Halt and Catch Fire EPs on the Wild West of Search and Cameron's Struggle for Success

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As we move into the premiere of the final season of AMC's sleeper hit Halt and Catch Fire on Saturday, we have four interviews with the group, including the one that posted earlier with Scoot McNairy.

This one with the guys affectionately known as "The Chrises." The Chrises are Christopher Cantwell and Christopher C. Rogers, the creators and executive producers of Halt and Catch Fire who have made the beautiful characters and their stories a reality.

Find out below what they had to say about the '90s and what a return to the series might look like in ten years. There are mild spoilers ahead for the premiere, so if you don't want to know anything at all, you might want to come back after you watch.

The Chrises HACF - Halt and Catch Fire

TV Fanatic: What’s fun for you about the ‘90s? Not only in relation to technology but for the characters?

Chris Cantwell: What's fun for me is that they've all known each other now for several years and they're settling into themselves and all their experiences they've had with themselves. They can have this great shorthand with each other and comfortability with each other, whether they're in good stead with each other or not, all pretenses dropped.

And they're very comfortable with each other and arguing and also getting along, and it's like watching five old friends or five old army buddies work together in a story. And that, to me, is very fun for them in the '90s.

And then in terms of the actual decade itself, I mean, the wardrobe that Jennifer Bryan, our new costume designer, put together is fantastic on our characters, and just to see where they are in their lives at this time in history is very fun.

How are they spending their leisure time? What video games are they playing? What music are they listening to? What are they driving? You know, all those kinds of things that dovetail with the story we want to tell about them, but getting to have that kind of 90's twinge to it is fun.

Chris Rogers and Kerry Bishe - Halt and Catch Fire

TV Fanatic: And what's, you know, the big theme is kind of the competition for the world's first, or best, search engine. And searching, how does that parallel the characters' lives and what's going on in the 90s?

Chris C Rogers: I mean, you know, every season of this show seems to center around, you know, some kind of technological moment and as we kind of moved into our fourth and final season, and the kind of foothills of the internet, search kind of presented itself as this kind of very, I don't know, interesting story that we ... we're always looking for a story we think people might have overlooked.

And I think a lot of people think they know the story of search, and they think it kind of, you know, begins and ends with Google, but I think the truth is, in the early days, there was kind of this competition and this wild west that we wanted to chronicle.

The metaphor of search, in terms of what characters are trying to figure out about their lives, is almost too rich. It's almost too on the nose, and I think we tried to handle that in a way that wasn't, you know, just painfully, these guys are all searching for kind of meaning and completion and the thing that will make them whole.

But I think it was also kind of a great one because it's about them categorizing and organizing the world in which they live, which by the fourth season of our show is a world they've kind of helped to create, whereas the previous three seasons were about them kind of betting the future and talking a lot about the future.

In season four, the future has arrived, and search is really the process of kind of organizing that world and trying to make sense of it and trying to rank things by priority and value. And we think at this point in these people's lives ten years on, that's what they're kind of trying to do interpersonally, as well.

The Chrises with Toby Huss - Halt and Catch Fire

I've always liked that Joe is sitting on a cutting edge of technology and what's next, and he's the idea man. Yet he's the one who's lacking the most technological skills. Why did you decide that path for that character?

Chris Cantwell: I think that often you see people with big ideas who need to rely on others to actually execute them. And I think that that is a strength rather than a weakness. I think it can be portrayed as a weakness, and I think even some of our characters will come at Joe pretty hard and claim it as a weakness.

But to have the power to imagine something and then also the power to convince other people that you see something worth trying and then also getting them to work together, it's a very abstract skill that's difficult to learn or come by.

It's not something available in an engineering textbook, and I think it's something that Joe has used to great effect, but also something that's frustrated him because it can be a very unwieldy talent and skill, because there are times when he feels like he's groping in the dark and doesn't see it anymore and he can't get people to see what he sees, and he may as well have not have seen it at all.

So it's a frustrating ability Joe MacMillan has, and I think it's been fun to portray him in that way and be honest about that ability and not portray it as a wizard hat, but more like a blessing and a curse.

Chris Cantwell at Work - Halt and Catch Fire

This is mildly spoilery, but I love that the person who is actually making this thing happen is Haley and that Joe so easily moves into, "Oh, I'll just partner with Haley. Works for me. I don't care that she's 14. That's great. Let's go." And that that brings the family into it and it feels so comfortable and natural with where Joe and Gordon are in their relationship, as well.

Chris C Rogers: Oh, wonderful. I mean, I think we've endeavored in this show to kind of make it a show about how people put their own kind of personalities and, you know, problems and hopes and dreams into the things they make. And this show always feels a lot better when the technology is colored by that.

You know, when it's not just the story of a better circuit board. We're into the story of, like, this is why this person's inside this, and putting Haley kind of inside the search project that Joe and Gordon kind of embark on this season really kind of, I don't know, gave an additional meaning and weight and kind of heart. So we loved that, as well.

