some additional photography, and I will let you know as soon as I know.

There”s a 10-year anniversary coming up for a certain beautiful film. This September marks 10 years since The Fall premiered in Toronto.

Oh wow! I didn”t know that. God, 10 years – I feel like I just made that movie yesterday. That”s crazy that 10 years have passed.

HitFix”s tribute to The Fall: Why it”s a film you must see before you die

Do you keep in touch with Tarsem? 

I”m still great friends with Tarsem. I had the most fun working on that movie. The whole time we were doing it, Tarsem kept saying, “It”s never going to be like this. You don”t know how special this whole thing is.” We were in places like India and South Africa – just shooting some incredible stuff. Every single day was something cool. At the time I was like, “Oh yeah, I know, I know it”s pretty awesome.” But I really remember him saying that now, looking back and thinking, “God, that was pretty special.”

Justine Waddell and Lee Pace in The Fall. Photo credit: Roadside Attractions

Looking back even further in your acting career to Juilliard – I know you did a good deal of Shakespeare there. I gotta ask, do you think Shakespeare is something you”d ever return to?

Oh, I”d love to. I”ve got my eye on a play that I want to do right now. Every couple years I go back to it and read it. And I'm like, “I need to make this happen before I get too old to do it!” [laughs] I did a Shakespeare [play] about every year when I was at Juilliard, and I haven”t done one since I left school. It would be something I”d be very interested in doing.

HitFix”s video celebration of 400 years of William Shakespeare

So you”re thinking of performing a specific play?


Can you tell me which one?

No. Let me get it together!

Ahh fine. You”ve got that in your mind for something on stage or on screen?

No, I want to be on stage again. I haven't done a play in a while. And I”d really love to do another play. There's nothing like it. It's been three years at least.

Alright, I”ll stay tuned for that then.

What else do you still hope to accomplish in your career?

I want another awesome director to cast me. That”s what it comes down to. I love the collaboration with a good director. I definitely notice myself – especially when I've seen a little bit of this third season back – I”m a grown-up now. [Laughs] I”m a 37-year-old man.

When”d that happen??

I know! It”s kind of fun because it changes the way I think about “what kind of roles do I want to start playing now?” Not now, not like it happened suddenly. But just seeing it, I look like a grown-up compared to who Ned in Pushing Daisies was, you know what I mean? A different door that”s opened.

The two-hour premiere of Halt and Catch Fires third season airs on AMC Tuesday, August 23 at 9 p.m. ET/PT.