Halt and Catch Fire Season 4: Kerry Bishé Dishes on Donna's Desires and Her Favorite Scene

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The final of our four conversations with the talent behind Halt and Catch Fire before the Season 4 premiere tonight is with girl of the hour Kerry Bishé.

Bishé has had one of the most amazing transformations over the four seasons of the series as Donna Clark aka Donna Emerson.

Her arc was noted as the favorite of castmate Lee Pace in an interview posted earlier, and you can read more about her character influences the season in other interviews with Scoot McNairy and executive producers Chris Cantwell and Chris Rogers.

There are some mild spoilers below, but they're well worth wading through to get Bishé's view on Donna and what working on the show has meant to her. Enjoy!

Donna on the Rise - Halt and Catch Fire

Donna has had an amazing transformation through four seasons. What's it been like for you to see that through?

Kerry Bishé: Over the course of the series or in season four?

I think through the course of the series, don't you?

Yeah, it has been a really spectacular journey and I really think very few characters get to grow and change as much as Donna has over these four years.

I always loved the pilot script, I think it's so beautifully written. I remember thinking, she had, they were very careful about planting these moments of expectation and potential and surprise about her. But I think I was so interested in what she could be even though at the beginning, she wasn't those things yet.

I remember talking to the Chrises before we started this whole thing and trying to understand what their intentions were. I took them at their word that they wanted to invest in a character and they really did in a way that, I think surprised all of us.

Cocktail Hour - Halt and Catch Fire

It always seemed early on like she was, you know, struggling. What's that phrase? Chomping at the bit, I guess, like she was just ready to break out and there is just her family and Gordon, but there was always something holding her back. Not anymore.

Not anymore. What's great is I think her struggles in seasons, maybe three and four, especially season four. She's building her own impediments. Whereas I think before she was struggling against, maybe societal expectations or her role as a wife or a mother. I think we ultimately strip away all of those other impediments for her.

The major thing she is contending with towards the end of the series is her own sense of self and arbitrary boundaries that she's drawn. That's like the final kind of challenge for her is to break out of her own expectations for herself.

Donna and Gordon - Halt and Catch Fire

That's a great way to put it. When I first saw her in season four, I imagined her like she was wearing her success like an outfit, like haute couture outfit a runway. You know, she's just enveloped in it and showing it off, yet there is a part of her that doesn't feel like she owns it. It's like she's modeling this success.

That's right, it's all a costume and it's a mask. This, she's wearing the trappings of power without really, completely embodying them.

Why do you think that is? Is it because she left so much of her old life behind and didn't really combine the two parts of herself?

I think that's one way to look at it. I think you could look at it as she went too far in another direction. In an effort to try to find the middle, she overshot it. I also think that there's a problem of models. I don't know that Donna in that era has an example that she can look to for kind of boss that she wants to be.

So, I think she falls back on this idea of what Joe MacMillan is. I think she looks at Joe MacMillan from like season one and that looks like power. That looks like control. That's who she feels like she's trying to be in season four. For lack of a better-nuanced example of how to be in the world.

I think her struggle in season four is to try to figure out how to be the boss in her way. To not be a Joe MacMillan kind of boss, but to be a Donna Emerson kind of boss.

Donna is Frustrated - Halt and Catch Fire

And what's interesting is with the subtle, I don't think search is as much a theme as it is maybe just what they're doing. But it seems to fit Donna's life. Is that why she is struggling so hard to hold onto that project? Because it so fits with her period in life?

I think the first project and the stakes for her are all about the other characters in the show. I think her main, one of the big motivating things in her life whether she's aware of it or not is proving her worth and her value to those other people and ultimately to herself.

I think that's why she's so obsessed, putting so much energy into the search project because it is the thing that keeps her connected to these other people. She wants to desperately to prove to them her worth.

A Long Day - Halt and Catch Fire

Donna seems to be going to great lengths to hold onto it even though it's not something that her company is necessarily backing her on. It gets to a certain point where they say maybe we should just back away from this and at about that same time, she realizes that it's a family endeavor on her family's part.

