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 business and creative decisions that helped mold the rise of the personal computer in the 1980s. With the series’ fourth and final season, the show has entered the 90s and confronted the reality of the World Wide Web.
While the ratings on Halt and Catch Fire have never matched the greatness of the show, creators and showrunners Christopher Cantwell and Christopher C. Rogers have continued to produce an intricate and enveloping world with rich characters. Each year, the AMC series has offered consistently engaging storylines that center on men and women at the forefront of personal computing. They’ve also provided a more convincing and alluring vision of what it was like to live in the era. Indeed, alongside the perceptive writing, the show has always boasted a detailed production design and stylish 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 currently airing on Saturday nights on AMC, I was luckily able to land an exclusive interview with Mackenzie Davis. She talked about if they thought they’d get a fourth season at the end of season three, if she can watch herself on screen, her reaction when she read the series finale script, memorable moments from making the show, and so much more. In addition, she talked about getting to work with Roger Deakins on Denis Villeneuve’s Blade Runner 2049, how they only shot with one camera, and getting to work with Jason Reitman and Diablo Cody on Tully. Check out what she had to say below.
Collider: Over the past few years, you’ve landed some high profile projects. Do you feel now like you’ve made it as an actor in Hollywood or do you still feel like you’re sneaking around the system?
DAVIS: I think that. I wonder when that goes away. I think the second option; that you think you’re sneaking around. I don’t know when that goes away. Maybe it doesn’t have to go away. I think I’ve become more … What’s the right word? I think I’ve become less scared, where I feel more confident in not working and only taking things that I really love then I did in the past. Other than that, you’re always like “When are they going to pull the plug on this?”
When you were making Halt Season 3, did you feel like this is it? Or did you really think that you guys had a chance for a fourth season?
DAVIS: Well, we’ve always thought this is it. There’s never been a season where we thought we were going to come back. Which is no comment on the quality or the experience making. It’s always been each year better than the last in all regards, in my opinion. I saw something the other day that was like, if you combined every episode of Halt viewer numbers over the past three years, the combined number is a low that the Walking Dead hasn’t seen since early Season 3. There were facts that were against us and real logistical things that were not comforting. We had — especially in the second season, and then going into three so much, and going into four even more — the sense of support from a small community of people who really dug the show. That’s made it feel really worthwhile and special that even if it’s not a runway success, that there’s people who really care about it.
I’ve seen the first three episodes of season four and they’re fantastic.
DAVIS: I haven’t seen any!
Oh, they’re good. They’re really good.
DAVIS: Oh, cool.
If the Christophers end up sticking the landing with the fourth season, I really think that it’s going to be one of those shows that people find over the course of the next few years and binge through, and be like “How did I never watch this when it was on the air?”
DAVIS: Well, they’re not invited to come into to the party, that’s only original fans.
I’m also convinced that the Christophers have some sort of blackmail on some of the AMC execs, because it doesn’t make sense that the show managed to get four years. The ratings honestly, are not fantastic. But, the scripts and the production design, and the stories are so good.
DAVIS: I don’t get it, other than there’s a huge set of cash cows that dominate our network. That does give you some freedom to take chances on things. Even if that chance isn’t met with a huge audience response, when they’re another critical passion. People within the network can stick around, I think, for a while. That’s the most naïve view of it, just that they loved it and had to keep it around. I’m sure that’s not, or I’m just not privy to anything else. So, I choose the nicest version of it.
Absolutely. Also, it could be that one of the heads of the network is just a fan of the show and is saying “Fuck it.”
DAVIS: Yeah, that’s what I think. They’re like, “I just like this show, so what? Who cares if no one watches it?”
I’m forever grateful as a fan of the show. I say thank you everyone at AMC that was involved in giving the show a fourth season and being able to end on your own terms.
DAVIS: Jesus, same.
When the seasons begin, do the Christophers pull you aside and give you an idea of where it’s all going? Or do you prefer reading it script by script?
DAVIS: I prefer the former. I’m on a little bit of a time crunch this year, because it was a later pick up and we had a specific spot that we were fitting into. So, normally we don’t go into the writer’s rooms, [but] at the beginning of the season we have a big conversation and this year, I think it was just because of everybody’s whereabouts, dinners. But, we had to do dinners with the Chris’s in the Valley. They told me what they were thinking and we got to catch up and start on the same page about the characters in the show, which is so valuable to have that time with them and to sort of go into the season.
Especially in this last season, to sort of be like “I know where I’m going here.” I think that life could just surprise us the whole time, cause that’s what happens to human beings and you never know what’s going to happen. But, I think if somebody’s going to kill their coworker in episode two, you kind of need to know that they resent the coworker in episode one.
DAVIS: There’s a red herring, but yeah. I think it’s important and I appreciate it.
I absolutely love the second episode of the fourth season. It’s basically a long phone call between you and Lee Pace. That’s the type of thing that would never happen nowadays. I vividly remember doing this years ago, because that’s how you connected before the internet.
DAVIS: Oh my god, yeah.
What was it like …
DAVIS: People just hung out together on the phone all the time, it was so … Sorry to …
No, I want to touch on that. It’s something that I don’t think people are going to realize. But, that is the way people connected, was that.
DAVIS: Yeah. Not Facetiming and not finding these other ways, but just sort of walking around your house and pacing around. Having lulls in the conversation, like “what are you doing now?” “Oh, I’m just making some crackers” and then going on with it. I used to do that in college when my best friend moved away. We had a long distance relationship and we would just grocery shop together and talk all day on the phone and non-stop chatting, just so that we could spend time with each other like we would, if we were in the same place.
Absolutely. When you got that script, what was it like reading that on the page and what was it like working and playing that scene?
DAVIS: The Chrises had told me that there would be an episode that was just for Joe and I, our part of the episode, just us talking on the phone all the time. My heart soared at that prospect. Then shooting it was really great, because we had my hotel set and Joe’s apartment set were right next to each other. We both just had earphones in, so we were speaking in real time and we didn’t have to do coverage of the other person, do the scene a million times. We spoke to each other on the phone in isolated sets for two days and it was so nice to not know what the other person was doing, to not know what, I don’t know how they were engaging. If they were still, if they were moving, if they were building a house of cards, anything. You just don’t know what the other person’s doing. That’s real and exciting to be left out of it a little bit. It got to be really in the moment for us.
Did you ask AMC to not show you the episodes before they air? Or, are you planning on watching them with other members of the cast?