And we also kind of like it as an opportunity for Gordon to kind of get to know his kind of shut down daughter who kind of reveals herself to him in this kind of beautiful way in the second episode, and you know, to the extent that we can make a show that is ostensibly about technology and the pursuit of a better box or network or search engine, kind of about people trying to connect with each other. You know, those are always the off-ramps we're looking for.

The Chrises and a Kid - Halt and Catch Fire

And Gordon is probably in the best place of any character, so he connects well with pretty much everybody, including Donna, who seems like she's in one of the worst positions, even though she starts out like she's walking on a runway. What are we gonna see with Donna as this season progresses, when she's in direct competition with her family?

Chris Cantwell: Donna is enjoying ... well, enjoying may be the wrong word. Donna is ... Donna is wearing the most success we've seen her have very well at the top of this season. But we do get a sense that there's something missing, and that she is holding herself at arm's length, and that she is a little paranoid about being hurt again. And so she has walled herself off.

As she comes into conflict with Gordon and their search place start to become adversarial, which I don't know if she really even predicted it could be, I think she's gonna realize that the method of doing business that she's used to and that she's, that the other people in her life are used to doing, it can only be personal.

And that there's a strength in that and there's something about that that makes it more worth it, but it can also be much more dangerous emotionally. And I think Donna's gonna be faced with that paradox a lot as she moves through season four.

Chris Cantwell and Kerry Bishe - Halt and Catch Fire

And Cameron has, of course, been busy with gaming. Is that going to change as the season moves on? Is she going to kind of come back into the fold? Or is she going to continue with her gaming?

Chris C Rogers: Yeah, season four is a really interesting one for Cameron in that, you know, she kind of finds gaming ... gaming's been there all along as a passion for Cameron, you know, from the very first episode with Centipede on through kind of Parowax and Mutiny, some of the games she created leading up to Space Bike in the third season, and they kind of, you know, led her out to Atari and a life with Tom in Japan.

So her with a new entry in that catalog called Pilgrim, which is in many ways kind of her opus, she thinks. You know, it's this kind of esoteric masterwork that really endeavors to respect the gamer, but it's very difficult, you know, and it's opaque. I think it's got some similarities to Mist.

And because she's Cameron, I think we all think it's gonna be this kind of rousing success, and I think a thing we've never really seen Cameron confronted with is a hiccup in her own brilliance because we always assume it's gonna work when Cameron does it.

So season four, for Cameron, might be a little bit about what happens when it doesn't. I think we haven't really seen Cameron in a place of failure that kind of came from her own creative process. Yes, she's had partnerships break down.

Yes, she's had relationships not work out, but I think we want to look at how that impacts a creative person, you know, a brilliant person in some people's estimate, when suddenly that talent you've kind of always relied upon doesn't seem to be there or is, at least, kind of called into question.

So I think we ... isolate is the wrong word, but I think we find Cameron struggling with that at the top of the season. And will she range into other technologies this season? Yeah, she absolutely might, but I think we're more kind of interested in her head space than the actual field she's pursuing at the top of season four.

The Chrises on Set - Halt and Catch Fire

Do you feel like you're saying goodbye to the characters at a good time? And it's speaking for both technology and the characters. And, it was a part two question, and if they said, in five years, "Come back on Netflix," where would you want to pick up, and why?

Chris Cantwell: I will say that, yes, I do feel like we're saying goodbye to the characters at the right time. I think, you know, Rogers has said that this felt like four seasons worth of story, and it feels like we're going out on a high point. The characters are very vivid. They've been through a lot.

There's a lot of story to tell in season four. It's nice to leave when we don't feel like we're forcing them or the show to do something that's no longer in it or feels artificial. And so we feel very lucky, in that way. I think that what's nice about the technological component is we're really dropping off the characters and the audience at the dawn of technology today.

By the time the season ends, the internet looks very similar to the way it looks now, even 20-some odd years later, so the characters are arriving and I think that whether they win or lose will be beside the fact. I think it'll be the journey they've been on, and that's definitely been true for Chris and I working on this series.

If, in five years, Netflix said, "Come back," where would we want to deposit them? I mean, first, I don't know if we'd want to, but you know, my, you know, ridiculous answer is that we'd do the Halt and Catch Fire Christmas Special.

If anything, I think you could do a really absurd two-hour movie where Cameron, Joe, Gordon and Donna and Bob all try to stop Y2K from happening and really freak out, and then it happens on New Year's, and then they're fine, and then maybe they just order a pizza.

Halt and Catch Fire Season 4 Episode 1 kicks off a two-hour premiere Saturday, August 19 at 9/8c on AMC. Don't miss it! You can catch up as best as possible before hand when you watch Halt and Catch Fire online right here on TV Fanatic.

Carissa Pavlica is the managing editor and a staff writer and critic for TV Fanatic. She's a member of the Critic's Choice Association, enjoys mentoring writers, conversing with cats, and passionately discussing the nuances of television and film with anyone who will listen. Follow her on Twitter and email her here at TV Fanatic.

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