Scoot McNairy, who plays Gordon Clark on AMC’s Halt and Catch Fire, discusses Gordon’s frustrations in his marriage, why Gordon isn’t concerned about his health, and what it was like living with his castmates this season.
Q: Gordon and Donna’s marriage hit some rough spots last season, and Gordon was unsure that moving across the country would help. As Season 3 begins, how does Gordon think it’s going? Are things better or worse?
A: I think Gordon is really struggling. More than anything, he wants his family to be together and I think he sacrificed so much in the relationship just to keep the family together. He feels he’s doing everything he can to help, to make his wife happy and to facilitate her needs, dreams, wants and desires for progress in this company. And he feels like he’s at his wit’s end. I think he’s OK with taking a back seat. There’s nothing more that he wants than for his wife to succeed. Taking a back seat is not something that bothers him – it’s more so the way he’s been treated after he’s taken a back seat.
Q: He clearly isn’t thrilled about sharing living space with Cameron…
A: That’s another thing that he’s done for his wife and family, and to make everything work for them. He’s agreed to have [Cameron] live in the house, but he feels like he’s bending over backwards to make all this work and he feels he’s getting the short end of the stick. Having somebody else live in small quarters with two kids… he’s stressed at the moment. Like anybody in life, he feels like he’s working really hard and wants some sort of validation for that.
Q: Gordon seems to feel like he’s not being heard, both at work and at home. Is that what drives him to the Ham radio?
A: He’s getting back to tinkering with old things. I think him reaching out to find someone to talk to is something that spawns from that. I think he’s getting back to his roots to try to get inspired for a new idea. Through that, he starts to search for somebody who will listen to him.
Q: Clearly those marriage troubles bubble up again in Episode 3. Do you think Gordon revealed the affair because he lost control, or in some way, did he want it out in the open?
A: I think it’s a culmination of the way he feels – his lack of validation, his meandering and wondering what he’s going to do, and his place at the company. People say things that aren’t really what they want to say. What he’s really saying is what he says after that , which is, “I’m tired of being treated like this. I’ve done everything I can to make this work.” I don’t think his intentions are to get that out in the open. It was a miscommunication.
Q: How does Gordon’s continued health issues factor into this season? Are they making his life harder, or is his life making his disease worse?
A: He doesn’t care about the progression or regression of his health. It’s not something he can control. It’s just something he’s monitoring and I think he keeps note of those things because Donna’s making him do it. He definitely wrestles with it from time to time, but not as much as the people around him with their desperate concern. When you get a major medical issue in your life, there’s two ways you can look at it: You can stop and lie down and die, or you can pick up and keep pushing forward with your life. I think Gordon’s character is someone who just wants to keep pushing forward. Gordon is more concerned about leaving his legacy or creating that piece of technology that can change the world than he is about his health. What’s interesting about these three characters – Cameron, Joe and Donna – is that they don’t care about money. They care more about changing the world with technology and being remembered for how they changed the world. His health is the ticking clock, but he’s thinking about creating something before he dies.
Q: When Joe walked into that deposition, Gordon seemed paralyzed at first. What is it about Joe that has an impact on Gordon?
A: It becomes personal. As much as businesspeople say, “It’s business,” it’s our lives and it’s personal. Gordon is looking to hear an apology from Joe, and Joe just doesn’t feel like he’s done anything wrong. Going back to the money, Joe offers him 70 percent of his company but it’s clear he doesn’t care about the money. These people don’t have many friends. They’re all workaholics and don’t have many relationships in their life. To have a working relationship within a friendship is something I think Gordon really holds onto. He’s very fragile and sensitive to that relationship. It is business, but it’s very, very personal to him as well.
Q: Despite all Joe has done, is there some part of Gordon that does want to work with him?
A: I think Joe respects Gordon. Regardless of all the other things, Gordon knows that Joe really thinks Gordon is intelligent and he needs him. I think Gordon has a huge amount of respect for Joe because Gordon can’t do those things that Joe does, such as sell a product or come up with a great idea. At the same time, Joe can’t build a computer, can’t do hardware, doesn’t know software. He can’t do those things, but Gordon also can’t get up in front of a room of 1,000 people and pitch a product. They both have a lot of respect for each other but come from two totally different sides of the spectrum.
Q: Is Gordon jealous that Joe hired Ryan?
A: Of course. When Gordon didn’t take the offer to work at Joe’s company, Joe’s strategy – like always – is to take a hit to him personally. He takes the one person that Gordon found that understands him.
Q: We’ve seen Gordon with a mustache, a full beard and clean shaven. Do you have a favorite?
A: Gordon’s a person who’s lived a constant identity crisis and is constantly searching for who he is and what he wants. The facial hair, to me, is somebody who is constantly changing their look and appearance because they can’t figure out who they are. We’ll see Gordon struggle with that throughout the show because that’s just a character trait.
Q: You lived with several of your castmates while filming. How similar/different was that to what we’re seeing on the show?
A: It was great. It was an experimental idea for us to bring “home” to “work,” though we don’t bring much work home. The great thing about living with the cast is that when you’re working on a show like this, you’re constantly playing a character all the time, and it’s on your mind all the time. When you come home at the end of the day, you find yourself constantly talking about the show and the characters, so it gives yourself a soundboard to bounce ideas off each other and to be constantly immersed in the story. It lends itself to being completely submerged. These actors are incredibly dedicated and it’s a rarity that casts get together outside of work. We’re together all the time and we’re constantly talking about the show. Being an actor can be a lonely job at times, so it was nice to have friends around.
Halt and Catch Fire airs Tuesdays at 10/9c. Sign up for the Insiders Club to be the first to receive show exclusives.