Actor Eric Goins plays Larry in the new popular drama Halt and Catch Fire from AMC. The show features the talents of Lee Pace, Scoot McNairy and Mackenzie Davis to name only a few. Eric Goins took time out of his busy schedule to talk to Influx Magazine about his character.
by Patrick Coffey
Do any of you remember that old, made-for-TV movie made back in the 90's from TNT called Pirates of Silicon Valley? Well, if not, you missed out, cause it's freaking awesome. But have no fear - there's a new TV series on AMC called Halt and Catch Fire, and the story goes along the same lines.
Halt and Catch Fire takes place in Dallas in the early 1980's, at the height of the computer silicon revolution. The characters are similar to real-life computer pioneers of the period, like Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak. The issues the show characters face are not unlike the ones originally faced by said historical figures.
I think one of the best things about Halt and Catch Fire is the way the writing and production team thematically approach the 80's. It's not just cliched piano ties and mingling some yuppies in with some big hair new wavers, in order to exploit the show's time setting. Instead, it uses the familiarity of what the 80's were, as a backdrop for storytelling, which is, I think, what good storytelling about a specific time period should be.
I had a chance to chat with Halt and Catch Fire's Eric Goins, the actor who plays Larry, and we discussed the show and what the future may hold, which was very Back to the Future of me, if you really think about it.
Patrick Coffey: Playing in an 80's television period piece like this must bring back some memories. What's your fondest memories about that time period?
Eric Goins: The 80's were such an interesting time in history. An era in which people weren't quite as cool as we thought we were. Who can forget parachute pants, penny loafers (with the penny), and the history defining mullet haircut? I'm fond of all those memories and happy to report that I sported the ‘business in the front/party in the back’ haircut through much of the 80's. What really stands out for me about the 80's is the budding excitement about a new wave of technology surfacing around us. Progress was happening in areas of our life that would eventually change the way we live forever. And I love how AMC has captured this pioneer spirit with Halt & Catch Fire. The show really explores an entire culture of society functioning with one foot in the past and one stepping towards the future.
PC: The 80's were pretty goofy and light-hearted, the best I can remember (with exception of the whole fearing nuclear war). What did you do with this character set in the 80's that you would have done differently if you were doing the same character written for the present era?
EG: The most obvious differences for Larry are his wardrobe and his hairstyle. I had a lot of fun working with the wardrobe and hair department on this show. Apparently, clothes weren't the same size in the 80's as they are now because it seems like all my XL shirts on the show are a good bit tighter than the modern-day fit. Or, maybe it's just the few extra pounds I put on for the show? Employees in the 80's also tended to stay at their place of employment for much longer than today's standard of job changes seemingly happening every year or so.
Many people spent 40 or more years doing the same thing every day of their professional career and retired after years of loyal service. This idea allowed me to play Larry with a certain comfortability at work and a loyalty to Gordon and the tasks at hand. But that comfortability can easily become complacency; a lack of personal ambition almost; as Larry has moments when he irritates Gordon while listening to headphones and playing with a television watch or while providing the drum roll for the big BIOS boot up. The 80's were full of good productive work combined with good ole' fashioned fun. On set, there was actually a little jingle about the three engineers, Larry, Stan, and Ed. As we walked to set, the wardrobe department would sing "It's the three best friends...that anyone could have". I wish I could write the musical notes to the jingle. It's a better story that way. It all comes with the territory when you're a Cardiff Company Man and that's Larry!
PC: What’s it like to be on a show on AMC? I mean Breaking Bad, Walking Dead... is there much pressure?
EG: As a matter of fact, there is a certain level of comfort that comes with working on an AMC show. Being surrounded by such a talented and experienced group of working professionals gives everyone a lot of confidence, that we have everything in our favor to start out with. And my job is to walk in Larry's shoes all day and, as Larry, I have to stay focused on his needs and his pressures so the fact that we are doing a television show fades into the back of my mind. As long as I show up and present my best portrayal of Larry in every scene, I have done my part in this very big machine and the rest is out of our control.
PC: You've been in most of the episodes in this series; is it safe to assume your character is here to stay? And while on the subject, has it been picked up for a second season?
EG: Much like Larry at Cardiff Electric, that information is above my pay grade. I'm optimistic that we will see a second season, and I hope that Larry continues to play a role in the story. He is a Cardiff Company Man, after all.
PC: I read in your IMDb bio that you're a student of Hapkido. Can you kick people’s asses? Actually more important than that, I read that you spent years in the corporate world before becoming an actor; how useful is that experience when playing a character like this?
EG: I kick my own ass a lot but that's a story for another time. Working in the corporate world did give me a great deal of real world experience in understanding corporate culture and nuances. I feel I take a great deal of insight into the role of Larry because the politics and the hierarchy that plagued the 80's are still alive and kicking in today's corporate America. It's just that now everyone can make their moves against each other faster and even anonymously sometimes thanks to today's technologies. I can relate to every character of the show because, at one point or another, I worked with someone just like them during my corporate world experience.
PC: Last question: Your acting career has allowed you to work with some of my favorite musicians growing up; Ice Cube and Rob Zombie. Were you a fan of these guys musically and did it make you audition a little more fiercely for these roles?
EG: I approach every audition with the same fierce intensity and preparation. You have to if you hope to work in this industry. That being said, I'm a huge fan of just about everything Ice Cube has done. Rob Zombie was really cool to work especially since it was a horror film. I've had the opportunity to work around some incredibly dynamic people and almost everyone I've met has been incredibly generous as professionals. I'm thankful for every day that I get to do what I do!
AMC has definitely got a history of success with unique dramas, handling themes that people could never have imagined to be successful in the past. With dramas that feature meth-dealing chemistry teachers, to the walking dead, will a period drama based off of real figures in history be their next hit? Well, only time will tell, unless of course you can get your hands on a DeLorean with a flux capacitor and a way to generate 1.21 gigawatts. Great Scott!