Generally, the more an actor gets to play a character, the better the understanding of the role. That’s not been the case with Lee Pace, star of the AMC series “Halt and Catch Fire.”
“The more I work on this character, the less I think I know about him,” Pace says. “But, the more I look at myself, the less I know about myself. There’s this interesting moment I’m having, looking forward to season two, and not being sure if anything is true about him.”
“Halt and Catch Fire” is a series set in early 1980s that looks at a small company in the middle of the personal computer revolution. Pace plays Joe MacMillian, the driving force behind the company.
“Halt and Catch Fire” is a term for an instruction that stops operation of a computer’s central processing unit.
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Pace compares the series to Anton Chekhov’s “The Three Sisters” — both deal with themes of how life can get better. For his character, that means improving on the personal computer his company created with a little help from the competition.
Because Pace’s character is so elusive, he’s excited about getting a second season to continue his examination of the role. He’s also excited he to work with a strong supporting cast that includes Mackenzie Davis, Scoot McNairy and Toby Huss.
“The thing I like most about working on this show is that it feels like a theater company, except instead of doing the same show every night, we are getting different scripts every week,” Pace says. “We get together every week to talk about the scripts, challenge each other’s points of view. As hard as the work is, we enjoy it.”
Pace has worked on stage, TV and in film. His TV selections have included two highly touted fantasy series in “Pushing Daisies” and “Wonderfalls.”
When it comes to films, Pace has been in some of the biggest franchises of recent years. He played Garrett in “The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part 2” and Thranduil in the four “Hobbit” features. Pace also starred in “Guardians of the Galaxy” as Ronan.
Pace laughs at the suggestion he will only work in movies guaranteed to make more than $100 million. The success of the films has caused Pace to pinch himself, a lot.
“It’s been such a fun year. It’s always fun to be part of something that people want to go see,” Pace says. “I wish I could say there was some rhyme or reason for me being in those movies.”
Whether it is a monster film hit or a role in a cable series, Pace approaches work the same way.
“When you do this right, its less about the play or TV show or movie, and more about the investigation of humanity. I enjoy kind of taking the time and place of a character and letting that be unique factors that act on who the man is or the elf is. I find that very exciting. The research I did into this moment in American history is fascinating and forms who Joe is,” Pace says.
The role gets even more complicated by the relationship his character forms, which creates both excitement and fear for Joe. Pace likes the emotional elements because he believes unrequited love is only one heartbeat away from heartbreak.
The first computer Pace remembers sitting down in front of was a Commodore where he played a video game.
The second season of “Halt and Catch Fire” will examine the importance of games to the growth and success of the computer industry. At the same time Pace will be dealing with the tech elements, he will be trying to get a handle on the illusive nature of his character.
‘Halt and Catch Fire’
▪ 10 p.m. Sunday, May 31, AMC