AMC’s new fictional drama Halt and Catch Fire, premiering Sunday, June 1, at 10pm ET/PT, goes back to the early 1980s, when personal computing was in its infancy and Apple and IBM had the market cornered. Enter Joe MacMillan (Lee Pace), a former IBM exec with a chip on his shoulder and a vision to turn his new employer, Cardiff Electric, on its head. Joe enlists down-on-his-luck Cardiff engineer Gordon Clark (Scoot McNairy) to help him crack the IBM PC’s codes and put the screws to Big Blue.
Joining their team is computer prodigy Cameron (Mackenzie Davis), a brilliant but bored college student who gets kicked out of bars for hacking arcade games and conceived of the Internet long before Al Gore did.
“I think [Cameron] knows her @#$% and she’s surrounded by a lot of people in this world who talk down to her and underestimate her because she’s young and because she’s a woman and she has this sort of unfettered belief that she is brilliant,” Davis says.
Cameron distrusts the corporate world, but sees an opportunity to do something revolutionary. “I think she likes the idea of blowing the socks off of an established company,” Davis says. “Cardiff Electric is very old-school. It’s not a startup. It’s not a place where young people are sharing ideas. It’s an old corporation with old Texas bigwigs. I think seeing her struggle and fail and thrive in this environment is a really interesting part of this series.”
Aside from its compelling drama, Halt and Catch Fire offers a nostalgia trip with nods to Return of the Jedi and the Speak & Spell. Davis helped costar Kerry Bishé with some research for her role as Gordon’s wife, who works for Speak & Spell creator Texas Instruments. “We went and visited a friend of hers who is an engineer, and she bought a couple Speak & Spells off of eBay,” Davis says. “We took them apart and put them back together, and he coached us through the mechanics of it. As archaic as that machinery might be to us right now, it was still way over my head.”
Photo: Credit: James Minchin III/AMC