Lee Pace on Halt and Catch Fire's Computer-Pioneer Antihero, Plus Pushing Daisies & Hannibal Dreams

Lee Pace Halt and Catch Fire

The hero of AMC’s newest series, Halt and Catch Fire (premiering this Sunday at 10/9c), is a fictional visionary at the dawn of the computer era — and possibly a bit of a sociopath, too.

Lee Pace (Pushing Daisies) plays Joe MacMillan, a former IBM sales executive who weasels his way into a job at Cardiff Electric, part of the burgeoning midwestern tech industry. He then recruits their engineer, Gordon Clark (played by Argo‘s Scoot McNairy), as well as rebellious student/programmer Cameron Howe (That Awkward Moment‘s Mackenzie Davis), to reverse-engineer his former employer’s computer. And he’ll stop at nothing and spare no one’s feelings to accomplish his goal because “there’s a bigger purpose,” says Pace. “Now some might say that’s sociopathic,” but the label may not stick if Joe succeeds at revolutionizing the technology.

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Below, Pace defends his “a–hole” character and previews his rocky romance with Cameron. He also reveals his hopes for a Pushing Daisies Broadway musical and the role he’d like to play on Hannibal.

TVLINE | This is your first regular TV series since Pushing Daisies, which was a decidedly different show. What has this experience been like for you?
The piece maker could not be more different than the pie maker in a thousand, thousand ways. Everything about it is different — different network, different creators, different love story, different skill set. [Laughs] I hear Joe criticized as kind of an a–hole. But he doesn’t kill people.

Lee Pace Halt and Catch FireTVLINE | I find it interesting that you said love story because in the pilot, it doesn’t seem like the most romantic connection between Joe and Cameron. How does that relationship develop?
I don’t want to say too much. I probably shouldn’t have even said love story. But she’s irresistible to him, absolutely irresistible. Meeting her in that classroom is the reason he wants to make that computer. He wants to make the tool — and put it into her hands — that will change the world, because she needs it. If I can take this technology out of corporate America and put it into that girl’s hands, we live in a different time. That’s what Joe means [when he says], “It’s not about the thing. It’s the thing that gets us to the thing.” It’s culture that interests him.

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TVLINE | This is a fictional show, but you’re talking about an object that is very real and a period in history that’s very real. How much do real events play into the first season, like the rise of Apple?
Joe’s aware of Steve Jobs. He knows that he’s working on something very cool on the West coast, and he wants to beat him. Joe believes in himself, believes that he has something to offer, this technology. … Sixty companies were trying to develop computers [at the time] with much more resources than Cardiff Electric. But Joe knows that it doesn’t matter. IBM’s resources, the leagues of white dudes in suits and corporate money and corporate interests – who cares? Who cares about any of that stuff? All we have to do is make the most awesome machine that we could make. And if we succeeded at that, people will want it. Then we’re in. And then we can build the next thing and the next thing and the next thing. Then we’re bringing about the millennium. That’s innovation. That’s the whole spirit that drives Joe MacMillan. And when you know that you’ve got millions of people hungry for this technology that’s going to change their lives, why would I care if Gordon’s feelings are hurt? Why would I care if [Cardiff Electric boss] Bosworth is a little ticked off that I had taken over his company? [Laughs] There’s a bigger purpose. Now, some might say that’s sociopathic, but it all depends on whether or not Joe wins. If he wins, if he succeeds in what he set out to do, then he’s a risk-taker. He’s a pioneer. He’s someone who overcomes obstacles. If he fails, he’s an a–hole.

TVLINE | This might be a question for the producers, but is it just a coincidence that the word “Mac” is in his last name?
Yeah. Question for the producers. I didn’t choose the name. I love it. When I would write emails to them, I would refer to him as the Joe Mac. [Cameron is] Cam Dos.

TVLINE | There’s sort of a slick Don Draper salesman quality to him.
It’s a mask. When I say in the pilot episode, “I’m done doing business like that,” he means it. But that way of doing business is effective. So if I have to wear those shoes to get in the door and then start running this thing the way I want to run it, I’d better wear that mask for a while. But you tell me if you think he’s like Don Draper after Episode 3.

