The promotional materials for the first season of AMC’s ’80s-set computer drama Halt and Catch Fire foregrounded three of the show’s characters: Lee Pace’s executive Joe MacMIllan, Mackenzie Davis’s coder Cameron Howe, and Scoot McNairy’s systems builder Gordon Clark. But in the key art for season 2, which you can exclusively see above, that trio has become a quartet with the addition of Kerry Bishé’s Donna, the wife of Gordon.
Does this mean Donna plays a more important role in season 2, which premieres Sunday, May 31? Or did Bishé get a better agent between seasons? “No,” laughs the actress over the phone from Atlanta, GA., where Halt and Catch Fire shoots. “The story developed, and it really asked for a stronger presence from that character. Obviously, I am very excited about that and I’ve had some very fun, juicy things to do this season.”
According to Bishé, a lot of that juiciness involves the relationship between her character and Cameron, who at the end of season 1 successfully convinced Donna to help her run the coder’s company, a start-up named Mutiny. “The business relationship between Cameron and Donna is a very different kind of relationship,” she says. “It’s a prickly one, for sure. But what I love about it from the very beginning is that it’s two people that really deeply respect each other and are trying to work it out. It’s no less contentious, [but] it is more collaborative. Not to be too grandiose about it, but I think the stories they’re interested in telling are underdog stories. And being a woman in tech in the mid-’80s was an underdog position. Having Donna and Cameron both at the center of that does some very interesting things for the questions they want to ask with the show.”
So where does all of this leave McNairy’s Gordon—who, last season, used the tech-savvy Donna as his secret weapon in the development of the Giant computer?
“In season 1, it was always Gordon who got to pursue his dreams,” says Bishé. “It’s Donna’s turn to spread her wings and see where that takes her, and he’s going to play the supporting role for her career now. So this season explores what happens when that dynamic is at play in their relationship. [That causes stress], but maybe not the kind that you would imagine.”
In the period between the shoots for the first and second seasons of Halt and Catch Fire, Pace was seen by millions playing the villainous Ronan in Guardians of the Galaxy. Does the actor often mention the fact that he co-starred in 2014’s third-highest-grossing movie? “Yeah he likes to point that out,” deadpans Bishé. “No, he doesn’t at all. We heard some fun stories about green screen, but that’s where it ended.”
One last question: I’ve been having a bit of trouble with my work computer. Any chance you could help? “No,” says Bishé. “I’m going to have to refer to you my brother, who’s a PhD. in biochemistry. He’s really good with that stuff.”