Lee Pace on ‘Halt and Catch Fire’ Season 4 and the “Perfect” Series Finale
One of my favorite shows on any channel is AMC’s Halt and Catch Fire. Over the course of its first three seasons, the fictional drama has followed a dynamic group of characters as they navigate the rise of the personal computer in the 1980s. Now about to enter its fourth and final season, the show has entered the 90s and with it the birth of the World Wide Web.
While the ratings on Halt and Catch Fire have never been what it deserved, that hasn’t stopped creators and showrunners Christopher Cantwell and Christopher C. Rogers from producing a fantastic world with rich characters. Each year the show has consistently engaging storylines that center on both men and women and what it was like to live in that era. Alongside the great writing, the show has always had fantastic production design and direction. It’s one of those special shows that will only grow in stature over the course of time. I’m incredibly grateful AMC allowed this special series to run for four years and end on its own terms.
With the final season premiering tonight on AMC, I recently landed an exclusive interview with Lee Pace. He talked about being able to end the show on their terms, if he thought they’d get a fourth season at the end of season three, how much he tries to learn about the arc of the season, the amazing way they show the passage of time in the first episode of season four, how he thinks the series finale is perfect, what he’ll miss the most about making the show, and so much more. In addition, Pace talked about getting ready to play John DeLorean in director Nick Hamm’s Driven and being in Karen Gillan’s directorial feature The Party’s Just Beginning. Check out what he had to say below.
LEE PACE: Hey, thank you so much for your support of the show over the years. I’ve read a lot about what you wrote and I just think it’s a … I really appreciate it.
Collider: I’m a big fan.
PACE: Oh good.
You know what’s funny? I actually think I spoke to you at the Guardians of the Galaxy junket and was telling you how much I enjoyed the show then.
PACE: I remember.
Thanks for getting on the call with me today. Do you feel like you tweet too much?
PACE: Do you think I tweet too much?
I’m being very sarcastic.
PACE: Yeah. I was like, “God, I feel like I should be more participatory with that,” but, yeah, no. I don’t, actually. I think I … I don’t know, when was the last time … I tweeted earlier this … I tweeted last week, right?
It’s a very rare occurrence.
PACE: I know. I know. I actually love Twitter, but I don’t … I never know what to … I get a lot of my news from Twitter. But, I never … I sometimes just don’t think … I think Twitter is full of a lot of talkers and not many listeners, so I’m happy to be one of the listeners.
Let’s jump into some serious stuff. When you guys were making Halt season three, did you guys feel like this was it or that you really had a chance to come back for a fourth season?
PACE: I definitely felt excited about what we were doing. I definitely felt excited about that big time jump that we had. I loved when Evans came on board, found this really great, kind of, look to the show. The Chris’ were showrunning for the first time and it felt fresh in a way that I found that I was very inspired by.
So yeah, it was just very … I was very proud of what we made last season, but, you know, there was the end of season three on our show, so I didn’t feel in any way that we had a fourth season in the bag. I was grateful to get that third season and when we got the call about doing a fourth season I was like … Yeah, just really, really grateful to get to play the character again and then continue working with all these people because…I just really appreciate that AMC gave us that opportunity to keep going with it.
Also, the other thing is that a lot of shows don’t get to end on their own terms, and you guys do, which is such a rarity and such a privilege.
PACE: Such a privilege. I remember with another show I did called, Pushing Daisies, we, you know, it’s like we were making the show while it was airing and that second season, making the show while we got the news that we weren’t going to be making it anymore, and that’s a hard and not a very pleasant experience to go through. I mean that was another thing that I was just, I loved those people so much. It’s been really fortunate the people I’ve been able to work with and it was a real disappointment when it was like suddenly we were tying up story lines.
So to get this opportunity to … The Chris’ in particular to say what they wanted to say about these characters and end on the note they wanted to end on, which just … Yeah, really … I felt really … I was so happy to return to the character for that reason. I find Joe so complicated and … Like, he’s always different. In the circumstances he becomes a different person. He changes so drastically that another version of him is going to be exciting and unexpected. In my mind anyway because he’s never the same as he was before.
I completely agree and that’s one of the reasons I like watching you play the character. When the seasons begin do you try to find out where it’s all going, or do you prefer taking it script by script?