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TVLINE | He’s a much darker character than Ned the pie maker. Was that really appealing to you to shed that image?
Like I said, he doesn’t kill people. It’s a different character. I’m so fortunate to have a diverse list of characters put in front of me. Gosh, whenever I’d get one of them, too, I’d think, “Oh, he’s going to be nothing like me.” The very first movie I did was called Soldier’s Girl. The transformation was so great in it that I thought, “I’m never going to recognize myself in that.” But I watch it and I do see myself. I see myself fall in love. I see so much more of myself than I ever expected to see. With Ned, who knows if it’s that the character imprints on you or if it draws things out of you that you didn’t know were there. But yes, I absolutely feel like Ned is me. And after doing a season of this show, I feel like, in a way, I have never been more revealed in a character. I never would have guessed that from reading the pilot. I never would have thought that this man would be so close to who I am, and it really, really turned out to be that. There were times that I thought those writers were in my head and I was like, “Guys, what’s going on? Are you reading my sleepless nights?” [Laughs]

Pushing Daisies Broadway MusicalTVLINE | People really connected with Pushing Daisies. They still love it. What do you think it is about the enduring appeal of that show?
I don’t know. I remember doing [press] for Pushing Daisies, launching the show, and trying to explain what it was about. “Ned can touch dead people back to life, and if they lived for longer than a minute, then someone else would die. And if I touched them for a second time, then they would die. And I touch my child sweetheart back to life, then I can never touch her again.” It’s a such a only-out-of-the-mind-of-Bryan-Fuller kind of show. It’s one of those magical, odd things. I don’t know what it is. But I do know that I fell in love with Anna Friel, absolutely fell in love with her. I saw her in New York recently because she’s doing a new show this season [NBC’s Odyssey]. We had such high hopes for [Pushing Daisies]. We’re proud of it, made something special. And it means so much to me that people, even if they didn’t discover it at the time, are starting to discover it now because we worked hard on it.

TVLINE | [Creator] Bryan Fuller has talked about wanting to do a Pushing Daisies Broadway musical. If that happens, would you like to be involved?
Yeah, totally! I’ve always wanted to do a musical. Always been kind of curious about that. I can’t let my career end without doing a musical. So I would, yeah. I’d totally be game for that. It sounds actually really fun. It’d be fun to get the band back together.

TVLINE | It seems like the perfect venue for that sort of story, too.
Oh, we had so many musical episodes, so many songs in the show. It could be perfect. Can’t you just imagine The Pie Hole on stage? Perfect, right?

TVLINE | Has Bryan actually talked to you about it? Or is this just fans being wishful?
Might be a little bit of that. But Bryan feels as strongly about this show as I do, obviously. We always talked about different ways to get back with Ned because it ended so abruptly. It was unsatisfying for us, and it would be great to conclude it.

Lee Pace HannibalTVLINE | What about a guest spot on Hannibal?
I would love to. I love that show. What an incredibly eclectic series of shows Bryan Fuller has made. What he’s doing is so cool with my beloved Caroline Dhavernas, my little sister [on Wonderfalls]. So I would love to play someone twisted and dark on Hannibal.

TVLINE | Put Joe to shame, do something really dark and sociopathic.
Well, you just wait! You wait and see what he gets up to this season, Joe. He’s complicated. Very, very, very complicated.

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23 Comments
  1. Francine says:

    Thanks for the Interview! I can’t get enough of Lee Pace. I first saw him in Soldiers Girl and he was amazing. And Pushing Daisies…. Sigh. I have never gotten over that cancellation. This show doesn’t seem like something I would normally get into but I love Lee so much I have to give it a try. I’ve missed seeing him on my TV screen.

  2. Will says:

    I think I’ve loved every project Bryan Fuller has done. I definitely have plans to rewatch Pushing Daisies this summer… and if they did a Broadway show I’d be there in a New York Minute!

  3. ME says:

    I’m still upset about Pushing Daisies! This show looks pretty interesting though, so I’m in.

  4. Babybop says:

    He’s just so freaking cute I don’t know how I can see him being someone mean… I’ve been rewatching Pushing Daisies lately (after I binged Wonderfalls and Hannibal I just had to) and he is SO good in it. I’ll watch his new show most definitely.

