Scoot McNairy, who plays Gordon Clark on AMC’s Halt and Catch Fire, discusses how Gordon found contentment in Season 4, Gordon’s poignant goodbye, and his final days on set.
Q: What were your feelings going into this season knowing it would be the last one for the show? Did it impact your approach at all?
A: It was less pressure than it usually is. I thought it was such a virtue that AMC told us that it was our last season. Seasons 1, 2 and 3 were left open-ended and I remember having this feeling that there would be no closure to this story if we didn’t get renewed. I’m very grateful that we could wrap up the story. The creators did such a good job at wrapping up 40 episodes and a decade in the computer industry. It gave me a sense of comfort, actually.
A: I think by now, Gordon has a very clear finger on Joe as someone who constantly pushes people. That’s what he does and it informs his personality. For him to antagonize him about not building is something that Gordon’s become aware of and it’s just not as poignant. Gordon’s also, I feel, in a place of contentment. He’s very happy with what he’s done and where he’s at. His health [condition] has subsided, he’s got this great company, he’s working and he’s happy. That’s a place we haven’t seen him in during the three seasons before.
Q: How do you think Gordon has adjusted to his post-marriage life? Do you think he appreciates the arrangement he now has with Donna?
A: From his perspective, it is working. Relationships are tough and you have to work hard at them. The two of them worked hard, but in the end, it didn’t work out. It seems to me that it works much better for the two of them to be separated. When people have two kids together, you can divorce but you’ll always be in each other’s lives. They’re doing their own separate things and their kids keep them connected as well as the computer industry. They’ve matured over the decade we’ve seen them and they can work in an environment together and have a copacetic relationship.
Q: Gordon is obviously conflicted about letting Haley work at Comet. How does Gordon feel about himself as a father? Does he worry about his daughter taking on the traits of her parents?
A: With Gordon having seen so many sides of the business, there’s always a concern and you want what’s best for your children. Gordon takes both of these things into consideration. He sits down with her and is very clear, like, “We can do this, but on one condition: if it becomes not fun, then walk away.” It was a really difficult time for Gordon in this industry with the cutthroat of the business and those are the things he wants to avoid for his daughter. As a parent, he’s trying to do the best he can in the situation he’s in. You can figure out how to raise a 13-year-old and by the time you figure it out, they turn 14 and you have to figure out how to raise a 14-year-old. It’s a constant churning hurdle when you’re trying to be the best parent you can be.
Q: In Episode 5, Gordon jumps into a new relationship with Katie. How would you describe what that relationship means for Gordon? What about her piques his interest?
A: Katie is everything that Donna’s not. There’s a certain attraction there and it’s a polar opposite of where he was in the years he spent with his wife. She’s incredibly intelligent and witty and fun. He’s swept off of his feet. She has all these things that he enjoys and loves and yet, she’s completely different than what he fell in love with in his past relationship.
Q: Why do you think Gordon worries so much about the impact Cameron has on Joe?
A: He truly does care about these people and he loves them in different ways. Seeing their relationship and knowing them so well and how the dynamics of each of them work, he’s just trying to say, “Look, I want it to work out for you guys, but you guys are toxic with each other. Maybe that’s what makes each of you tick and what drives you.” It comes out of a place of love and caring. He wants them to both get what they want out of life and this relationship, but it becomes toxic every time they’re together.
Q: In Episode 7, Gordon dies suddenly. How much did you know about Gordon’s arc before the season began? What was your reaction when you found out Gordon was going to die?
A: I was notified at the beginning of the season and the question I had was: when? From the creative standpoint, they wanted to end the show on a good note and not with Gordon dying. There was a debate whether it would be in Episode 7, 8 or 9. I was happy that they were paying tribute to a story and illness that gave a certain realism to the show. These things do happen. Unfortunately, he’s a guy who the other characters on the show didn’t necessarily lean on in the past and now in Season 4, we have these characters really leaning on Gordon. To build on that and take that away was a great conflict in the storytelling. It gave me full closure to the show and to the character. It’s clear he’s done his work and fought really hard for his innovations in this business. He finally gets to place of contentment with love and his company and his daughter. It almost felt like his work was done and it was time to go.
Q: Gordon seemingly was in a good place when he died, though he left the relaunch of Comet unfinished. How do you feel about that as an ending place for the character?
A: I think it tells the audience to live every day to the fullest and like it’s your last because you never know when your time is going to come. This guy’s time came when Comet hadn’t been launched yet, but everything else in his life had settled.
Q: What do you make of the moments Gordon sees from his past before his death?
A: They say your life flashes before your eyes and I feel like this is what that representation is about. What flashes before your eyes is some of the most poignant parts of your life and decisions you’ve made along the way that got you to where you are. These moments of him deciding to be a father and not run away from his family is a very poignant part of his life. These are bullet points in his life that made him who he is today. The way it was shot and written and designed, I thought was incredibly well done. I was really happy with the way it played out.
Q: What was your final day on set like?
A: Everybody dressed up as Gordon’s character over the course of 10 years and they didn’t all do it at once. I noticed a couple of people wearing a tie or some glasses or some bizarre-looking button down shirt and clip-on mustaches. As the day progressed, more and more people were changing. It was definitely comedic. I stopped in the kitchen like, “Alright you guys! I get what’s going on here! Thank you!” [Laughs] There was a sense of family I had with all these guys and the crew. That was one of the hardest things to walk away from – a group of people who dedicated so much of their time to this show. This was a really special time and I’m forever grateful.
Q: What has this character and the entire experience of Halt and Catch Fire meant to you personally?
A: It’s been so educational to be there on the ground and work so consistently with a producer and showrunner and cast. I learned so much about filmmaking. All in all, the show has taught me so much about myself and who I am as a person and who I want to be. It was a nice microscope on me and my relationships with people. That was one of the best things I could have learned and it’s surprising to me that work taught me that.
Read a Q&A with Kerry Bishé, who plays Donna Emerson.
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