PACE: I like to know as much as I can know, yeah. I like to know as much as I can know. I mean and they’re still working off the story, so they tell me as much they kind of feel comfortable telling me, which is, you know, that’s … It works out in a really good … The alchemy works. Let me just put it that way, because I like the surprised when they hit me. Like last season with that big time jump hit, I didn’t know they were going to do that. So, when that script happened, it was like a big, “Whoa! Did not see that coming.” At the time, it felt like the only way these people, actually, are able to be in the same room together, you know. It’s with time. I mean that’s just the only way that that happens. The only way that that works out is by having a little bit of time.
Yeah. I mean there’s no formula to it, so I like knowing as much as I can know and I like the surprises. It’s such a concentrated thing making the season, you know, it’s like the words … We’re learning lines from one episode, filming another episode.
We all live together, me, Scoot and Mackenzie [Davis] and Toby [Huss] so it’s, you know, it’s like we’re always kind of talking about the show and talking about our lives. It’s just what this … I don’t know. We’re just kind of living in the world of the show in a way that’s kind of hard to define, I guess.
I think one of my favorite bits of filmmaking on the entire run of the show is the beginning of episode one, season four and the way that shows a passage of time and the filmmaking involved. Can you talk about when you first read the script and your reaction to that?
PACE: Yeah, when I read the script I was just super interested in the idea of what they were doing to actually represent, you know, with Gordon walking downstairs or an upstairs and kind of moving through that space … I always love on our show when we go into Gordon’s mind. When the photography expresses his ecological perspective. Since the first season, it’s been one of the territories in the show that I just find really compelling and to use that in this teaser or to kind of, you know, pass, what is it like two, three years? I just found that really interesting on the page, and then, we got Juan [José Campanella] back who directed our pilot and … You know, he’s one of my favorite directors that we work with, and he was technically able to maneuver that in such an interesting way, you know? It’s a real magic moment.
It’s a great oner and-
PACE: I haven’t seen it yet. I’m glad it’s turned out in a cool way.
Oh, it’s fantastic. I got to see the first three episodes of the upcoming season and it’s on the top of it’s game. But that beginning of episode one is really incredible. The way it’s … And you know this, the TV schedule is brutal and being able to pull off something like that takes time, so, you know, I think the Chris’ told me that was like a two day shoot.
PACE: Yeah. Yeah, yeah. Yeah, that was a long shoot.
And a lot of talk is … The way I look changes in it, so that was … We were trying to figure that out because I wanted Joe to look very different at the beginning of the season, because I think we’re finding him at the beginning of the season at a lower point than we’ve ever seen him before. I wanted to kind of … I felt it was important to represent that and how and everything about his energy and we really had that, you know, that … you know that big oner to do that in.
Well the other thing is that Joe has been professing the internet and believing in what’s coming for so long, and then at the beginning of season four he’s finally at that place that he’s been dreaming about and he’s sort of there alone.
PACE: Yeah, all alone. I mean the thing about Joe is that it’s not really a question about, if he’s right or wrong because he’s right. He knows he’s right and I think that, you know, Gordon kind of knows he’s right too, but it doesn’t matter, you know, because that not … It’s not the fact of him being right or wrong that’s ever an issue here. It’s the fact that there’s other factors, you know. There’s unreasonable people and him being one of them that seems to stand in the way of things actually moving forward.
There’s luck. I think luck, actually, plays such a hand in this story. You know Joe’s luck is really not the best. That’s life, right? It is. Like sometimes it just comes down to that, sometimes the deciding factor is luck.
Or being at the right place at the right time.
PACE: Yeah. Exactly
That’s actually happened a few-
PACE: He’s got the right idea. It’s just the … It’s the other things that don’t seem to be working in his favor.
When you’re playing a character like this for four years, and you’re so invested, and you know the show’s coming to an end, when you finally get that last script, and I don’t want to know any spoilers, what’s it like to sit down with it knowing this is the last time I’m going to read this and knowing, you know, this is the end.
PACE: Yeah. Well I think the thing about getting this fourth and final season is this opportunity to end it. You know, to write the last page of the novel, in a way. That’s what I think the Chris’ did so beautifully with how they finished the story for Joe is that there is an end to him. Like we leave him in a way that is … I mean, I think it’s perfect. It’s just is so perfectly in line with this character that we’ve been seeing all things drastically over these 10 years of story time.
His life has changed so drastically, from that person who almost ran over the Armadillo as he was kind of, you know, roaring into Dallas to do his thing.
He didn’t … You know, it’s like, he never would’ve contemplated that he could’ve failed the way he ended up failing. In everything that he’s done, you know? That he would be that person sitting in a basement that no one cared to listen to, collecting post it notes of people’s lame websites, not really knowing what he was going to do with it, because no one cared to listen. You know what I mean? It was just like, this … He never anticipated that place.