Right in that moment, it's such a sad thing because she feels left out at work and she feels left out at home. So she struggles even harder to hold onto a project that is not right for anybody at that point.

What do you think her motivations are behind that? You know what I mean, whenever she tells Gordon, "the weight of the Firm is behind her and she couldn't stop the project if she tried."

I think that's a really astute observation. I think there's a sense of she's staked her work life and her kind of personal sense of value and being tied to this other team of people. She's staked it all on this search project. She needs it to succeed.

She needs it to crush them as the competition in order to get what she thinks she wants, which is, I think it would give her a sense of vindication about everything. All of the hurt and suffering has come before with these people to be able to show them that Donna was right all the time, that Donna did have the good ideas and this is going to be the final thing that proves it to them.

No, that's not going to happen. That's what I'm deciding.

Wouldn't that be sad?

It would be.

Maybe a horrifying ending if she crushes them and beat them and she was like, "uh huh!"

Donna and Young Hayley - Halt and Catch Fire

And that's my daughter, "Way to go, mom!"

She reaches out at some point to Cameron and you know, like I said, she is still searching out there to try to mend fences.  I also talked with Scoot and Lee and they said the ending of the series wraps up their stories they felt perfectly. Do you feel like Donna's story is going to be wrapped up in a way that is the perfect for how you believe her character to be wrapped up? Or would you have changed it?

I was, I can't imagine a more satisfying way to tie up Donna's journey. I really can't. It's really rational, and it feels really true to the world that the Chrises built. It really feels true to the person that they drew so intricately over time and at the same time it feels...it's a satisfying conclusion, and it also feels like you're happy to imagine what might transpire with this person in the future. It's like a great wrap-up and springboard what you think she might end up going on to be.

I can't say enough how grateful I am that we got to know that this was the end of the show. Because we got to then have a really satisfying ending for everybody. We all came to a landing place and really got to give the journey a little bit of meaning at the end.

It was really beautiful for me just as a human being to be able to say, they gave me words to articulate kind of bigger picture, purpose and meaning of this journey that we've been on together. It was really excellent to be able to honestly stand in front of the crew and say those things out loud.

To stand in front of McKenzie and talk about what it's meant to work together, you know, as a character, but also as myself. To really honestly be able to say those things. So, in myriad ways I am so pleased with how the series ends.

I think you've all been very lucky to have some of those words written for you along the way, too.


Like some of the dialogue has just been so beautiful ... and it's been emotional and been true. You know, that you could just imagine yourself saying it.

It's been a really helpful analogy all along the way. They really do write in just really beautiful, truthful moments that if you say them bravely and honestly, they are meaningful and real as actors, but also as characters. I think those are, that's always the goal. I think that our writers over the course of the series were so excellent and talented.

Donna and Cameron Communicate - Halt and Catch Fire

Was there one scene that just stood out for you, that you felt encompassed Donna and who she was?

There is a scene where Donna does mushrooms with some teenagers And goes out into the backyard and has this really unbelievably, raw, honest interaction with Cameron, where she makes herself vulnerable in a way that I don't know that we ever really get to see her quite that open and honest with herself and with Cameron.

It turns out that that was sort of a hallucinatory drug trip. It wasn't even real and I find that scene so beautiful and delicate and so sad. It's an expression of her, like her hope and her desire and she gets to say all the things she never gets to say to Cameron's face. It's just so lovely.

Shooting that scene was, I loved shooting in the middle of the night. It always feels like we're at camp or it feels like some kind of secret. The teamwork on a night shoot like that is so much more intimate and everyone wants to get home and it was a beautiful day, it was a beautiful day.

Oh, that's a beautiful thing to have as your favorite too. That was a great scene.

Yeah, stick with Donna and give her a chance. 

Halt and Catch Fire Season 4 Episode 1 kicks off a two-hour TONIGHT 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 for TV Fanatic. She's a member of the Broadcast Television Journalists Association (BTJA), enjoys mentoring writers, wine, and passionately discussing the nuances of television. Follow her on Twitter and email her here at TV Fanatic.

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