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Halt and Catch Fire Q&A – Kerry Bishé (Donna Clark)

Kerry Bishé, who plays Donna Clark on AMC’s Halt and Catch Fire, shares her favorite thing about Mutiny and how Donna and Cameron have inspired one another.

Q: Last season, Donna was fired and now she’s head engineer for Cameron. Did you see that coming, or was it a total surprise?

A: That was a pretty big surprise. Also, just for the record, Donna didn’t really put up a big fight when she got fired. She was asking for it. [Laughs] I think the way that Cameron and Donna become affiliated was a really big surprise for me and the audience.

Q: Mutiny seems like a revolutionary work environment for the time. How much of a change is it for Donna – and you – to work there?

A: It’s a place where Donna can really spread her wings, test her mettle a little bit and let her creativity blossom. Interestingly, it was also a really great opportunity for me as an actor to get into some really juicy material.

Q: It seems like they even changed your outfits… which do you prefer, corporate Donna or Mutiny Donna?

A: Mutiny Donna, 1,000% percent. The best part about it was not having to wear pantyhose and heels every day! It really makes my life so much better on a daily basis. Everyone makes fun of my high-waisted pants, but I love them.

Q: Talk about the dynamic between these two characters now. Donna seems to be the pragmatic one, while Cameron is a total free spirit. Do you think they complement each other?

A: Yeah. One of my favorite things about this show is that it feels like it’s about all of the different personalities that are required to make a successful product. They need a Joe MacMillan to package and sell; Joe MacMillan needs a Gordon Clark to get down to the nitty-gritty; and Donna and Cameron really need each other. It frustrates them, but they know they can’t do it alone. I love working with Mackenzie [Davis]. I also think that Donna and Cameron have a really great working relationship because although it is contentious, they both really want to solve the problem. They both have deep respect for each other. Last year, we saw a lot of manipulation and lying, but this year, it’s a lot more about collaboration. Sometimes, that means friction, but it’s a very different working environment.

Q: Do you tend to be “the mother of the group” much like Donna is?

A: [Laughs] No, thankfully, I wouldn’t want to be a fun-killer every time.

Q: Did you understand most of the tech lingo your character used, or did you learn a thing or two?

A: In the first season, I really tried hard to do my homework and learn as much as I could about the actual technology. It was not effective. [Laughs] But I did learn what I do need to know and what I don’t need to know. I need to look like I’m really good at something, so I need to know where to put my hand or the pronunciation and emphasis of something in a sentence. That stuff is complicated, but it’s not about learning the technology. It’s about learning about the people who learn about technology.

Q: How does it feel to portray such an ambitious woman, along with Cameron, in a field mostly dominated by men?

A: It’s interesting because these two women are making this video game company, and right now there’s this great vitriol in the world for women in the gaming community. I think it’s important to show women doing these things and who are facing steep challenges. At the same time, we don’t spend a lot of time as characters talking about it or ascribing our difficulties to our gender – and I think that’s important, too. They run up against sexism in their field, but they’re not using it as an excuse.

Q: Have you gotten a chance to speak to any other female engineers out there today? If so, how did it help you?

A: With doing a show like this, people really come out of the woodwork and say things like, “Oh my sister worked for IBM in 1983” or “My mom did that,” so I have gotten to talk to both men and women who’ve worked in the field. That’s one of my favorite things about it. I think it helps it feel real. We like to put rose-colored glasses on when we look at the past, so I think it legitimizes and validates the struggles they were going through.

Q: When Donna and Cameron steal back their money from the guy who ripped them off in Episode 202, is that a sign of a new Donna?

A: I think about that whole gambit as a way that Cameron has influenced Donna. Her free-spirit has rubbed off on her a little bit. I think you see these two women really affecting each other. They have such respect and admiration for each other. Cameron’s growth over the season goes from childish to really taking charge and I think that’s largely due to Donna’s prodding. Likewise, I think Donna really gets to enjoy the sense of independence and she really flourishes. Cameron really ignites her ambition.

Read an interview with Scoot McNairy, who plays Gordon Clark.

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