In AMC’s “Halt and Catch Fire,” the 1980’s Silicon Prairie drama shot in Atlanta, Lee Pace (“Guardians of the Galaxy,” “Pushing Daisies”) stars as the Steve Jobs-esque Joe MacMillan, a brilliant but manipulative tech visionary. At the end of season one, Joe torched a truck full of Cardiff Giants, the computer he helped create, and left town on a soul-searching trek. In season two, which picks up nearly a year later in 1985, we find him back with a new girl, Sara Wheeler, and a new job at Dallas oil company Westgroup Energy (courtesy of Sara’s father).
We recently sat down with Pace at the show’s Doraville studio to chat about mid-life crises, why his character’s trying to “play better with others,” and his favorite cookies in Atlanta.
A lot has changed for your character Joe in season two.
Joe aimed really high last season; he was all in on building the Giant and ultimately came up with something that disappointed him profoundly. So this season he’s trying to do it right. I think it’s a very universal thing that people go though in their mid-30s. You think “What am I doing with my life? What kind of man am I?” Those are the questions Joe started asking himself at the end of last season. I’m in my mid-30s, [so] I relate to that.
Last season, Joe straddled the line between troubled-yet-good guy and power-driven antagonist. How do you see him?
He’s not a bad guy, that’s the secret to him. There’s an idea I’ve been playing with this season—the gods hate Joe. There is a sense that no matter how hard he works, he might fail, no matter how hard he tries to be agreeable to the people he’s with, they still don’t see him. And that’s this almost Greek condition of frustration.
Has he grown during the time jump?
Joe rubbed a lot of people the wrong way last season, but he was right about a lot of stuff. One thing he got really wrong was that everyone hated him all the time. So he’s trying to play better with others. He’s trying to figure out complicated life stuff like partnering up. Don’t underestimate how hard that is for Joe MacMillan to let someone into his life in the meaningful way. It’s a really, really big one. And I think he’s found the right person [in Sara].
How has your experience filming in Atlanta been so far?
I really love Atlanta. There’s incredible food, it’s easy to get around, I’ve got a great house. And our crew is incredible. It’s like this place is becoming sort of the center of the film industry in a bizarre way. Not bizarre, I don’t mean it like that, but it’s like “of all places?” A big part of that is that the crews are so good here. It’s not as though you’re outside LA and you don’t have the A-team. The A-team is already here.
Any favorite local haunts?
You know Murphy’s over in Virginia-Highland? I love Murphy’s. I’m in there at least 3 times a week because they’ve got those great cookies. I also like One Eared Stag and Empire State South.
Season two of “Halt and Catch Fire” premieres May 31 at 10:00 p.m. on AMC.