    And if they do a Pushing Daisies musical, I will fly out to New York and be there for opening night.

    • Steve F. says:

      You want to see him as mean, watch him in The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug.

      Still, good to see Lee Pace!

  5. Jackie says:

    If the original cast and creator made a musical, I’d find a way to make my way to NY from MN in a heartbeat! I would really love if they would do a wrap-up movie (like Serenity for Firefly) because of the gorgeous production values as well.

  6. Bryce says:

    Can’t wait to see those sexy eyebrows back on my TV screen!

  7. Shaun says:

    Ack!!You didn’t ask him about Hobbit or Guardians of the Galaxy!!

  8. Dani says:

    Lee Pace and Hugh Dancy. Can we just get all the good-looking British actors into one show please?

    • Francine says:

      I wouldn’t mind seeing those two together but Lee’s not British. He was born in Oklahoma and mostly raised in Texas. Yes I know too much about him :)

      • Dani says:

        Lol the Hobbit got to me. I thought he was British. My bad. Nevertheless, he fits perfectly in Hannibal.

  9. Jennifer says:

    Thanks for the wonderful interview. I fell in love with Lee and Pushing Daisies and it’s vice that all the cast still have so much enthusiasm for that show. If a Pushing Daisies revival ever comes to fruition, I’ll be there with bells on. In the meantime, this sounds like a great role for Lee and I wish him the best.

  10. Qissy says:

    I would love to see a sibling Wonderfalls reunion on Hannibal. Lee and Caroline have terrific chemistry. Lee Pace can play a dark, deranged patient of Alana’s and my life will be complete.

  11. Angela says:

    Awww, he seems like a total sweetheart of a guy :). I loved what he had to say about “Pushing Daisies” and Anna, and if they do a musical, I’d love to find a way to see it, maybe on TV or something (since I don’t live in or anywhere near one of the big cities where such a thing would probably take place).
    This new show of his sounds intriguing. I’ll have to give it a look this weekend. Thanks for the interview!

  12. 951777756 says:

    A Pushing Daisies Broadway musical is a terrible idea. So many people never get the chance to go to New York. I would prefer a movie, Veronica Mars-style: limited theatrical release, then quickly out on DVD/digital.

  13. Pix says:

    Lee Pace as Francis Dolarhyde, anyone? I know that’s very unlikely for him to have time for anything more than a quick guest appearance, but a girl can dream…

  14. Joey Padron says:

    Great interview. Lee was great on Pushing Diaries. I watched first episode of his new show online. It was good. Looking forward to see more episodes of show.

  15. Amy says:

    Thank you so much for this interview, Lee Pace is so private that whenever he does and interview, whether its print or video its excciting for me. I’m so happy Lee is back on the small sceren after Pushing Daisies. It was such an amazing show, I do not understand how it ever got cancelled. I think it was ahead of its time, I still watch that show on Netflix, I actually watched last night. Ned and Chuck’s relationship was so sweet, sometimes I cried, their love was so pure ahhhh Lee Pace looked like the perfect disney prince. Í hope there is a way to bring Pushing Daisies back to life, I’m excited by that possibility. Lee was also amazing in The Fall, I cried and cried when I watched that movie but it had some funny moments too. Lee is such a talented, handsome and sweet guy, he deserves more success than he’s had, but that’s about to change I think. He’s been in some pretty big movies last year and this year too The Hobbit Battle of the five armies and Guardians of the Galaxy. Halt and Catch fire was great too, I think AMC has a huge hit, if you haven’t seen it you definitely should. Joe his character is a jerk, but I do like when Lee plays a sexy bad boy lol

  16. veniascott says:

    I myself have never watch Pushing Daises so Lee is a new face to me. but I do love his new show halt and catch fire and maybe I will go back and catch pushing diaies. He is very hott and love him in the role of Joe. Oh by the way seen epsiode 3 already, don’t want to give anything away but, he is by no means a clone of don draper after you see that episode. Great interview I get to know him more since he is new to me.

  17. Soleil says:

    Thank you for the interview I have been looking for interveiws on Lee pace and the Show, It’s promoted enough. FRom the content of the interview I ma even more looking foward to the episodes to come :) Especially the depth of Joe’s true nature and the show they will be making a PC and Cameron