So, I think that the Joe we finish on is a similar, kind of … He never would’ve seen it coming, I certainly didn’t see it coming, but I … It’s feels absolutely appropriate.
I know that you guys, or at least I heard you guys, used to do wine night, or you’d have reading together on Sunday nights. I’m curious, what did you guys do for the final script as a group? Did you do anything special?
PACE: Well I was … You know, it was Kerry [Bishé] and McKenzie’s idea to save the script until we actually read it all together for the first time. I would’ve happily, kind of, taken out of my inbox and poured through it. But they kind of … I’m glad they did because it was really kind of a nice surprising moment to be sitting around our couch and read that episode together for the first time.
So much of this experience has been for us working on it in that way. You know, discussing it, kind of giving each other our point of views about the characters and about where the story’s going. So much of it has been all that work that we did together around a table, you know?
Sure. I know that with TV shows and with movies, sometimes scripts change a lot. When you were making Halt over course of the last four years, did it typically stick close to what you were sent, or, by the time you were shooting, did you have, like, a rainbow in front of you?
PACE: No, no. It’s usually … But it’s … I mean we work … The Chris’ are always game to hear our reactions to the first script, but we know that they thought this story through so well and the story that we’re telling, it’s very delicate, you know? It’s about … It’s people and their ambitions, and … You know, the things that happen in the story are subtle and there’s no, kind of right or wrong way that the stories go. It’s really, kind of, their observations of life but down on a page.
Hope that that answers your question in a very, kind of, around the houses kind of way is that, no, it doesn’t change at all, because they’ve thought it through so well and the story that they’re telling is clear to them. So, no, no, I mean, the changes are usually very, very minimal that we get. Once we get the script, then we give the script plenty of time to think about it, because they know that we need the time and they really value that we work on it the way that we do. So, they really make sure that we have the time we need before the episode shoots to work on the finished script.
One of the things that I really like about the show is that each season does what it needs to do and by the end of the season it might put characters in a corner. But one of the things I like about season four is after putting everyone in a corner at the end of season three, it does a time jump and that jump allows the characters to, sort of, come back together having changed and grown as a result of that time. Could you talk about that aspect of the show that each season is its own thing.
PACE: Well I think … What I can talk about is how Joe changes in that time jump. That teaser at the beginning, that big one-er is a big deal. Like that, I think, is one of the biggest transformations … It took a whole season inside that teaser, you know? That’s like the whole building of a company, and falling of a company that they’ve made inside that teaser of his browser project.
I wanted to, kind of, treat it in Joe’s mind like that, so that the Joe we get in the first act of the first episode, after the teaser, is someone that we’ve never seen before. That he is a failure. That he is beaten down in a way that he never even imagined he could be, so that he’s able to proceed with meeting these people with a different goal in mind.
Joe’s no longer interested … I mean he’s interested in the technology, but what he really wants is love, right? He just wants his friends with him and he wants to be working on … He just wants Gordon and Cameron in his life. It’s as simple as that. He’s humbled … Half the recognition of the Joe that we came to know. He’s just been humbled. Someone has died. He’s back to life with Cameron and then she’s left him hanging again. He’s just … He’s really starting from zero now. He’s got no rights. He’s got no value and he’s able to, kind of, be like, just, “Let me be me and you be you and we’ll be our weird selves in this life together, you know? We’re lucky enough to get to work on technology and be really talented at it. So let’s do that.” You know?
Totally. When you think back on the making of Halt and Catch Fire, what do you think you’re going to miss the most?
PACE: I will miss those table reads that we would do. I mean, it was just us. When, you know, if we weren’t on set filming it, we were just, you know, us, hanging around the couch, or around the table talking about the story and decoding the characters. I think that there was a spirited effort I really loved and such a unique combination of people that I just loved working with, and we were very lucky to get to work together for four years. That’s … very true to what I would look back on and think. It was pretty special and I miss it.
I was just going to say that I’m, obviously, I’m so looking forward to seeing the last seven episodes, but I’m assuming the Chris’ have stuck the landing and, if so, I think Halt is just one of those special shows where each season is so good, and hopefully more will discover over streaming and then in the coming years.
PACE: Oh wow, thank you so much. I really, really, really appreciate that. So, you’ve seen the first three episodes?
Yeah. I’m telling you, they’re as good as … They’re just great. The stuff between you and Scoot, the girl who’s playing the daughter and all that stuff.
