Lee Pace as Joe MacMillan on "Halt and Catch Fire," probably thinking about computers. Credit: James Minchin III/AMC
If Lee Pace looks familiar, you’re probably a fan of 2007’s beloved but too quickly canceled “Pushing Daisies,” where he played Ned, a man who could bring people back from the dead. Or the similarly beloved but also canceled “Wonderfalls.” The actor, who says of working on “Pushing Daisies,” “It was a time in my life that I’ll never forget,” can next be seen in AMC’s newest drama, “Halt and Catch Fire.”
The title, explained in the first moments of the show, refers to a command on a computer that causes all activities to compete so heavily for focus that nothing can move forward and the computer has to be reset. The show itself is set in the early ‘80s in the days of the PC race. IBM had a virtual lock on the market, but that doesn’t stop Pace’s Joe MacMillan from trying to get in on the fun. He enlists a rebellious but brilliant college student (Mackenzie Davis) and an engineer (Scoot McNairy) struggling to accept the slightly humdrum turn his life has taken. Together, they try to create their own PC, all while avoiding legal trouble from IBM.
MacMillan, at least in the pilot, is a mysterious character. He appears as if out of nowhere, driving a fast car and heartlessly running over an armadillo. It’s symbolic of his take no prisoners attitude to life. “There’s a Steve Jobs comparison to be made,” says Pace. But don’t be too hard on Joe. “I love Joe," says Pace. "I believe in him. He’s a very complicated person. … At the end of the day, he just wants to make you a great computer.” That said, “Yeah, it’s fun to be bad. Who am I kidding. It’s fun to behave badly.”
Technology seems to be having a moment these days, with HBO’s “Silicon Valley” taking on the comedic side of the industry in the modern era. “Halt and Catch Fire” leans more dramatic, and you won’t see any apps quite yet because of the era in which the show is set. Though there are some funny hairdos to be seen, being a character in the ‘80s has its upsides. “The music is pretty great. I love the soundtrack to the show,” says Pace.
For all the shenanigans Pace is enjoying playing, he wants to remind viewers of one thing. “I’m not like that. Lee’s not like that. … Lee would swerve around the armadillo.”