Halt and Catch Fire Q&A — Annabeth Gish (Sept.2017)
Annabeth Gish, who plays Diane Gould on AMC’s Halt and Catch Fire, discusses her “come to Jesus” moment with Bos, why she’s so tough on Donna, and saying goodbye to the show.
When you joined the cast last season, did you think the character would stick around for the final season?
I didn’t know for sure. I was certainly hopeful and very much invested from the creative side and an emotional aspect because I really came to care quite instantly. There was something about the alchemy of the five lead characters, the two creators of the show [Christopher C. Rogers and Christopher Cantwell], [executive producer] Melissa Bernstein and the directors. There’s something superlative about the quality of the people involved with this show. From a human standpoint and a professional standpoint, I was very much hoping I would be invited to come back and play again this year.
What was the vibe like on set this year, knowing that the story was coming to an end?
I think there was a palpable awareness of that – the curtain coming down on this experience was monumental for everyone who had been involved. Everyone was incredibly welcoming to me and included me on all levels. I felt very much a part of the inner circle. It was an interesting season because while there was this palpable sentiment and nostalgia, the dynamics were changing with the characters. One of the things that makes this show so great are the radical changes. So, nobody was bored. Everyone was on their toes and emotionally invested.
The Season 4 Premiere jumps ahead three years. How, if at all, has Diane changed during that time?
The transformation in Diane is deep, and you see it beginning in Season 3 where she falls in love with Bos and invests in her personal life at the same time she’s mentoring Donna — this very strong woman who can be her disciple and who she can pass the baton to. She built her life as a woman in a man’s world. The peacock is a good analogy. She’s starting to fold her feathers in a bit because she has this relationship and clearly, in Episode 5, when that’s threatened with Bos’s heart attack, it changes her lens. She’s ready to step down and back into her life that she sacrificed to become who she is.
Early in the season, we see Donna looking to Diane for backup, and she doesn’t always get it. Is that Diane’s idea of tough love?
A: It’s kind of like a parenting role that Diane is playing. I don’t mean to diminish it because Donna is so imminently powerful herself, but when Diane is retreating, she needs to make sure Donna is out there and she has to do it on her own and she still has to play by some of the rules. She still has to play the game.
There is some clear strain on Diane and Bos’s relationship this season. What is at the root of that from Diane’s perspective?
At the beginning, she’s trying to make sense of this dynamic: “Can I be soft and appealing to the man I love? How do I downshift into a loving, trusting relationship with that balance of power?” She has an amazing amount of material wealth and external success, which can be intimidating and upset the traditional roles of relationships, especially in the ‘90s. It’s only until his heart attack that there’s a “come to Jesus” moment. They have to decide what they want. For Diane, his heart attack is that breakthrough moment.
How does that health scare specifically change Diane’s feelings about their relationship?
When death comes as a whisper or some massive health scare comes, that’s clarity for her. She sees the loss of him as detrimental to her life. She decides to tell him how she feels and – again in a convoluted gender role – she proposes! [Laughs] When I read that on paper, it was another one of those moments when I was like, “Damn, these writers are so cool!” … Because Toby [Huss] is so honest as an actor, there was a tenderness and vulnerability that emerged for both of us, and it was such a loving moment. It was like “We’re adults. We love each other. You almost died. Let’s be together.”
The moment is quickly ruined when Bos confesses his money trouble and his stunt with Cameron to save Rover. How does that change things for Diane?
A: In the moment, it’s a tremendous gut punch, especially because she’s gone out on a limb and made herself vulnerable. But the humanity of it in how they wrote it and carried it forward is she still chooses him. She empathizes and forgives him, like most adults who are in relationships for a time. Mistakes are made and we’re not perfect. She works to remedy it, which is when she goes and gets aggressive with Donna.
When Donna pushes back against Diane’s advice for how to fix the Rover situation, Diane says she’s “tired of holding Donna’s hand.” Is Diane losing faith in Donna?
It is misguided. She’s projecting her own anger and confusion onto Donna, but at the same time, if she’s going to save this man, how does she get Donna to step up into her role? This relationship between Donna and Diane is very multifaceted. It’s not just boss-employee or partner-partner nor is it mentor. It’s not even mother-daughter. It really is a friendship that cultivates between them. We see the flaws behind the curtain. The tough love she’s exuding towards Donna is, “If I push her, will she land where I want her to land? Will she take my spot so I can step back and be with Bos?”
What will you take away with you from this experience?
Professionally, it will truly be a highlight for me. It was a privilege to work with these people, and I mean that with my gut. It starts from the top down. Chris and Chris and Melissa and [executive producer] Mark Johnson and whomever was at the top of this show personally treated everyone with respect. It was a collaboration. It was really just telling stories with humanity and awareness and sensitivity. I will take that example with me always. You can run a show with integrity, people can be kind and egos can stay in check. Creatively – wardrobe, big hair, high-waisted pants – it’s fun to play a big character. It was a wonderful privilege to step into that domain and own it.