It’s really, really well done.
PACE: Fantastic. Wait til you see her in this season. She’s … Susanna [Skaggs] is just, I mean … It was kind of like … You know when you’re working with an actor on set and you kind of forget your lines because they’re so good? She’s just so real and so prepared and the character she made is just mesmerizing, so I would kind of find myself in scenes with her and just be like … You know, more of just watching her do her thing and I would kind of forget where I was and think, “Oh, oh I need to wake up here.”
I think my favorite thing… Because you talk about how Joe has really been through ringer, and then there’s that bit, I think it’s in episode three, where you are with her and Gordon and you’re basically offering her $20,000 dollars for the idea. It’s just such a great bit of writing, and the acting, and the fact that Joe was oblivious that this girl is 14. He just sees talent.
PACE: Yeah. Yeah. That was really fun to shoot. That’s where I felt like, we were back into our rhythm again shooting those scenes. Yeah. It’s funny to hear about that, because so much has happened in this season, to kind of think back on that moment- That’s great.
I really can’t wait. But hey, before I run out of time with you, there’s two quick last questions. I know you were rumored to play John DeLorean in Driven, is that project still happening?
PACE: Oh yeah. I’m doing it again in a few weeks.
Oh you are? Can you talk about what it was like meeting with Nick [Hamm] and collaborating on this project? How did he pitch you on it?
PACE: Yeah, no, we’ve been working really hard on that. That’s been at the top of my mind these days. We’re rehearsing at the end of this week. It’s, yeah, I think this story is really, really interesting. I loved the research on it. There’s so much to find out about this guy. I mean, it’s going to be … Here’s one of things I’m really excited about with playing this character is to be … For example, Joe was a very … Somehow that character became very close to me. It’s like, he was just close to the … to me, you know?
DeLorean is the exact opposite of that. I’m not going to look anything like I look. It’s going to be like a real, kind of, different. Different than me in a way that I’m very, very excited about. He’s just a fascinating guy. He’s a fascinating guy who doesn’t really … People like that don’t exist anymore. He doesn’t say the right thing, you know what I mean? It’s like everyone is concerned about saying the right thing and being, you know, politically coming off well, and he never did. That’s something I really love about him.
Also, the thing is, that his car is legendary. I’ve heard some stuff about him and it’s just, the story’s incredible. One of the thing, though, about bio-pics, is sometimes it encompasses a huge amount of time, and, to be honest, that can sometimes weigh down a story because you have a two hour window. So, are you guys focusing on a bit of time?
PACE: It’s not a bio-pic in the way that bio-pics are done these days. It’s different than that. It’s different. It’s … I don’t know. We haven’t filmed it yet, so let me get into that … I don’t … We haven’t even … I haven’t even started talking to Jason [Sudeikis] about it yet.
Sure. Oh, I will completely leave it alone and we can do a follow-up after you’ve filmed?
PACE: Yeah, no. Let’s do that, because I … It’s really very much about the relationship between DeLorean and Jim Hoffman, who Jason Sudeikis is going to play. It’s the thing that I’m most excited about in the movie. So, that’s really, kind of, what it’s about. Yeah. It’s definitely happening. I’m really, really excited about it and I’ll be shooting it very soon.
My last question for you. I know you recently did, The Party’s Just Beginning, which is Karen Gillan’s first feature film. I know she’s made some shorts.
PACE: Yeah. Yeah. That’s … I haven’t seen it yet. I’ve done ADR for it so I’ve seen a few scenes. But, I just had the best time working with Karen and I’ve, you know, been on set with her when we’re both blue playing aliens in front of the green screen. To be on set with her as a director and an actor, it was just a real … It’s was just really, really cool and I’m really happy that she asked me to be a part of the film with her. She was so … I think she’s making a really cool movie here. It’s … I just had the best time shooting it. Really good time making the character, good time seeing her take on this different role and knock it out of the park.
Well the other thing is that we need more women directors, so anything I can do to help with that is a step in the right direction.
PACE: How great, because Karen is a woman.
I did hear rumors about that.
PACE: I think the movie’s going to be good. I think the movie’s going to be cool. I think it’s definitely unique.
Do you think that’s, like, a Sundance release?
PACE: You know, I don’t know. She asked me to play a part in it, but I’m not involved in any of the … I don’t know how they’re releasing it or what their next steps are for it. I don’t know. I have no idea.
I’ll leave it there, because you’ve been incredibly generous with your time.
Halt and Catch Fire season four is now airing on AMC Saturday nights.