Toby Huss, who plays John Bosworth on AMC’s Halt and Catch Fire, discusses singing Frank Sinatra, Bosworth’s feelings about Diane Gould and how his trip to Texas hurt his relationships with both Cameron and his son.
Q: The season opened with you singing Frank Sinatra. How did that come about?
A: [Laughs] One of the writers saw a live Christmas show I did last year where I sing with a band, and I played a character who believes he might be Sinatra’s bastard son. So, they put it in there and it worked out pretty nicely. It was a fun thing to do and not totally out of character for Bosworth to do something like that. Bosworth is a dude who likes to sing, tell stories, carry on and bullsh-t, and maybe Sinatra is part of his repertoire.
Q: Bosworth seemed uncertain about making the move to California at the end of Season 2. How is he adjusting in Season 3? Does he think he fits in?
A: I think he’s actually taken to it pretty well. I think Bosworth has reached this point in his life without ever believing he was going to get there. He had a whole different life mapped out for himself but now that it’s here, I think he finds it pretty challenging and exciting. He’s embraced it. It was a little hard in [Episode 4] because he didn’t know if he was just this mascot or this Texan butt of a joke now and again, but I think we’re going to find him adjusting pretty well to life out there as the season rolls on.
Q: We’ve seen him struggle with being the old-school guy in a new world. Is that even more compounded in San Francisco?
A: He’s not insecure about the technology because he worked at Cardiff Electric and he knows that technology is coming and going. For him, it’s not about that. It’s about what the thing is in front of him and being able to sell that thing. If he’s got a group of people he gets along with, then great. If he doesn’t, then they might have to make some adjustments. There’s going to be some conflict there. His skill-set is in high demand but I think, socially, he’s off his game. He had a big social set in Texas. That’s where his family, friends and roots are. To uproot all of that and come west is a big deal, but like an old cowboy going west, he embraced it and he’s finding his way.
Q: He tells Gordon he doesn’t want to interfere with “the brain trust” of Cameron and Donna. What does he think his place is in the company?
A: Well, he’s a salesman at heart. That’s what got him in the door at Cardiff Electric and that’s what raised him through the ranks. It’s what old man Cardiff loved about the guy – he’s a great salesman. He’s got a massive amount of experience, so when these folks at Mutiny need someone to help them sell a product or make it seem like a legitimate thing, he’s there for them. He also acts as kind of a mentor or adviser to [Donna and Cameron] as they’re going forward.
Q: There seem to be sparks between Bosworth and Diane Gould? What does he make of her?
A: I think he’s slightly dismissive when she first walks into the room, when he was waiting there at Swap Meet. But then when she said, “Hey, let’s kick the doors off this thing if we’re going to buy it,” I think he really respected that and admired her business acumen, her straightforwardness and her pluck as a woman. It took him a little bit by surprise and I think it, more than anything, piqued his interest in her as a person and as a woman. They’re sort of dancing around each other at this point. Nothing in his former life said that he would be with such a progressive, smart and independent-thinking woman. I think he finds it refreshing.
Q: He gets a little peeved with her at Joe’s party. Did she spoil the fun when she mentions her ex?
A: Sure, it’s a spoiler for him. It’s a spoiler for any man! We’ll see how he rebounds and if he needs to rebound. Maybe he doesn’t. He’s a man that previously needed a relationship, but you have to wonder what kind of relationship that was. His ex-wife worked and she raised the kids while he did his thing. That wasn’t a great way to have a relationship. This is a man who probably shouldn’t be looking at a new way to interpret his world, but he is. He’s discovering a lot of stuff and one of the things he’s redefining besides himself as a man is himself in a relationship. It’s a big deal for him because he’s definitely not a “player.” He’s a good man and he’s going to try to hunker down with one woman. We’ll see if he can formulate a real, lasting relationship as we go forward.
Q: In Episode 5, he goes back to Texas. Does he see it as an escape from his struggles in California or a confirmation that he made the right move?
A: I think he initially goes back to see Texas again, to see his son and grandson, and to reconnect with that world. It’s his reclamation and his penance. He’s trying to make good again. Part of him goes back to help Cameron in a rough situation and part of it is him. That’s his place and those are his people. Maybe before he can really make a leap into San Francisco, he has to see these people one last time before he can feel good about the jump.
Q: His son says some hurtful things about him pretending to be a good father. How does that land on him?
A: Well, his son is right. John wasn’t there and he wasn’t a good father. John can’t force the boy to get over that. It’s going to take time, but at least Bosworth has put himself in the position to heal these relationships, which is pretty rare, I think. I’m glad they wrote that in his character, that he’s trying. He wanted to see his family to get some kind of unspoken permission about moving on with his life, while at the same time keeping contact with his son and playing an even greater part in his grandson’s relationship. He’s still trying to do what’s right by them.
Q: Does that fight lead him to cross a line with Cameron during their confrontation?
A: It’s not necessarily directly as a result of failing with his own son, but that has something to do with it. He has a unique, sweet relationship with Cameron and it’s not as a surrogate child. There’s a paternal element to it, but he knows that Cameron’s her own woman and she’s really smart. He also sees that she has some pretty heavy issues with her father to deal with. He does have paternal instincts towards her, but not as a replacement for his own son.
Q: How much does Cameron’s rejection hurt him? Does he feel justified in what he’s trying to do for her?
A: He just wants her to get over it faster than she wanted to get over it. Bosworth thinks he knows the answer and he’s giving her a shortcut, but that’s not what she needs. She needs to process it all and Bosworth needs to back off a little bit, but he’s a headstrong man and he’ll jump in there like a bull. He doesn’t always have the softest touch. He’s an old Texas businessman who cut his teeth in the ‘60s. [Laughs] There wasn’t a lot of room for internal dialogue and reflection back then. Cameron is redefining her relationship with Bosworth and he didn’t know it was going to get redefined like that. I think it’s hard for anybody to hear something like that and to have that terse exchange with someone. She’s hitting another level of independence in her life with her own father, with Bosworth, with Donna and with the company itself. She’s redefining her boundaries, and it ain’t easy.
Q: Your character gets a lot of the best one-liners and jokes. Do you also try to keep things light on set?
A: I don’t take stuff too seriously on set, and I mess around a lot. When the scene calls for it and it’s a heavy scene – like a couple of episodes ago when Donna had some drinks at lunch and came in and talked about her marriage, that wasn’t a f-ck around day. I really respect the other actors, the words and the things we’re doing. But if it’s me singing in front of the coders, well there’s a lot of bullsh-t flying around the whole day. That’s fun. [Laughs]
Q: Bosworth is a fan favorite. Why do you think people connect with him?
A: I connect with him because, as much as he doesn’t seem to be on the outside, he really is an outlier and iconoclast. For a man to be a regular business guy in the ‘60s and reinvent himself as this open-minded and savvy guy who’s facile enough emotionally and socially to be able to move on to San Francisco with a bunch of kids – that’s pretty great. I think people like a good guy who can do something like that and who isn’t just acting in opposition. He might not understand what the hell these kids are doing, but he wants to contribute to that world. And everyone likes a guy running around in zipper boots and polyester pants!
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