Kerry Bishé stars as entrepreneur and fictional Mutiny startup founder Donna Clark on AMC’s 1980s computer industry drama, Halt and Catch Fire. Bishé recently sat down with uInterview to tease the upcoming third season of the hit series, and shared about what’s in store for her character and her burgeoning company.

KERRY BISHÉ VIDEO EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW

Halt and Catch Fire pulls back the curtain on the early days of personal computing, following the rise of several computer startups that would shape the tech industry for years to come. Touching on the emergence of issues like online privacy, antivirus software (complete with a version of John McAfee), and internet marketplaces, Donna Clark’s (Bishé) startup has finally made it to the big leagues, moving their offices to the now-infamous Silicon Valley. Juggling family life and her growing business, Clark struggles to find the balance between work and home. Bishé said that Clark’s new goals are an accumulation of her growing desire for success over the past few seasons. “She has all unbridled potential, which is exciting and frustrating, and I think we really got to see all of the stages of her recognizing that she had bigger ambitions,” she asserted.

Bishé is the first to admit that Donna Clark’s world was initially somewhat of a mystery to her, and it required some hands-on research to begin to understand her complex character. “My brother has a PhD in Bio-Chemistry, and so he set me up with a friend of his who is a computer engineer—among many other things—and I went to his garage in Pasadena, California. And we ordered some Speak & Spells, which is that old eighties toy, off of the internet,” she revealed. “We like took apart these Speak & Spells so I could see how they work, and we soldered some stuff.” At the end of this experiment, Bishé realized her know-how of the technology wouldn’t be her most important tool. “I remember the big lesson that I learned from that was my job is not to understand the way computers work: my job is to understand the way the people work who understand computers.” For Bishé, this meant shattering the perception of computer scientists as “anti-social” or as “nerds in their basements.”

A major talking point on Bishé’s role is of course Donna Clark’s position as a woman in a male-dominated industry. When asked about the inherent gender inequality her character faces, Bishé revealed some surprising statistics. “In 1984, 37 percent of computer science degrees were going to women; in 2012, 18 percent of computer science degrees went to women,” she said. “When people ask, “How is it playing a woman in a marginalized career in the 1980’s?” women are more marginalized in that industry today, which is shocking.” The actress has taken steps to combat the current inequality in the tech industry, partnering with the Geena Davis Institute on Gender and Media. “One of the things that Geena Davis’s institute says is, “If you can see it you can be it.” So, one of the ways to address the inequality in that industry is to just simply show more women doing it, more people of color doing it. It makes it feel like it’s possible for you to also have that kind of job.”

It helps that Bishé belongs to a highly supportive and collaborative cast, who frequently meet on weekends to help each other prep for the episode. “All of the actors get together to read the new episodes as they come out,” she revealed. “We have these whole workshop days on the weekends, on our day off. We just organize ourselves and get together and do our homework and do it together and try to figure out what the technology is and what it means, and how does this scene work in context of the bigger show, and everybody gives each other ideas, and I think it’s one of my favorite things about doing the job.”

You can watch season three of AMC’s Halt and Catch Fire on Tuesdays at 10/9c.

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Q: What does season three have in store for your character? -

This is season three, Donna has come a long way, which I am really happy to see. You know, when we met her, she has all unbridled potential, which is exciting and frustrating, and I think we really got to see all of the stages of her recognizing that she had bigger ambitions, the difficulties articulating that, and then season three, we start in California, the company, Mutiny, has moved to Silicon Valley, the big pond. And I think the scale of Donna’s ambitions is really allowed to grow.

Q: What is it like playing a woman in a marginalized career path? -

So, interestingly, I learned that in 1984—just to get wonky here for a second—in 1984, 37 percent of computer science degrees were going to women; in 2012, 18 percent of computer science degrees went to women. When people ask, “How is it playing a woman in a marginalized career in the 1980’s?” women are more marginalized in that industry today, which is shocking. So, I’ve talked to all of these people, like Google, a lot of people are really trying to address that issue, and one of the big ways they address it is about the representation of scientists in the media. So, ‘Halt and Catch Fire’ for instance, shows women—not just one woman—it shows a couple of different women working in the industry, and that’s a big way to change the perception of who can do a job. I was on a panel at Google a couple of weeks ago with Geena Davis’s Institute on Gender and Media, and they study the way that women are presented in movies and television on TV; they calculate screen time, speaking time, and there are a lot of different things you can learn from looking at the data, and one of the things that Geena Davis’s institute says is, “If you can see it you can be it.” So, one of the ways to address the inequality in that industry is to just simply show more women doing it, more people of color doing it. It makes it feel like it’s possible for you to also have that kind of job.

Q: Did you have to learn about the tech industry for the role? -

I am really a luddite in real life, we have record player at home and I collect typewriters. I don’t have that kind of brain. My brother has a PhD in Bio-Chemistry, and so he set me up with a friend of his who is a computer engineer—among many other things—and I went to his garage in Pasadena, California. And we ordered some Speak & Spells, which is that old eighties toy, off of the internet. They feature prominently in the very first episode of the series, and we like took apart these Speak & Spells so I could see how they work, and we soldered some stuff. I remember the big lesson that I learned from that was my job is not to understand the way computers work: my job is to understand the way the people work who understand computers. And I learned a whole lot; I think we have this big perception of computer people of nerds in their basements and they’re anti-social and I found that to be completely untrue in my experience with all of our consultants.

Q: What is it like working with this cast? -

This cast is one of the most eccentric groups of weirdos I have ever been in a room with. I mean, they are all truly weird people. Everybody gets together to read—all of the actors get together to read the new episodes as they come out. We have these whole workshop days on the weekends, on our day off. We just organize ourselves and get together and do our homework and do it together and try to figure out what the technology is and what it means, and how does this scene work in context of the bigger show, and everybody gives each other ideas, and I think it’s one of my favorite things about doing the job. It keeps you really connected and rooted to the characters and the story, and the—you know what the other people are going through, and on a lot of other shows you don’t get that benefit of really investing in the whole of the story, as opposed to your little piece of the puzzle. It’s been such a dream to work with Mackenzie. It’s like such a gnarly relationship that these two women have and it has so many different faces and movements in it, and I can’t think of a better partner than Mackenzie; it’s like, I love to watch her work, it’s like watching a wild animal or something. She’s so unpredictable and so completely invested, and it’s really been a pleasure.